TROTTER AND STRANGE

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos


There are many mysteries in the Cuthbert Hopkins collection of glass negatives and sometimes you have to follow winding trails and make guesses, hopefully educated guesses. In this instance we have two artworks, which were photographed by Cuthbert and labelled (in part) 'Mr (?) Trotter, Horton Place'. It's not always clear whether the name and address on a wrapper relate to the subject or the recipient of the photographic prints, as in this instance. We know all about the Trotter family from various articles on this website, which I will list at the end, so I am not going to repeat the family history in this piece.

Let's start with what we think we know. It's almost invariably the case that, where the photo shows a painting or drawing, then the subject has already died. This first photo is believed to be an early portrait of the John Trotter who died on 31 August 1856 and he was the last male Trotter in Horton from the original line. After the death of his widow, Maria, on 27 December 1861, the next 'Mr Trotter' was actually William Brown, who changed his name to Trotter in 1868. We cannot date these two photos accurately, since there is no 'live sitter' to offer a clue. However, if the prints were to go to a Mr Trotter at Horton Place, then they were presumably taken in 1868 or later.

Portrait believed to be an early depiction of John Trotter
Portrait believed to be an early depiction of John Trotter
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

The real mystery here is the imposing portrait of Alexander Trotter. We know that is his name because the original painting, which had been partially removed from its frame for the photo (or it might have been damaged anyway), says so on a strip along the top.

Portrait of Alexander Trotter
Portrait of Alexander Trotter
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

There were several Alexander Trotters, none of whom lived in Epsom, so the inference to be drawn is that this man was related to the Horton Trotters and that perhaps he had other connections with Epsom. We need to go back to the original John Trotter of Horton, grandfather of the previously mentioned John, who died in 1790. He was the son of an Alexander Trotter of Catleshiel and his wife Jean (née Stuart). The portrait is obviously not that Alexander, since he died in 1728, but one of his other sons was an Archibald Trotter, who had a son called Alexander (died 1842, so still the wrong man because of the clothing and comparison with a portrait that is online). However, Alexander (of Dreghorn, Midlothian, died 1842 - he was Paymaster to the Navy and seems to have been involved in nefarious financial dealings in conjunction with Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, First Lord of the Admiralty) also had a son named Alexander, born 1804 Edinburgh, and I think this is who we are after. He would have been the great nephew of the original John Trotter. Additionally, this Alexander had died by 1868, which strengthens the theory that we have the right man.

Melville bleeds Neptune
Melville (in Highland costume) bleeds Neptune whilst Trotter holds a bowl
to catch the guineas which flow from the incision; satirizing Trotter's
embezzlement of public funds and Melville's alleged connivance.
Coloured etching by I. Cruikshank, 1805.
Image source: Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0)

I am struggling to find a reason why Cuthbert would have been asked to photograph Alexander's portrait solely because the man was a Trotter, but I think that someone, possibly William Brown/Trotter, was making a photo collection of Trotters: the painting of Alexander might have been borrowed for that purpose. However, if we have the right Alexander, there are other Epsom connections, so we'll now turn our attention to the Strange family, Lords of the Manor of Epsom from 1872 to 1908, and there is also a link to Arthur Henry Mure, the brewer who was a trustee of the will of John Stuart Strange.

The second wife of Alexander Trotter (1804 variety) was Isabella Strange, daughter of Sir Thomas Andrew Lumisden Strange, Chief Justice of Madras: thus, she was the sister of Admiral James Newburgh Strange and the aunt of Lt Charles Vernon Strange and James Stuart Strange, both Lords of the Manor of Epsom. Isabella's older sister, Louisa, married brewer and distiller Philip William Mure, brother of Arthur Henry Mure.

The 1804 Alexander was a wealthy stockbroker and his father's brother, Sir Coutts Trotter, was a principal partner in Coutts Bank. There's another reason why I think this is the 1804 Alexander: he was on the board of directors of The London Assurance Company, along with Nathaniel Alexander and Robert Gillespie of Epsom. In fact, the portrait looks as if it might have hung in a company boardroom at some stage.

Alexander Trotter's first wife was Jacqueline Elizabeth Otter, a daughter of the Rev. William Otter, Bishop of Chichester; the marriage took place in 1836 and she died in 1849. There were several children and among them were the Rev. Coutts, the Rev. Edward and Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry.

On 18 February 1852 at St Mary, Bryanston Square, Marylebone, Alexander married the previously mentioned Isabella Strange and there were three more children, one of whom was extremely interesting and I will tell you more very shortly. However, to continue with Alexander, he died in Tunbridge Wells on 8 September 1865, his London abode having been Devonshire Place House, Marylebone Road/Regent's Park, London. He left effects of £30,000, which doesn't sound very much but in today's terms that would be around £3.6 million. Isabella survived until 19 January1878, living at 40 Montagu Square, Marylebone, with the children and several servants.

Alexander and Isabella had three children, being Isabella Lilias (born 1853), Alexander Pelham (1857-1947) and Margaret Alice (1860-1942).

I don't need much excuse to tell you about someone interesting and she is Isabella Lilias Trotter.

Lilias Trotter
Lilias Trotter
Unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Known as Lilias, she was an artist, admired by John Ruskin, but also a humanitarian, as apparently were both her parents, but particularly Isabella; there is a decent biography on Wikipedia but perhaps a better one on another website.

People have different views about missionaries who seek to take Christianity to people of other faiths and cultures, but Lilias was not a preacher as such. What she and her friend Blanche Haworth did in 1888 was to travel to Algeria, learn Arabic and set up mission stations in North Africa. One of their aims, basically, was to improve the lot of Muslim women and this is something which still resonates today - the United States has a Lilias Trotter Center, the strapline of which is 'Enabling thoughtful Christian engagement with Muslims', which is apparently a quotation from the writings of Lilias herself. Lilias was not in good health when she went to Algeria and suffered further periods of illness because of her work and the African conditions but, although she returned to England for a battery recharge periodically, she always went back, but became increasingly frail in her later years, dying on 27 August 1928 at her Algerian base, Dar Naama El Briar. You may be interested to look at a detailed account of Lilias' life and work, with photos, which is online.

Sand Lillies
Sand Lillies
Painting by Isabella Lilias Trotter Source Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

There is more relevant material on this website in the following articles.
Linda Jackson 2018