Ralph Thoresby

Posted on February 28th, 2006 by Sian Jones

Susan Kellerman writes: “I am trying to identify a garden in Deptford visited in July 1714 by Ralph Thoresby, celebrated Leeds antiquarian. The garden (according to Thoresby’s account in his diary) was of 6 acres, had a bagnio with interior painted by ‘Mr Thornhill’ (possibly/presumably James Thornhill), a grotto decorated with shells and cinders, and many other garden buildings. Thoresby’s account gives no name for the property and is ambiguous as to the owner (or tenant) of the property – but it seems to be a Mr Sherlock, minister (and from the context this is probably a minister of the church).

So far, despite many searches of on-line archives, and a request to LPGT, I haven’t managed to get to the bottom of this. Deptford Local Studies suggested several possibilities, incl. ‘St Nicholas Vicarage in Church Street, which had a large garden. House and garden are long since vanished’; and Sayes Court, which sounds potentially promising, given the elaborate nature of the architecture described; but at this date Evelyn was long dead and the house was let, as far as I can make out, and again a search of online archives for the names of known tenants after Evelyn left has yielded nothing to help. If it was Evelyn’s garden, then it is odd that Thoresby didn’t state this, since I believe they had corresponded at some point. I can find no reference to a bagnio in the article on Sayes Court by Prudence Leith-Ross (GHS journal 25/2 on Sayes Court).

My interest is particularly in the bagnio – if it was decorated by James Thornhill it must have been quite impressive. Any information gratefully received.”

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