circle of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, ? Elizabeth Selby

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
Doddington Hall
? Elizabeth Selby
? c.1610–30
Brown Parlour
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 128 cm, Overall width: 97 cm
circle of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
Catalogue Number


According to the nineteenth-century antiquarian and historian John Hodgson, Meg of Meldon – identified by local legend as a witch – was Margaret Selby, mother of Sir William Fenwick of Meldon.1 Possessed of a considerable fortune, after her husband’s death she resided at Hartington Hall, Northumberland. After her own death her ghost was said to travel from Meldon to Hartington Hall via a subterraneous coach road. Hodgson goes on to state,

'Some years since, in repairing Hartington Hall, and removing a thick coat of white-wash from the walls of the most westerly room in the second story, the stucco work was found to be ornamented with family pictures, one of which some old persons remembered to have seen before it was covered, and said it was always called Meg of Meldon. Like a picture of the same lady, which was at Seaton Delaval in 1810, this was habited in a round hat with a large brim tied down at each ear, and in a stuff gown turned up nearly to the elbows, with a vandyked sleeve of linen; the whole shoulders were covered with a thickly gathered ruff of frill. Portraits said to be of her and her husband, Sir William Fenwick, are preserved at Ford Castle.'

The description of the picture at Seaton Delaval, and the links to the Delaval estate at Ford Castle, suggests an association with the present portrait.

Although the identity of the sitter in the portrait is unknown she may be a member of the Selby family, even if not Margaret Selby. A possible identification is Elizabeth Selby (d. 1658), daughter of Sir George Selby, second wife of Sir John Delaval of Dissington, Northumberland (d. 1652). She was also the mother of George Delaval (d. 1694), and grandmother of Edward Delaval, who was in turn grandfather of John Hussey Delaval of Doddington Hall. The picture may have hung originally at Sir John Delaval’s seat at Dissington, and subsequently at the family seat, Ford Castle, and possibly later at Seaton Delaval. In the late nineteenth century the present portrait was mentioned by Cole as hanging in the Dining Room (now the Brown Parlour) at Doddington. Cole stated that the sitter was ‘said to be Eleanor, daughter of Sir John Delaval, Knt.,. … and wife of Wm. Fenwick, of Bitchfield, Esq’.

The portrait has been attributed to the Dutch portraitist Gerhard Bockman (1686–1773), although this is untenable since stylistically the portrait belongs to the earlier decades of the seventeenth century. It has been suggested by Edward Town that the style is reminiscent of the later period of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (1561-1636).


by Martin Postle


John Hodgson, A History of Northumberland, 2 vols., Newcastle upon Tyne, 1832, vol. 2, pp. 11–22 note

R.E.G. Cole, History of Doddington, otherwise Doddington-Pigot, in the County of Lincoln, and its successive owners, with pedigrees, Lincoln : James Williamson, 1897, p. 219


  1. For local folklore relating to Meg of Meldon see M. A. Richardson, The Local Historian’s Table Book, of Remarkable Occurrences, Historical Facts, Traditions, Legendary and Descriptive Ballads. Newcastle upon Tyne, 1843, pp. 135–41.


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