Old Hall: John Leigh Clare, Cotton Merchant and Art Collector

old hall 2 croppedOld Hall, Aigburth-Road also known as Toxteth Old Hall.
Courtesy Liverpool Record Office.

Since writing my earlier post on the Old Hall on Aigburth Road, I have found information of an interesting resident who lived there in the 1860s and 70s. His story shows the prestige the house held in the area just 25 years or so before its demolition and also gives an insight into the great wealth of Cotton Merchants in the 19th Century.

The historic Old Hall on Aigburth Road (Also known as Toxteth Old Hall) had stood for well over 200 years until the development of the road in the 1880s led to its demolition. From the early 1960s it was home to John Leigh Clare. The news paper clipping below mentions a model of the hall made by his gardener.

Liverpool Mercury – Friday 18 March 1864
A model of the Old Hall, Aigburth-Road was exhibited by Mr. Craighead, gardener to Mr. J. L. Clare, and was the object of much attention.

John Leigh Clare

John was born born June 29, 1824, and was the third son of William Clare of Liverpool, and Elizabeth, daughter of Ralph Leigh of Hindley Green. His brother was Octavius Leigh Leigh-Clare (6 July 1841 – 16 July 1912) who was a British barrister and Conservative politician.

On March 5, 1850 at St. Francis Xavier’s Roman Catholic Church and Christened on 14th August 1824 at St. George’s Church, Everton. John married Francisca Constancia De Carvalho Duarte, daughter of Thomaz Joze Duarte of Everton Brow, Liverpool and Figueira da Foz of Portugal. They had four children John Francis Leigh Clare, Edward William Leigh Clare, Constance Leigh and Mabel Leigh.

John was a cotton broker in business with his father. William was the son of Mr. John Clare, born in 1790, at No. 3, St. Paul’s Square, Liverpool. He had served an apprenticeship with Thomas Tattersall and Son who in 1839 took him into partnership under the name Tattersall and Clare. John had joined by 1847 by which time the company was called William Clare and Sons with Offices at 11 Exchange Buildings, Liverpool.

st-paulsSt. Paul’s Church and Square. John Leigh Clare’s Grandfather was born at number 3 in 1790.
You can read and download the history of the church here:

Art collection at the Old Hall

John had lived at Hindley House, Walton Breck, Liverpool, then in the early 1860s the family moved into Toxteth Old Hall on Aigburth Road. Whilst living at the Old Hall, John had amassed an amazing collection of paintings, sketches and sculptures. These included two paintings by Turner and the statue ‘The Hunter and His Dog’ by John Gibson, and ‘A Nymph Stepping into a Bath’ by Richard James Wyatt.

The British Museum houses two paintings by Turner that were once owned by John Leigh Claire:

richmond-yorkshire-a-woman-walking-with-two-dogs‘Richmond, Yorkshire; a woman walking with two dogs on a gently sloping hillside, a river below her with trees to right and l, rising in distance mountains and a town crowning a hill at centre’.
Watercolour, Joseph Mallord William Turner c.1826

penmaen-mawr-caernarvonshire-cliffs-near-the-sea-a-road-with-horse-drawn-carriage-winding-around-a-rock-in-the-foreground-to-right-c-1832‘Penmaen-Mawr, Caernarvonshire; cliffs near the sea, a road with horse-drawn carriage winding around a rock in the foreground to right’. Joseph Mallord William Turner c.1832

A grand sale, at Christies 28th March 1868

clipping-leigh-clare“..all of the highest quality, and forming together probably the choicest collection ever offered by auction”


In 1868, John Leigh-Clare sold part of his collection. Reading the list from the sale below from ‘The Art Journal’, it  is incredible to think of all these works adoring the the Old Hall.  The sale made such a high sum that The Art Journal commented:

A collection of water-colour drawings which, at a public sale, realised little less than £19,000, must, even at the present time, when this class of Art-works seems greatly in the ascendency, have been one of no ordinary merit. And undoubtedly, was the collection formed by Mr. John Leigh Clare, of Toxteth Old-hall, Liverpool, which Messrs. Christie, Manson, and Co. disposed of on the 28th of March. The fame of these drawings filled the rooms of the auctioneers with visitors, though the reputed buyers were, almost without exception, dealers who are now, in fact, the great arbiters of Art, and in no small degree rule its action. Certainly, on the present occasion, water-colour painting measured by the prices paid for it, is at a high, one may almost say an extravagant, premium; especially in the case of the works of some of our deceased artists.

Of rather more than one hundred examples, the following may be cited as of the most important:


w-hunt-grapes-and-apples‘Still life of grapes and apple’. William Henry Hunt, OWS (British 1790-1864)https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/14218/lot/180/

By William Henry Hunt
‘Grapes and Apples,’ 100gs. (Smith); ‘Grandfather’s Boots’, 140gs. (Cox); ‘Grapes, Peach, and Figs’, 150 gs. Wokins); ‘Flowers and Plums’, 190 gs. ‘Devotion, 120gs. (Agnew); ‘Too Hot’, 525 gs. (Wokins); ‘Pine-Apple, Melon, Grapes,and Nectarines’, 275gs. (Wokins).

By Herbert:
‘Boats entering a Harbour—Stormy Sea’, 105gs. (Wokins).

avenger‘The Wreck of the Avenger’ by Clarkson Frederick Stanfield

By Clarkson Frederick Stanfield, R.A. ‘The Wreck of the Avenger,’ engraved,185gs. (Agnew); ‘The Channel, off Fort Rouge, Calais’, from the Langton collection, 420 gs. (Agnew); ‘An Old Hulk, By F. 175 gs. (Agnew).

john-frederick-lewis-greeting-in-the-desert-egyptJohn Frederick Tayler, Greeting in the Desert, Egypt (1855)

By John Frederick Tayler
‘The Greeting’ 370gs (Cox); ‘Return of the Reivers’ 260gs (Agnew).

By F. Goodall A.R.A.
‘Going to the Spring’ 19 gs (Agnew); ‘An Egyptian Dancing-girl,’ 190 gs (Gambart).

By J. Gilbert
‘Cardinal Pandolfus going to excommunicate King John’, 110gs. (Herring); ‘Laura presenting Gil Blas to Arsenia’, 260gs. (McLean); ‘Sancho and the Physician’, 245gs. (Agnew); ‘Christopher Sly and the Page’, 105gs (McLean).

By L. Haghe
“Interior of St. Bavon, Ghent’, 135 gs. (Agnew).

By S. Prout
‘Street Scene in Prague’, 210gs.(Agnew); ‘Antwerp’, and ‘A Canal Scene’, 250 gs. (Agnew); ‘Milan’, 700 gs. (Agnew); ‘Nuremberg’, 955gs. (Addin ton). These five drawings, it will be seen, averaged rather more than 528 guineas each: it may fairly be questioned whether the artist was originally paid anything like that amount for the whole of them. The sum of 955 guineas, or a little over £1,000, is the largest ever remember for any water-colour picture to have realised, unless, it may be, two or three by Turner.

By D. Cox
’Driving the Flock’, 105 gs. (Agnew); ‘Stepping-Stones on the Conway’, 127gs. (Cox); ‘Running water’, 100gs. (Pocock); ‘Stirling Castle, and ‘Windsor Castle’, 200gs. (Agnew); ‘Stacking Hay’, 165gs (Agnew); ‘Penmaen – Mawr’, 33 gs. Agnew); ‘The Eagle’s Crag’, 210gs. (Cox); ‘Anthurst Hill, Cumberland’, 550gs.(Pocock); ‘A Showery Day’, 295gs. (Cox).

By F. W. Topham
‘Spanish Music’, 220 gs. (Wokins).

primrose-gatherers‘Primrose Gatherers’ by Birket Foster

By Birket Foster
‘Primrose Gatherers’,190gs (Cox); ‘A Cornfield–Twilight’, 130gs. (Williams); ‘Return from Labour’, 205gs. (Cox); ‘Ann Hathaway’s Cottage, Stratford-on Avon’, 340gs (Isaacs).

By E. Duncan
‘The Haunt of the Wild-fowl—Wintry Sunset’, 350 gs. (Isaacs); ‘The Cockle Gatherers’, 315gs. (Davis); ‘Vessels in a Storm’, 295gs. (Agnew).

the-palace-of-the-escorial-near-madrid-spain‘THE PALACE OF THE ESCORIAL, NEAR MADRID, SPAIN’. David Roberts, R.A.,

By D. Roberts, R.A.
‘The Church of the Holy Sepulchre’, 100gs. (Agnew); ‘Palace of the Escurial’ 175gs. (Agnew); ‘Salamanca– Evening’, 10gs. (Agnew); ‘The Grand Square,Vittoria’, 170gs. (Agnew): these three last drawings have been engraved.

By G. Cattermole
‘The Conspirators’, 210gs. (Vokins).

By P. F. Poole, R.A.
‘A Bit of Fun’, 210gs.(Agnew).

By P. Dewint
‘View of Gloucester’, 115gs.(Agnew); ‘Penryhn Castle’, 135 gs. (Agnew); ‘Cornfield, near Pevensey Castle’, from the Bicknell collection, 350gs. (Agnew); ‘On the River Thames’, 150gs. (Agnew).

anthonyvcc-fielding-folkestoneANTHONY VANDYKE COPLEY FIELDING 1787-1855 “A View of Folkestone, Kent”

By Copley Fielding
‘View of Scarborough—Stormy Effect’, 290gs. (Agnew); ‘Bolton Abbey’, from the Wadmore collection, 450gs.(Agnew); ‘View of Folkestone’, 100gs. (Agnew); ‘South Downs’, 320 gs. (Wokins); ‘Staffa’, 120 gs. (Wokins); ‘Loch Achray, Perthshire’, 230gs.(Agnew); ‘Bowhill Downs’ 555 gs. (Buckley); this drawing was bought, by Mr. Wallis, at the sale of the Bicknell collection, for 392 gs.

By J. M. W. Turner, R.A.
‘Penmaen-Mawr’, 470 gs. (McLean); ‘Richmond, Yorkshire’, 500gs. (Isaacs); these two drawings were engraved for Turner’s ‘England and Wales,’ ‘Lago di Garda’, 210gs. (Agnew); ‘Narni, Italy’, 425 gs. ‘Oberwesel, on the Rhine,’ engraved by Will More, 900gs. (Agnew); ‘Rhodes, engraved in the series of “Bible Illustrations,” 175gs.(Cox).

john-gibson-hunter-and-the-dog‘The Hunter and His Dog’ by John Gibson R.A. (1790–1866)

“Sculpture, as we have often had occasion to remark, and to deplore, has but small chance of competing “in the market” with pictorial Art. Gibson’s beautiful life-size statue,’The Hunter’, the last finished work executed by him in Rome, for Mr. Clare, realised only 527gs. (Moore); a small sum, by comparison, with a few of the drawings recorded above.

Some other examples of sculpture were disposed of after the above sale was concluded:—‘A Nymph Stepping into a Bath, R. J. Wyatt, 250gs. (Agnew); ‘Bust of a Female Greek, Hiram Powers, 105gs. (Holloway); ‘A Neapolitan Fisher-boy, Hiram Powers’, 260gs. (Thomas). These works are all executed in the purest white marble, and are life-size: the last two are mounted on revolving marble pedestals”.


‘Fisher Boy’ by Hiram Powers.


339-richard-james-wyattA Nymph Stepping into a Bath’, R. J. Wyatt


Bust of Greek Slave’ by Hiram Powers,

Another sale, at Hanover Rooms, Liverpool 1st March 1873

A further sale of his collection resulted on 1st March 1873 as part of a marriage settlement. This included ancient Greek vases from the tomb of Etruria.

Liverpool Mail - Saturday 01 March 1873 OLD HALL.jpg

Liverpool Mail – Saturday 01 March 1873


After living at Old Hall the family moved to Hoylake, John’s wife Francisca died in 1889 in Munich, with a personal estate of £791 which seems a small sum in comparison to the £19,000 raised by the first sale alone.


William Thomson Pears

After John Leigh Clare the hall was in the possession of the Pear family who were probably the last inhabitants:

Large upright white stone, curved shoulders, missing cross from top.
In memory of Frances PEARS,
the dearly loved wife of William Thompson PEARS, of The Old Hall, Aigburth Road,
born 17. September 1833, died 14. September 1884
Also of William PEARS, infant child of the above,
born 28. June 1871, died 27. July 1871.
Also of the above named William Thompson PEARS, of The Hall, Kenilworth, born 27. June 1834, died 9. August 1918.



One comment on “Old Hall: John Leigh Clare, Cotton Merchant and Art Collector

  1. […] Read more about the Old Hall here: Old Hall: John Leigh-Clare, Cotton Broker and Art Collector […]

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