The Twickenham Museum
People : Lawyers and Clergy

Edward Birkhead
Quaker Magistrate
d 1662

Richmond House. Detail from Peter Tillemans' "A Prospect of Twickenham" c1725

Principal landowner in the parish

Edward Birkhead, the fourth of 11 children was appointed Serjeant-at-Arms in the House of Commons in 1648, under Cromwell's Protectorate. he was replaced, in 1660 by James Norfolk, on the accession of Charles II.

He appears to have first acquired property in Twickenham in 1652 although only himself paying rates from 1659. By 1661, when there was a survey of all the real estate in the parish he owned eight properties or houses and various parcels of land. One of the properties was described as the Glass House. This was almost certainly a glassworks. At 94-10-0 the rateable value of his properties made him the principal landowner in the parish.

The house he was living in, and which he may have built, was on the riverside, later rebuilt and named Richmond House. It was valued at 20, the same as that of Sir Joseph Ashe at Cambridge Park and John Browne at the Manor House, which gives an indication of its size. When he died his widow Ellen (there were no surviving children) and perhaps a younger brother William remained until 1680 when the house was acquired by John Izzard of Baldock who passed it to Francis Newport, later Earl of Bradford in 1882.

Took arms in the parliamentary cause

Birkhead had taken arms in the parliamentary cause though he asserted his loyalty to Charles II in 1660. His protestantism may have been extreme: in 1659 he hosted a visit from George Fox (1624-91), regarded as a founder of the Quakers, as recorded in Fox's Journal: "And after this I past into severall places off ye Country: & I had a meetinge att Serjant Birketts where there was many considerable people & some of quality & a glorious meetinge it was:"

Anne Seymour Damer

Ancester of Horace Walpole

One of Edward's four sisters, Isabella, married John Shorter, a goldsmith of London. As Sir John Shorter, a Whig Alderman for Cripplegate Ward, he became Lord Mayor in 1688, dying in that office. His son, also John, of Bybrook in Kent had two daughters, Catherine (d1730) who became the first wife of Sir Robert Walpole, and Charlotte(d1734). Catherine Shorter was Horace Walpole's mother. Charlotte married Francis Conway, 1st Baron Conway, father of Field Marshal Henry Seymour Conway who was father of Anne Seymour Damer. It was her cousin, Mary Georgiana Seymour, later Mrs Lionel Damer, who had the Birkhead house rebuilt in 1816.

Horace Walpole, in his Description of the Villa (Strawberry Hill) notes various members of the Shorter family on pages 27 and 35, whose portraits he displayed in the Green Closet and the Library.

Edward bequeathed Isabella a share of one of his properties, Mason's Lodge in the churchyard of St Margarets, Westminster when his wife Ellen died.

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