The Twickenham Museum
People : Bankers and Politicians

Thomas Moxon
1762 - 1854

In 1820 Thomas Moxon took a lease of a property known as The Lodge, or sometimes Twickenham Lodge. The property occupied land now bisected by Wellesley Road where it joins the Hampton Road in Twickenham. His landlady was Baroness Howe of Langar who had bought Alexander Pope's Villa in 1807. By the time of her death in 1835 she had acquired extensive land in the Strawberry Hill area amounting to over 187 acres. Her husband, Sir Wathen Waller (1769-1853) appears to have inherited the estate, so becoming his landlord.

The Lodge can be seen on a map of 1836, held in the Guildhall Library (ref.33238). The house was approached from the Hampton Road, with gardens and two ponds. Beside the house is a complex of buildings, variously named Stable Yard, Rick Yard and Straw Yard, all in different occupation.

Thomas was the son of John Moxon & Mary Norfoe, of Great Yarmouth, where the family had long been established, possibly migrating from Wakefield in Yorkshire. If so, he could claim descent in some form from Joseph Moxon, FRS (1627-91) the mathematician, printer and globe maker to Charles II.

On 23 January 1787 he married Anne Browne (1761-1843), daughter of Simon Browne of Norwich. 7 children of the union have been identified.

Comes to London

Finding his way to London he entered the financial world of the City. Here he met the Goldsmid brothers, Benjamin (c1753-1808) and Abraham (c1756-1810). Their father, Aaron, a Dutch merchant, had come over from Amsterdam in about 1763. The brothers began business together in about 1777 as bill-brokers in London, and became prominent bankers, highly respected in the money market, during the Napoleonic wars. They formed an association with the Baring Bank.

Benjamin was subject to depression and, in 1808 he committed suicide at his Roehampton house. This, compounded by the death of Thomas Baring, forced Abraham to reorganise the business. He had taken Thomas Moxon into partnership, with several others in the 1790s.

In the following year the bank became insolvent. Abraham Goldsmid was joint contractor with the Barings (Baring Brothers & Co) for a government loan, but owing to a depreciation of the scrip, engineered by rivals, he found himself with liabilities amounting to £400,000 and forced into bankruptcy. Abraham copied his brother's example, shooting himself in the grounds of his house at Morden. His partners, including Moxon, were left with the liabilities. By 1816 they had succeeded in discharging three quarters of the debt and in 1820 Parliament annulled the remaining portion, a further 1s. 6d. in the £1 having already been paid. It may have been no coincidence that this year Moxon took a lease on The Lodge and moved to Twickenham with his family. Here he spent the remaining 34 years of his long life.

The Nelson Connection

Abraham Goldsmid lived at Morden Lodge where he was a neighbour of Admiral Viscount Nelson, who had bought the Merton Place estate in 1801. Nelson installed Emma Hamilton there and then bequeathed the property to her. In debt, she went over to France, abandoning the estate, heavily mortgaged as security for loans. In 1809 Abraham's brother Asher bought the property. It was a complicated transaction which may have involved both Abraham and Moxon in its early stages.

Merton Place remained empty for several years, but in 1815 there were a number of sales of the contents prior to demolition of the house. Moxon acquired a chess set for his own use, held to have come from the house. It was offered for sale by Phillips in 1994:

A 19th Century Turned Bone Chess Set, one side stained red the other left natural, rooks as squat castellated turrets with spire finials; white king missing, red queen replaced, king 9cm. high, pawn 4.5cm. high. [together with 34 Chinese Export mother-of-pearl gaming counters 30 wooden draughts counters, and two packs of 19th Century playing cards] …. The chess and gaming pieces were the property of Thomas Moxon of Twickenham 1763-1854 and were, by repute, once in the possession of the first Lord Nelson's family.

Moxon is thought to have known Nelson from childhood schooldays in Norfolk. He certainly knew him well at Morden where he had himself acquired a property, probably before 1800. On the eve of his departure for Trafalgar in 1805 Nelson recounted how he had been able to choose ships and his captains for the anticipated encounter with Villeneuve on 21 October.

Anne Browne & “Phiz”

Moxon's wife Anne was the sister of William Loder Browne, among whose 15 children was one Hablot Knight Browne (1815-82). He was actually the illegitimate son of William's daughter Kate. In 1821 William absconded to Philadelphia, America, taking with him embezzled funds. He changed his name to Breton and took up water-colour painting. His large family, impoverished, were given help by Moxon, no doubt at the instigation of Anne. Thus he could take some credit for enabling the later career of Hablot as “Phiz”, the illustrator of much of Charles Dickens' work, starting with The Pickwick Papers. As "Phiz", Hablot first met Dickens in 1836,and the latter's first recorded visit to Twickenham, where he stayed in the summer of 1838, could have led to a meeting with Moxon. Phiz had known Twickenham himself from childhood, as recorded by his son Edgar in his biography of his father: "We used to drive over to see Great Uncle Moxon, who had a nice place in Twickenham, and whom we regarded as a very wonderful old gentleman, what his real claim to fame were I really do not know, but he was a great centre in the family." Hablot may later have visited Twickenham to draw the Ferry, being crossed by Arthur Clennam in “Little Dorrit”, which Dickens was writing in 1854, the year of Moxon's death.

The Moxon Family

The Moxons' eldest daughter, Ann Mary (1787-1837) died unmarried at the age of 49, at Twickenham. Her funeral took place at St Mary's Church in February 1837.

Her nephew, Charles St Denys Moxon, noted that she was buried "not far from the grave of the poet Pope". Pope actually lies buried in the centre of the nave of the Church, no longer available for burials in 1837. However, space could have been found in one of the many vaults. John (1788-1866) enjoyed a successful career in the City of London, being instrumental in the founding of the London and Westminster Bank (now NatWest) and a director of several railway companies. He married Sarah Anne Drake in 1839. He and their four children are buried in West Norwood Cemetery.
Elizabeth Charlotte (1790/1-1884) was born at Waybread, Diss, Norfolk. She died, unmarried, at Dover, Kent and was brought to Twickenham for burial.
Thomas 1792-1869, was also born at Weybread. He married Elizabeth Browne, a member of his mother's family on 6 Jan 1820.
George Browne (1794-1866) married Bertha Browne (c1813-1851), on Feb 4 1849 at Twickenham. He entered the church, becoming Rector of Sandringham in 1827. Bertha was the daughter of the Rev J H Browne, rector of Hingham in Norfolk. She died and was buried at Twickenham while on a visit there
Eleanor 1795-1873 married Cuthbert Rippon (c1796-1867) on 1 June 1820. This Cuthbert was the third in a long sequence so named. The family came from Durham, where his father (1768-1802) had built a property known as Stanhope Castle. They appear to have emigrated to South Africa to a farmstead at Proctorsfontein, East Cape which survives as the Rippon Safari Lodge. There were many Cuthberts, the name being that of an ancestor, Sarah Cuthbert (c1494-1541). If inspiration for the name were needed, another Cuthbert, Prior of Lindisfarne in the 7th century, and Saint, is buried in Durham Cathedral. His Gospel is held to be the oldest bound manuscript in Europe.
Margaret 8 Aug 1797 (christened 8 Sep 1797 at St. Mary, Whitechapel, Stepney (where Thomas, George and Eleanor were christened at the same time, a multiple event).

When Anne Moxon died, in January 1843, she was buried in the Oak Lane Cemetery (plot A29) in Twickenham where, in 1854 she was joined by Thomas. The family plot also contains the graves of Elizabeth Charlotte (1884), and Bertha (1851) the wife of Moxon's son George. By 1841, Holy Trinity Church on Twickenham Green had been built and there is a memorial plaque inside the church:

In Memory of
THOMAS MOXON ESQ. of the Lodge, Twickenham
who died 16th January 1854 Aged 92.
Also of ANNE his wife who died i6th January 1843 in her 83rd year
Also of ANNE MARY Eldest child of the above who died 4th February 1837 in her 50th year.

The Rippon connection

During his time at Twickenham, and perhaps earlier, Moxon became the friend of Betsy Manning Webster who retired to live in a guest house known as Bridge House, overlooking the Thames at Richmond, now demolished. Betsy was the aunt of Cuthbert Rippon who had married Eleanor Moxon, and in her will, she made bequests to members of both families. She made Thomas Moxon's son John her executor and left Thomas 5 guineas for a mourning ring. However, dying in January 1854 he did not live to receive this. Betsy died the following month herself.

further reading:

Edgar Browne, Dickens and Phiz, 1913 Signed Limited Edition of 175, since reprinted.
The Moxons of Yorkshire, James Moxon (ed), privately printed and available from The Moxon Society
Bob Moxon Browne, Thomas Moxon of Twickenham and the Goldsmid Affair, The Moxon Magazine, April 2003. Thomas Moxon of Twickenham and the Nelson Touch, The Moxon Magazine, April 2008
Valerie Browne Lester, Phiz: the Man who drew Dickens, Chatto & Windus, 2004

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