The Twickenham Museum
People : Landowners and Gentry

Richard Owen Cambridge
Cambridge is everything! - Walpole
1717 - 1802

Richard Owen Cambridge

Country gentleman comes to Twickenham

Richard Cambridge was born in London, his father being a Turkey merchant who died shortly after Richard’s birth. He was then cared for by Thomas Owen his Uncle and educated at Eton and St John’s College Oxford, followed by a spell at Lincoln’s Inn. In 1741 he married a Miss Mary Trenchard and settled at Whitminster in Gloucestershire to live the life of a country gentleman with a penchant for writing verse and building boats. From here he was prevailed upon by his relative, Thomas Edwards, to contribute minerals to furnish Alexander Pope's Grotto.

In 1748, inheriting a large addition to his fortune on the death of his uncle, he added Owen to his name and moved to London. Two years later he moved to Twickenham, where he acquired the villa then named Twickenham Meadows but which came to be know as Cambridge Park. It was at about this time that he wrote of himself:

My body light, my figure slim,
My mind dispos'd to mirth and whim.

Cambridge undertook a considerable amount of work at the property, particularly in laying out the grounds to suit his own taste. For this, he is held to have been complimented by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. Praise was perhaps not reciprocated: Cambridge is believed to have remarked of Brown that "I hope to die before him, so I may see heaven before it is improved!". This was not to be the case because Brown died in 1783 and would have had ample time to rearrange the landscape of heaven before Cambridge’s arrival.

Twickenham Meadows

Literary friends and works

He had a large number of friends including Gray, Lord Hardwicke, Admiral Boscawen, Lord Chesterfield, and Lord Anson. He is mentioned in Boswell's Johnson, in Walpole's Correspondence and in the Journals of Miss Berry.

In 1751 he published his poem The Scribleriad. Cambridge contributed 21 papers to Edward Moore's magazine, the World. Cambridge's son tells the story of his father getting a note from Moore on his way to church. Cambridge was observed by his wife to be rather inattentive during the sermon. His wife whispered to him "What are you thinking of?" to which he replied "the next World, my dear".

Richard Cambridge died in September 1802 aged 85. The following year his son, George Owen Cambridge, published The Works of Richard Owen Cambridge Esq, to which was added An Account of His Life and Character by his son.

George Owen Cambridge

Archdeacon Cambridge - his son

Richard's son George had been for a time Proprietor of the Montpelier Row chapel and became Archdeacon of Middlesex and Prebendary of Ely. He was also the treasurer for the Committee involved in fund raising for a new church (Holy Trinity) on Twickenham Green, for which he laid the foundation stone on 12 August 1840. He did not live to see the completed church, dying in May 1841, aged 85. He was buried in the family vault at St Mary's Church, Twickenham.

Later, his widow had the trowel used for the foundation ceremony fashioned into a small silver chalice and paten, donating this to the church. An inscription on the case of the chalice reads as follows:

for the private administration
is presented by Mrs Cambridge
TO TRINITY CHURCH on Twickenham Common
being in part formed out of the Silver Trowel

on the occasion of his laying

on the 31st of August 1840

Holy Trinity Church on Twickenham Green, c1841

The Archdeacon Cambridge schools were erected behind the church as a memorial to his charitable works in the parish. His widow left £700 to support the schools. George Cambridge had for a time lived in his father's old house, but then moved into a nearby house, built for himself, in Twickenham Meadows.

Further reading:

G.O.Cambridge, Works of Richard Owen Cambridge, 1803
R S Cobbett, Memorials of Twickenham, 1872
F C Hodgson, Thames Side in the Past, George Allen, 1913
People & Places, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society paper no.47
Maureen Bunch, Cambridge Park, Twickenham, and its Owners, 1616-1835, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society paper no.63, 1989
Horace Walpole, Correspondence
For George Cambridge's On and Off courtship of Fanny Burney
see Joyce Hemlow, History of Fanny Burney, OUP, 1958.

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