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RICHARDSONS OF CROYDON & RUSKIN CONNECTION
This article was written by Fran Steel, a descendant of Isaac Alexander Fox, in 1993.
Well, it pays to have someone famous in the family! The mother of Isaac Alexander Fox, Mary Bridget Richardson (1814-1845) was a cousin to John Ruskin, one of the great English writers.
John Ruskin wrote approximately 250 books (including 'Praeterita', his autobiography) and more than 30 volumes of diaries as well as lectures and magazine articles. There are also numerous books written about John Ruskin (58 in the Victorian State Library alone!).
I have been able to borrow "Ruskin's Scottish Heritage" (by Helen Viljoen) through the local library and most of the quotes come from this book. It proved to be a goldmine of information. This book included a family tree (which includes Mary Bridget Richardson and her family, known as the "Croydon Richardsons"), several photographs and information sources.
Information extracted from 'The Picture Encyclopaedia of Art' says "John Ruskin (1819-1900), was the great pioneer of a genuine popular education in art, he was a brilliant writer and art historian". Two famous books he wrote are 'Praeterita' and 'Fors Clavigera'.
John Ruskin was an only child and his parents were cousins. His mother, Margaret, had a sister, Bridget, who is the mother of Mary Bridget Richardson - see following information.
MARY BRIDGET RICHARDSON, WIFE OF ISAAC FOX
Our family is part of the 'Richardson' line from Croydon, Surrey, England. Most of the family were baptised and married at St John the Baptist Church in Corydon which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The church was destroyed by fire in 1867.
Mary Bridget Richardson is mentioned in 'Ruskin's Scottish Heritage' and 'Praeterita', she is referred to as "Cousin Bridget".
A quote from 'Ruskin's Scottish Heritage' - "Cousin Bridget did, however, eventually cause some slight embarrassment by marrying 'a Mr Fox .... of rank somewhat above a tradesman - just enough to be uncomfortable." But before long, luckily, "they went out to Sydney ...".
And a quote from 'Praeterita': "My Croydon Aunt left four sons - John, William, George and Charles; and two daughters - Margaret and Bridget. All handsome lads and pretty lasses; but Margaret, in early youth, met with some mischance that twisted her spine, and hopelessly deformed her. She was clever, and witty, like her mother; but never of any interest to me, though I gave a kind of brotherly, rather than cousinly, affection to all my Croydon cousins. But I never liked invalids, and don't to this day; and Margaret used to wear her hair in ringlets, which I couldn't bear the sight of.
"Bridget was a very different creature; a black-eyed, or, with precision, dark hazel-eyed, slim-made, lively girl; a little too sharp in the features to be quite pretty, a little too wiry-jointed to be quite graceful; capricious, and more or less selfish in temper, yet nice enough to be once or twice asked to Perth (Scotland) with us, or to stay for a month or two at Herne Hill (Ruskin's home) but never attaching herself much to us, neither us to her. I felt her an inconvenience in my nursery arrangements, the nursery having become my child's study as I grew studious; and she had no mind, or it might be, no leave, to work with me in the garden."
"The four boys were all of them good, and steadily active. The eldest John, with wider business habits than the rest, went soon to push his fortune in Australia ..... William prospered also in London ..... George went into business in Market Street (Croydon) with his father (a baker) ...... Charles was apprenticed to publishers Messrs Smith, Elder & Co.
GEORGE RICHARDSON AND BRIDGET COCK
The 'Aunt' mentioned above was also named Bridget (1783-1830). 'Aunt' Bridget married George Richardson, a baker, who had a shop in Market Street, Croydon.
It appears that George Richardson (1782-1861) did not come from Croydon, the author of the book (Ruskin's Scottish Heritage) traced records in Scotland and could not find where he came from. John Ruskin also had 'Richardson cousins from Scotland' on his father's side of the family but it is not known if there was any connection.
WILLIAM COCK AND MARGARET RUSKIN
John Ruskin's mother, Margaret, and his Aunt Bridget were brought up in 'The Old King's Head Public House'. Their father, William Cock (1754-1787), died of a broken leg, in an accident on a horse (Bridget was only 4 years old at the time) and his wife Margaret (1756?-1817) continued to run the tavern after his death.
William Cock was also known as "Captain Cox of Yarmouth" and may have been involved with herring boats.
JOHN RUSKIN AND MARY CARSWELL OF MARYLEBONE
John Ruskin (1734-1780) originally came from the Parish of Cheshunt, was married on 26th June 1754 while a resident of Marylebone, as was Mary Carswell. A few years later they moved into the Parish of Bartholomew the Great where John Ruskin found employment as the Parish Clerk.
JOHN RUSKIN AND MARY ADAMS
It is known that John Ruskin (d. 1743) made a will "being in ill state of health but in perfect mind and memory". In his will he specified that each of his three daughters (Mary, Ann, Jane) and three sons (Robert, John, Thomas) should receive "twenty pounds of good and lawful money of grate Britain being ---------
Goodness knows what he would say today to learn that the Empire has gone and that England has been committed to a European Union.
I remember his house, Leny, Cobham, just before it was demolished to make way for wider roads and a petrol station. Such is progress. It was a fine house.
MARY BRIDGET RICHARDSON (1814-1845)
In my last letter, I inadvertently assumed that your MARY was the daughter of PETER & JESSIE RICHARDSON of Bridgend, Perth. Mainly because RUSKIN did not refer to a MARY in the Croydon family in his diary when talking about GEORGE & BRIDGET OF CROYDON.
He called her BRIDGET and I presume that her name was MARY BRIDGET.
"Mary was a very different creature; a black-eyed, or, with precision, dark hazel-eyed, slim-made, lively girl; a little too sharp in the features to be quite pretty, a little too wiry-jointed to be quite graceful; capricious, and more or less selfish in temper, yet nice enough to be once or twice asked to Perth (Scotland) with us, or to stay for a month or two at Herne Hill (Ruskin's home) but never attaching herself much to us, neither us to her. I felt her an inconvenience in my nursery arrangements, the nursery having become my child's study as I grew studious; and she had no mind, or it might be, no leave, to work with me in the garden."
MARY ELIZA YOUNG/FOX/CRISP/DUPRE (1788-1875)
Thanks for a copy of her letter that has survived. This lady certainly moved around. I haven't quite taken in her capacity yet for being born in Shadwell, married in Stepney, first child in Belper, second in Liverpool, married again in Stepney, married again in Newington and, perhaps lastly, living in Brighton according to the letter's address. Then, son ISAAC FOX marries whilst living in Croydon. Phew!