My Obsession with Lady Farnborough

I’ve become slightly obsessed with Amelia Long, AKA Lady Farnborough, in the course of writing this here little Regency romance novel of mine.

Artist, garden designer, daughter of one art collector and wife to another — I’ve been trying to find more information on the lady, but haven’t quite struck gold yet. For one thing, I’d dearly love to see what she looked like.

From the Peppiatt Fine Art website:

Amelia Long was the daughter of Sir Abraham Hume (1749-1838), the amateur artist and collector and friend of Reynolds. She married Charles Long (1761-1838), a great friend of William Pitt, who held a number of government positions and was created 1st Baron Farnborough in 1826. She was a pupil of Thomas Girtin and Henry Edridge in the 1790s. She and her husband bought Bromley Hill, Kent in 1801 and proceeded to enlarge the house to their own designs and improved the much-admired garden which by 1809 had two picturesque walks, each a mile long. As an artist, the Somerset House Gazette described her as having ‘a talent for painting and drawing that might fairly rank with the professors of the living art.’ She showed pictures at the Royal Academy as an Honorary Exhibitor between 1807 and 1822.

Her husband, Charles Long, was fascinating in his own right, but Amelia herself only gets one intriguing paragraph at the end of his wikipedia entry:

Long married in 1793 Amelia Hume, eldest daughter of the prominent art collector Sir Abraham Hume, 2nd Baronet, by Amelia, daughter of John Egerton, Bishop of Durham. A watercolourist and garden designer, she completed her formal classical education with a visit to Italy, prior to her marriage. She designed the celebrated Italianate grounds at their country residence Bromley Hill, which subsequently became the main source for her sketches. Reputed to be the favourite pupil of Thomas Girtin, her early work is distinguished by a broad topographical style, and later work was influenced by Henry Edridge and Dr Thomas Monro. She died 15 January 1837, and a London newspaper reported that her husband Lord Farnborough was “dangerously ill in consequence of a shock occasioned by the death of his lady.” He never properly recovered his health, and died a year later. There were no children from the marriage.

Of course, you could always go ahead and buy me her sketchbook for Christmas. That would be okay with me.

Untitled Watercolor

View from The Gardens at Bromley Hill House, London Beyond

The thing that’s specifically fascinating to me — the thing that elevates her from the rest of the well-born ladies who were handy with a watercolor brush — is that she actually designed and created gardens and broader landscapes, when this sort of pursuit was still a relatively new and limited phenomenon.

One interesting fellow who was pursuing this line of work at the time is Humphry Repton, who seems to have parlayed little more than a talent for artistic landscape renderings with a lively imagination and good social connections into a viable business as a landscape designer. In this sense he was following directly in the footsteps of Lancelot “Capability” Brown — except that Repton evidently limited his consulting process to imagining what a landscape might look like if improved according to his suggestions, and then painting it for you. The execution was up to you.

Lady Farnborough was of course limited to working on her own estate, but she seems to have been involved in both the planning and the execution of her gardens’ redesign. As the brief biographical sketches above suggest, this work was quite enthusiastically well received. It’s a pity that she didn’t get a chance to do more.

And of course, there is that outstanding detail about how well-loved and deeply mourned she was by her husband, which I will repeat here, because I am swoony and morbid like that:

She died 15 January 1837, and a London newspaper reported that her husband Lord Farnborough was “dangerously ill in consequence of a shock occasioned by the death of his lady.” He never properly recovered his health, and died a year later. There were no children from the marriage.

It makes me crazy that I can’t find a portrait of her.

4 Thoughts.

  1. Hello, I have just been reading your page on Amelia Long as I’m working at Bromley Museum in Orpington gathering research about her for an exhibition of her work that’s coming soon in February. I would like to say I have found this page very interesting and informative. You may be interested to know that we have a portrait of her by Henry Edridge in our collection and this most probably will be included in the exhibition

  2. While looking up the history of the Bromley Court Hotel, I came across your website. There is a picture of Lady Farnborough in ‘Bromley, Kent: From the Earliest Times to the Present Century’ by E.L.S. Horsburgh (Author) which is almost certainly in Bromley Central Library and obtainable from Amazon second hand. Don’t know if it is the same picture referred to in the previous reply as it doesn’t say in the book who painted it.

  3. I came across Lady Farnborough when researching the sketch books of ancestors, Fanny Blake (1804-79) and her brother William Blake (1805-75), of Danesbury, Herts, and 62 Portland Place. (William is not the renowned artist William Blake, but nonetheless an accomplished watercolourist). In I think one of Fanny’s books (I think, because she hasn’t inscribed it with her name) are pencil sketches of Lord Farnborough’s London Lodge, his Beckenham Lodge, and Mr Well’s cottage (similar architecture, so presumably also at Bromley Hill. I found the following link from the Gentleman’s Magazine vol 163 covering Lord Farnborough’s death, in which it says that he and Lady F designed Beckenham Lodge.

    AS Wormley and Danesbury are 15 miles apart, maybe the families met in Herts. Fanny reputedly painted with JWM Turner, so I would think despite the age difference they were both accomplished artists and would have had that in common. If you should fine any reference to the Blake family in your research, I would be enormously grateful.

    Jane Bennett

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