Unknown - portrait of Rev Bryan Faussett

As they did not look to be very special and were unidentified, this pair of miniatures were acquired as one lot and were expected to be resold separately, to help fund other acquisitions for the collection.

However, before doing so it was decided to see if the partial newspaper cutting shown below and glued on the reverse of the frame could be used to try and identify the sitter.

The cutting appeared as if it was likely to be part of an obituary. There are several key words that have been used to identify the sitter; "Faussett was curate of Nettlecombe"," two children, first a daughter born in", "born in 1840", "amicably together", and "Seaton Carew".

These words have enabled the identification of the sitter as most probably Rev Bryan Faussett (2 Jan 1812 - 30 Jul 1855). What is more noteworthy is that he was the plaintiff in a scandalous divorce case actioned on the grounds of adultery in the mid 19C. It is thought the miniature of the lady, painted around 1825, may depict a close relative of his. Correspondence with a very helpful researcher of Faussett family history has confirmed that this miniature of Bryan Faussett does bear a family resemblance to other family portraits.

This younger Rev Bryan Faussett was the grandson of a famous antiquarian of the 18C, another Rev Bryan Faussett (1720-1776) who had excavated many ancient burial mounds and amassed a large collection of ancient antiquities and over 5,000 ancient coins. He had so many duplicate coins that he had 150 pounds weight of bronze coins melted down and cast into a bell in 1766.

He had an unsurpassed private collection, but in 1853 the British Museum declined an offer to purchase the collection from his descendants, whereupon a Mr Joseph Mayer purchased it for the Liverpool Museum, where it remains. See Rev. Bryan Faussett and also for a photograph of the Kingston Brooch one of his finds see The Kingston Brooch

The surprisingly full Times newspaper account of the 1849 divorce proceedings of the younger Rev Bryan Faussett is very interesting and can be read at S244 but a summary is as follows. On 4 Oct 1837 Bryan Faussett, then a curate had married the fifth daughter of Sir John Trevelyan Bart of Nettelcombe. Her name was Helena Caroline Trevelyan (1815-1898) and they had two children, Maria Helena Faussett born 13 Jul 1838 and Godfrey Trevelyan Faussett (28 Feb 1840-1915).

The Times 1849 account of the Rev Bryan Faussett divorce proceedings, reveals that while at Seaton Carew, his wife, Helena Faussett commenced, or continued, a relationship with her cousin who was six years younger than her. He was Walter Blackett Trevelyan (1821-1894) and she had a child by him, Herbert Trevelyan, born 7 Aug 1847.

The divorce action was delayed until Rev Bryan Faussett could obtain funding for the costs from his father, Dr Godfrey Faussett (1780-?). The action involved two hearings in the Consistory Court commencing on 31 May 1849, followed by two readings of a bill in the House of Lords, as a special bill had to be passed by the House, even though it appears the action was largely undefended. The bill was necessary as between 1700 and 1857 the only way of achieving a divorce was by private Act of Parliament. As the law was changed only a few years later, it would appear that the Faussett bill was part of the impetus leading to the change in the divorce law.

Among the many Lords present for the hearing of the Bill were the Duke of Wellington and Lord Redesdale, a relative of the famous Mitford sisters. The citation for the resultant Act is [1849 (12 & 13 Vict) c. 33]. The passing of the Act meant that Bryan and Helena were divorced on 17 Jul 1849. Helena then married Walter Blackett Trevelyan a little later in 1849 and they had a further two children, Constance Helena Trevelyan born in 1859 and Willoughby Fenwick Trevelyan born in 1857.

Rev Bryan Faussett died a few years later in 1855 and was an elder brother of Robert Godfrey Faussett, see NPG P7(16) a close friend of Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, the author of "Alice in Wonderland".

After the divorce it seems Helena abandoned her two eldest children, as neither were living with her for the 1851 census, even though they were then aged 12 and 10. Maria was living with her grandfather Dr Godfrey Faussett. Also, for the 1861 census, Maria was living with an uncle. Godfrey born in 1840, has not been located in the 1851 census, but may have been at a boarding school. In the 1861 census, he appears to have been a soldier at Aldershot under the name G Fossett. He later changed his name to Godfrey Trevelyan Godfrey-Faussett, possibly to downplay the Trevelyan portion of his name. In the 1871 census he described himself as "Sub-Inspector of Factories - landowner" but was quite wealthy, living with his family and a number of servants.

His son, Commander (later Sir) Bryan Godfrey-Fossett (1864-1940) was an aide to King George V when he was Duke of York and accompanied him on a visit to New Zealand in 1901, see Photographs of Government Houses, New Zealand. (PA1-f-194) By chance for the 1901 census, the Royal party was on board HMS Ophir in the Great Bitter Lake, Suez Canal, Egypt and can be seen there in the census records. In 1907 Sir Bryan married Eugenie Fanny Eveline Dudley Ward, see lafayette.150m.com/dud5279.html and also Janus: The Papers of Sir Bryan Godfrey-Faussett For a letter written by the Prince of Wales to Captain Faussett during WWI see Somme > Personal Stories > The Prince of Wales : Letter written by ... Also a biography of Sir Bryan was written in 2003 by George Godfrey-Faussett called "Royal Servant - Family Friend".

A nephew of Sir Bryan, named Bryan Trevor Godfrey-Faussett (1896-1970) was born in India where his father Richard Godfrey-Faussett was with the Indian Police Force. He became a brigadier in WWII and an ADC to King George VI in 1946. As recently as 1995, a great-great-great-grandson of Rev Bryan Faussett, Christopher Godfrey-Faussett married Lady Diana Evelyn Bowes-Lyon, a great grandniece of the Queen Mother and cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. The couple accompanied Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal Family at the funeral service of the Queen Mother in 2002. See Memorial sites > The Queen Mother > Funeral arrangements > Funeral ...

Thus an apparently uninteresting miniature portrait has revealed an interesting family, who did not seem to have suffered socially from a major divorce scandal in 1849. In fact one might say the converse occurred. 1024a, 1024b.


Jo B said...

Very interesting site. Thank you.I, too, enjoy chasing down the lives of people through census records and such.

Unless I somehow missed it, you don't say anything about the woman here, but the hairstyle and dress suggest c 1816 to me, so it could be his mother.

Jo Beverley

Don, the collector said...

Am glad you enjoy the site. Many thanks for pointing that omission out. I had suggested she was a close relation, in my Recent Additions and Comment section but forgot to do so here, see http://recent-additions.blogspot.com/2007/04/april-2007-additions-2.html