Joseph Humphry

In June 1893, towards the end of his life, Sir George Murray Humphry was presented with the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Sudbury as a recognition of his distinguished career together with his kindly interest in all matters affecting the welfare of the town of his birth. Humphry had recently presented two three-quarter length portraits to the Borough, one of his friend George William Andrewes, Mayor of Sudbury seven times, 1837 to 1887, and the other a portrait of himself.

Both portraits had been splendidly painted by his niece Miss Katharine Maude Humphry, and handsomely framed. On this occasion, he presented a portrait of his grandfather, Joseph Humphry, who was Mayor of Sudbury five times in 1787, 1790, 1796, 1801 and 1807. The ceremony took place in the Assembly Room at the Town Hall in Sudbury.

Joseph Humphry, Mayor of Sudbury 5 times between 1787 and 1807
Joseph Humphry Mayor of Sudbury in 1787, 1790, 1796, 1801, 1807

It gave Humphry an opportunity to reminisce about his grandfather, whom he described as a ‘really remarkable man’. “He was a man of very considerable mental talent and of many accomplishments. That he was no mean artist is shown you there, for that is taken from a portrait which was made of himself by himself. It hangs in my house and is a marvellous good likeness as well as a work of considerable artistic merit.

It is a chalk drawing and it has been enlarged and put into colours by my niece. He lived in the time of Gainsborough and knew him so it is quite probable that his artistic character and quality may have been stimulated and brought out by that eminent artist.

He was a man of many parts. He was a horseman, he was a good shot with an old flint single barrelled gun, and with that weapon few men could rival him. He was a very considerable athlete in addition and was, for example, a great skater. I am told that he would jump over the back of a chair on the ice on the Long Reach, (Friars Meadow riverside), and that is a feat which I think few men could accomplish.

The Long Reach on the River Stour, Sudbury, photographed in November 2016

He was a good man of business and he was highly respected in this town. He was a Liberal and he was a man who took good care that all should have their right. He was the supporter and the vindicator of the oppressed.

He was also a thoroughly kind-hearted old gentleman and when I look back at that portrait I can fancy myself riding before him on his horse, or sitting with the family in the old Red House, (Bullocks Lane), on the other side of the town and I can fancy seeing him looking over those very spectacles as he held up the knife to carve the turkey, and saying, “We will not forget the little man at the side table.”

I cannot help thinking that if it had occurred to him in the visions of the future that the honour of this day would ever be conferred upon the little boy on his saddle bow, it would have given him a great pleasure in the foresight as it does give me in the reality.”

The portraits of Joseph Humphry, Sir George Murray Humphry and George William Andrewes by Katharine Maude Humphry are displayed in the Mayor’s Parlour, Sudbury Town Hall.

The Red House, Sudbury. Home of Joseph Humphry.