c1665 - 1741
Mathias Perkins was born in Petersham where the family had lived and worked for generations, and to where, in his will, he asked to be returned for burial. In Twickenham he plied his trade as a barber-surgeon, where there was perhaps greater call for his skills than in Petersham.
He was the sixth of eight sons of James Perkins (1607-91) and his wife Alice. James was a fisherman. Mathias had married Elizabeth (d1742) and their recorded children were born in Twickenham: Fluellen (1700-22), Susanna (1704-51), Tryon (1705-57), Mary (1707-10), John (1710-94). Tryon became a surgeon and probably worked in partnership with his father, perhaps succeeding him on the latter’s retirement.
Residence in Twickenham
Perkins first appears in Twickenham in 1688, paying rates of 2/6d for a modest house. By 1707 he was living in a property known then as “The Swan near the Stonebridge”, near the River Crane. This was on the west side of the London Road, probably to the north of the present day Police Station. In 1714 he was admitted to a further adjacent property, later acquiring a row of four cottages nearby. He continued to live here until his death in 1741, bequeathing the property to be shared between his wife and his unmarried son Tryon. It was described in his will (PCC Prob 11/104, 17 October 1740) as: “all that Undermessuage with the garden and appurtenances thereof belonging and therewith used together with the use of the Goods and furniture situate in Twickenham aforesaid in which I now dwell But my will is that my son Tryon Perkins shall have the use of the shop the little parlour behind the shop and the rooms over them with the Goods and furniture in the said shop parlour and the Rooms also the use of the Kitchen Cellar Greenhouse Garden and Stable…”
the Manor of Teddington
Perkins prospered and in 1730 he acquired the Lordship of the Manor of Teddington from the trustees of the estate of Edward Hill who had died that year. The estate was much encumbered and the manor house itself let to William Belitha. Under the circumstances it can be conjectured that Perkins obtained a bargain. Later, as a benefactor to the Teddington community, he made the parish a gift of nearly 3 acres of common land in 1738 to provide fuel for the poor and a site for 5 almshouses. As Lord of the Manor, Perkins enjoyed alternate rights of patronage of the living with the Bridgeman family. It was Sir John Bridgeman who financed the building of the almshouses on the land donated by Perkins.
When Mathias died, in 1741, the manor passed, in trust, to his son Tryon and then to his younger brother John. In 1761 John granted a 99 year lease of some of the manorial land to Moses Franks, who built the mansion known as The Grove. Franks died intestate in 1789 leaving a wife mentally impaired (“a lunatic”). His daughter had to administer the estate and the terms of his lease became the subject of an Action in Chancery in 1792. John Perkins died in 1794 and ownership of the manor passed out of the hands of the family.
Houses in Cross Deep, Twickenham
Earlier, Mathias had acquired, or perhaps inherited from his father, a row of four houses in Cross Deep. The manorial status of these properties was unclear, being, possibly, built on both freehold and copyhold land. Mathias was never admitted to the properties at the Manor Court. He bequeathed them to Tryon who did apply to be admitted, to the Court. However, the clerks were exercised about the matter: there is a note in The Book of Tenants of the Manor of Isleworth Syon (LMA ACC1379/260) which reads: “These four Messuages are said to be freehold and that Tryon Perkins was admitted to them as Customary Tenant by mistake, his father Mathias having never been admitted thereto. Quere how this is?” Tryon actually had found it difficult to manage his inheritance. Unmarried, he died intestate in 1757 “having failed to administer his father's will”.
The houses can be seen on Peter Tillemans' “A Prospect of Twickenham”, painted in about 1725, standing behind the Bath House built by John Robartes. These properties were described in Perkins' will as: “all those four Messuages or Dwellings with the Stables Buildings Gardens Orchards Yards Backsides Ground and Appurtenances thereunto belonging and therewith used and enjoyed two of them being in the several tenures of Joseph Cole and – Cope and the other two now empty and all that small piece of ground near thereunto and now in the possession of – Roberts Esq….near a certain place called or known by the name of Cross Deep.” Roberts Esq was, of course, John Robartes, later 4th Earl of Radnor, living in the house which later took this name. The “small piece of ground” is today, like the sites of the houses, a part of Radnor Gardens.
Property in Richmond and London
Mathias also acquired properties in Richmond. In about 1720 he bought land and probably built a house on the riverside, just upstream of where Richmond Bridge was built. Later known as Buccleuch House, he leased this property to Washington Shirley, 2nd Earl Ferrers (1677-1739) between about 1722 and 1729. In 1734 he bought a house on Richmond Green from the daughter of Richard Fitzwater, leasing it to a Dr Cole. Fitzwater may have been of an extensive Twickenham family, and so known to him.
His will, witnessed by Stephen Hales, Perpetual Curate of Teddington, also noted property in London, in Basinghall Street, Cheapside and Lawrence Lane. Just how, or why, he acquired these properties is not, at present, known.
In 1707 Perkins had a memorial erected on his garden wall describing the life of Joan Whitrow, a widow whom he had befriended, and then acting as her executor. She was a Dissenter, described, in the fashion of the time, as a fanatic, perhaps with a Quaker background. The memorial was the subject of notice for many years including by Alexander Pope. It has been suggested that Perkins was himself a Dissenter but there must be some doubt about this. He attended a Vestry meeting at St Mary's Church on 31 March 1691 at which Samuel Evans was appointed schoolmaster for the parish, which suggests that at that time at least he was an active member of the congregation.
R E Towell, Teddington Biographies, 1933, vol4, pp262-266, MS in Richmond Local Studies Library
P A Ching, Teddington in 1800, the Year of the Enclosure, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper no51, pp8/9, 1983
John Cloake, Richmond History no 4, p41, Greenside in the 17th and 18th centuries & no10, p8, The development of the area between the hill and the river, p8
William Brown, Reports of Cases argued and determined in the High Court of Chancery…from 1778 – 1794 (available on the Web)
Anthony Beckles Willson, Mr Pope & Others at Cross Deep in the 18th century, pp34/37, 1996