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Tuesday, 16 September 2014
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Luffman Atterbury

  Date: 1740 - 1796

Composer and builder

 
Luffman Atterbury (1740–1796)

Composer and builder

Luffman Atterbury was probably the son of Abraham and Elizabeth Atterbury, baptised on 5 January 1740 at St Sepulchre, London where his father worked as a builder in Chick Lane. He too became a builder/surveyor, based at Turn Again Lane, Fleet Market, but was a musician by inclination. He studied the harpsichord and composition, and developed his singing voice. Inheriting from his father he was able to move to Teddington to pursue his musical interests, although why he chose this place is not known.

The origin of the name Luffman, ordinarily a surname invites speculation. Abraham was probably the son of Richard and Elizabeth, baptised at St Olav’s in Southwark on 20 September 1713, marrying Elizabeth Holiday, on 1 March 1739 at St Agnes Aldersgate. Luffman, almost certainly the first born, may have been named after a grandmother.

At Teddington he took a house now known as Clarence House which still stands between Middle Lane and Park Lane facing Park Road, paying Land Tax from 1780 until 1790. An adjacent house known as Adelaide House was built in about 1835, replacing an earlier cottage; the two names perhaps reflecting the union in 1818 of the Duke of Clarence with his future Queen.


In 1790 he moved from Teddington to Marshall Street, Soho and, on 25 September, married Miss Elizabeth Ancell of Downing Street at St Martin’s in the Fields, Westminster. He had been in financial difficulties, which were perhaps eased by the marriage. Miss Ancell was the daughter of Richard Ancell (1756-1844) who came with his wife to live at Gifford Lodge on Twickenham Green in 1812. He had been Librarian and Keeper of the state papers in the Foreign Office.

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Marylebone Gardens in 1761, an engraving from a drawing by J Donowell
Marylebone Gardens in 1761, an engraving from a drawing by J Donowell
Atterbury enjoyed some success as a singer and composer and performed as a member of the Madrigal Society from 1765. In 1770, as joint proprietor of Marylebone Gardens, he acquired, for £5-5s, the copyright of some pieces including a Burletta; “The Revenge” from Thomas Chatterton (1752-70). This musical extravaganza, first called “Amphitryon” may have been performed at Marylebone Gardens in 1777. The original manuscript carries Chatterton’s receipt dated 6 July 1770; he died on 24 August. Marylebone Gardens was a popular centre for musical entertainment, closing in 1778. Atterbury was one of the original subscribing members of the Glee Club, founded in 1787.

He was appointed a Musician in Ordinary to George III and sang in the chorus at the Handel commemoration in 1784. His oratorio Goliath was performed at the Haymarket Theatre, and at West Wycombe church on 13 August 1775 on the occasion of the burial in the mausoleum of the heart of Paul Whitehead, an event 0rganised by Sir Francis Dashwood, Lord Le Despencer (1708-81). The oratorio had not been a success but Atterbury was known to Sir Francis: in 1773 and 1775 he carried out surveys of Mill End Farm on the Dashwood estate. In 1780 Sir Francis engaged him to build the rectory (later Mere House) at Mereworth, Kent, to the design of Nicholas Revett (1720-1804). This was Atterbury's only recorded new building and he had occasion to complain about the quality of Revett’s drawings. He also worked for Le Despencer in 1780 at Hall Place, Bexley, Kent.
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Atterbury died, apparently while singing at a concert in London, on 11 June 1796.

further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Leslie Stephen (ed), Dictionary of National Biography (for Thomas Chatterton)
Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, Yale, 3rd edition 1995
The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol 69 pt 1, p385, 1799
P A Ching and others, The Houses in Teddington, 1800 to 2000, Teddington Historical Publications, 1999, pp15/16
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In 1770, as joint proprietor of Marylebone Gardens, he acquired, for £5-5s, the copyright of some pieces including a Burletta; “The Revenge” from Thomas Chatterton (1752-70).


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