A circular piece of Richmond’s history from when it was a fashionable cultural capital has come home.

It is a portrait of the headmaster of the town’s grammar school which was painted by one of his pupils who went on to become the favoured artist of the local nobility in their grand country mansions.

The portrait shows Anthony Temple, who was headmaster for 45 years from 1750, and it has been donated to the Richmondshire Museum by one of his descendants who had it in her home in Wales.

Mr Temple, who came from Crayke, near Easingwold, was appointed headmaster of the school when he was only 26-years-old and newly graduated from Cambridge university.

The school educated local boys of ability for free and those from outside the town whose parents could afford the fees and to have their sons boarding in the town.

Read more: How the discovery of an old axe brought to life the story of a Darlington war hero

Mr Temple and his wife, Sarah, took in boarders in their Oglethorpe House – one of Richmond’s most intriguing properties. It is at the Pottergate traffic lights, at the top of Frenchgate.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Anthony Temple, by George Cuit

Sadly, Anthony and Sarah’s son, Robert, died when he was only seven months old and Sarah then had a stroke, which left her paralysed for the remaining 14 years of her life.

Mr Temple was devoted to her. On a Sunday morning at Oglethorpe, he’d put his boys through their religious instruction and then, two by two, they would process down Frenchgate to the parish church with Mr Temple carrying Sarah.

His years at the school were a success, as he sent at least 29 local boys up to Cambridge and Oxford universities. When Sir Lawrence Dundas, of Aske Hall, approached him to see if he had a pupil who might benefit from a Grand Tour of Europe, he unhesitatingly nominated George Cuit, a young lad from Moulton, near Scotch Corner, who was boarding with him in Oglethorpe and showing great promise as an artist.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Richmond School old boy John Culpan, museum chairman Mike Wood, and Gillian and Richard Howell, who have donated the portrait to the Richmondshire Museum

Cuit spent six years studying art in Rome and returned to Richmond to become one of the central figures in the town’s cultural life during its fashionable Georgian days. He painted everything from the estates and parklands of the dales’ wealthy landowners to the scenery for the town’s theatre when it opened in 1788, and he was a leader of the Athenaeum club, which promoted the classical study of art and literature.

And, of course, he painted a portrait in oils of his headteacher who had set him on the road to his successful career.

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Mr Temple died aged 84 in 1795, nearly 30 years after his wife, and is buried in the church at Easby. The portrait then passed down through his family until it ended up with his descendant, Gillian Howell, on the Llyn Peninsula. She has now returned it to the town in which it originated and where it adds to the story of the Georgian glory days.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

“We are delighted to receive the painting here in its natural home of Richmond, especially as we don’t have a Cuit and particularly because it tells us so much about the times which shaped the town,” said Mike Wood, chairman of the museum.

The museum will shut on October 31 for the winter, but the portrait will go on display at the start of the new season in April 2024 – the 300th anniversary of Anthony Temple’s birth.

The stories of Anthony Temple and George Cuit are among the 102 biographical portraits of leading townspeople in Jane Hatcher’s 2021 book, Richmondians.

George Cuit’s son was George Cuitt – two ts to differentiate him from his old man – who made his name as an engraver. He was nicknamed “the Yorkshire Piranesi” and we told earlier in the year how the University of Chester has just compiled a complete catalogue of all his known works.

  • If you have anything to add to any of this story, please email chris.lloyd@nne.co.uk.