attributed to Henry William Pickersgill, Thomas Strangways Horner (1762–1844)

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
Thomas Strangways Horner (1762–1844)
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 75 cm, Overall width: 62 cm
attributed to Henry William Pickersgill (1782-1875)
Catalogue Number


Thomas Strangways Horner (1762–1844) was the only son of Thomas Horner (MM53) and Elizabeth Horner (née Paget). His middle name, Strangways, derived from his great-uncle, Thomas Strangways Horner (1688–1741), who had adopted the name on his marriage to Susannah Strangways of Melbury, Dorset. A student at Corpus Christi, Oxford University, Thomas matriculated in November 1783, aged twenty-one. In 1810 he was created a doctor of civil law. On the death of his father, in 1804, he succeeded to the family estates at Mells. The following year, on 6 July 1805, he married Margaret Frances Hippisley, daughter of Sir John Coxe Hippisley by his first wife, Margaret Stuart, at St George’s, Hanover Square, London. By this time his elder sister, Elizabeth Horner (see MM52), then widowed, had become the second wife of Sir John Coxe Hippisley (MM54).

From 1804 until 1839 Horner was commanding officer of the North Somerset Yeomanry, a part-time cavalry regiment, which had its headquarters at Mells. As stated on the occasion of his marriage, Horner was the Colonel of the Frome and East Mendip Cavalry.1 At Mells, Horner continued the improvements carried out by his father, employing John Soane to make designs for Park House, the residence designed by his forebear, Thomas Strangways Horner, in the 1720s. He also consulted the garden designer, and former landscape painter, William Sawrey Gilpin, on the configuration of the landscape.2 Horner died at Mells on 12 March 1844. He eldest son had predeceased him in 1843 and he was succeeded at Mells by his second son, John Stuart Hippisley Horner. 

Based on the presumed age of the sitter, his dress and facial hair – notably his grey sideburns – a date of c.1825–30 is acceptable for the present portrait. Although the artist has not been identified, the composition has, in terms of handling and technique, much in common with the work of the society portraitist William Henry Pickersgill (1782–1875). Pickersgill began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1806 and was a prolific portraitist over the next sixty years, painting generations of politicians, statesmen and public figures – many of them during the senior period of their careers. In common with Pickersgill’s depictions of elderly male subjects, the complexion of the sitter in the present portrait has a burnished glistening quality, with crisp details of lines, and deft flicks of paint round the eyes and nose.

Thomas Strangways Horner was the grandfather of Sir John Horner (1842–1927; MM83).The present painting was among the ancestral Horner portraits that survived the fire at Park House, Mells, in 1917. Sir John’s wife, Frances Horner (1854–1940), in a letter to her daughter, may have been referring indirectly to it, when she  mentioned that ‘all the worst family portraits’, including ‘Grandpapa and Grandmama Horner survived, smelling horribly – nothing will ever destroy them’.3

by Martin Postle


  1. The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle, vol. 75, pt 2, July 1805, p. 676.

  2. Historic England, Mells Park, List Entry Number: 1001150, 1 June 1984, (accessed 16 April 2020).

  3. Frances Horner to Cicely Lambton (née Horner), October 1917, Mells Manor Archive, quoted by Caroline Dakers, ‘Frances Horner and Mells: Model, Muse, Hostess, Friend, Patron, Collector’ in the present case study.


Related catalogue items from Mells Manor

  • Castle Howard Mells Manor

    Four Cupids attaching a Shield of Arms to a Garland of Laurels

    Florentine or Roman, c.1520–30

  • Castle Howard Mells Manor

    Sir John Coxe Hippisley (1746–1825)

    William Pars, 1779–80

  • Castle Howard Mells Manor

    The Resurrection

    Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano