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George Phillips Towry (1729-1817)

Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleDepiction: Towry, George Phillips

Object details:

Object ID BHC3058
Description The sitter is shown half-length, seated, turned to his left wearing a plain blue coat with brass buttons, against a neutral brown background with an opening to viewer's right, beyond which is a sketchy sunset sea view. He wears his own hair dressed and powdered, has blue eyes, strong features and may at some time have suffered a broken nose. George Phillips Towry was probably a younger cousin of Captain Henry John Phillips (d. 1762), a Royal Naval officer likely to have been born about 1720 (since he was a lieutenant of 1742) and who in 1760 adopted the additional surname of Towry on inheriting the property of his uncle, Captain John Towry (d. March 1757), at one time the naval commissioner at Port Mahon, Minorca. George himself spent some time in the Navy, being commissioned lieutenant in February 1757. He came ashore on inheriting what must have been a reasonable estate in or after 1762, apparently his uncle John's after Henry's death, though how he and Henry were linked is not clear since George's birth surname was apparently Towry (which suggests cousinage unless he changed it from Phillips before his uncle's death). On 6 June 1766 he married Elizabeth More at St Martin's in the Fields, Westminster, when he was stated to be 'of Hartlaw, Northumberland' and she of Newman Street, London, and 'a Lady of great merit and a handsome fortune' ('London Evening Post', 7 June 1766). She however appears to have died by 1770 when, on 3 April, he remarried to a Miss Susanna Haywood of Isleworth at St Botolph's, Bishopsgate ('London Evening Post', 3 April). That November he further won £20,000 in a lottery ('Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser', 4 December) and in 1771 he purchased the manor and estate of Foliejohn near Windsor, though apparently sold it again shortly after 1800. He became one of the Naval Victualling Commissioners from 2 October 1784, and Deputy Chairman of the Victualling Board on 4 November 1803. Towry was an able administrator and became the Board's ' chief trouble shooter ... whenever there were difficulties to be resolved on the spot' (R. Knight, 'Captivity, Marriage and Influence ... 1755-1808', in the 'Trafalgar Chronicle', no. 20 [2010] p.54). In May 1801 he and others were captured by a French privateer while on their way to Lisbon on such a mission, though soon released, and he remained in harness as a 'tough old bureaucrat' (ibid, p.56) to his death on 12 March 1817, aged 83 (see Gents. Mag. (1817), vol. lxxxvii (1), p. 285). He appears to have had two sons by his first wife: one, George Henry Towry (b.1767) became a promising captain in the Navy but died young, at his father's London house, in 1809. Charles George was a naval lieutenant of 1790. A daughter, Anne (1769-1843), was a notable beauty and in 1789, after three times refusing, married the less than handsome but brilliant barrister Edward Law (1750-1818), who in the early 1790s made his name successfully defending the impeached Warren Hastings. In 1802 Law became Lord Chief Justice of England and was ennobled as 1st Baron Ellenborough. Towry's numerous Ellenborough grandchildren included the eldest son, also Edward (1790-1871) - politician, Governor-General of India and 1st Earl of Ellenborough - Charles Ewan Law, a judge, and the Revd William Towry Law, later notable as a Catholic convert. Philippe Jean (or Philip Jean, 1755-1802) was of French family but born in Jersey. He served in the Navy, including under Rodney, though also practising as a miniaturist in peacetime before he took it up permanently in London. He then had considerable success, including royal patronage, and exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1787 to 1802, dying that September at Hempstead, Kent. He also painted and occasionally exhibited oil paintings, including one of Queen Charlotte. There are two miniatures by him in the collection; MNT0065 (Richard Watts) and MNT0132 (Admiral Skeffington Lutwidge [attributed]). [PvdM 10/09; updated 11/10]
Date made circa 1800

Artist/Maker Jean, Philippe
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials Oil on canvas
Measurements Frame: 1022 mm x 896 mm x 118 mm;Painting: 760 mm x 635 mm
  • George Phillips Towry (1729-1817) (BHC3058)
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