Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Blundell, Henry
BLUNDELL, HENRY (1724–1810), art collector, was born at Ince-Blundell in Lancashire, where his family, who were Roman catholics, had been resident for many centuries. His father was Robert Blundell, and his mother was Catharine, daughter of Sir Rowland Stanley of Hooton, and the family thus became connected with the Welds of Lulworth, in whom the estate is now vested. In 1762 his father married as his second wife Margaret Anderton, and in 1761, resigning the estates to his son, retired on an annual allowance to Liverpool, where he died in 1773. In 1760 Blundell married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir George Mostyn, and settled at the ancestral mansion, Ince-Alundell Hall. His wife died in 1767 at the age of thirty-three, having borne him a son and daughters. The year of his marriage was that of the death of Sir Francis Anderton, and, after some compromise had been effected, his fortune was increased by the accession of the Lostock estates. The Roman catholic gentry were excluded by the penal laws from public life, and Blundell, probably influenced by the example of his friend and neighbour Towneley, turned his attention to classical art and archæology. His first purchase was the statuette of a seated philosopher, obtained from Jenkins in 1777. Visconti, to whom he was personally known, bears testimony to his fine taste. Michaelis says that 'a vigorous weeding-out could only have heightened the value of the collection, and the praise expended by Visconti on the collector is misleading. His chief agent was a Jesuit, Father John Thorpe, and his chief purveyor the well-known Thomas Jenkins.
Blundell's name appears on the title-pages of two books relating to his collection: 1. 'An Account of the Statues, Busts, Bass-relieves, Cinerary Urns, and other Ancient Marbles and Paintings at Ince.' Collected by H. B. Liverpool, printed by J. McCreery, 1803. This work is now very rare. It was printed for presentation only. Lowndes is mistaken when he describes it as containing a frontispiece and six plates. He may have seen a copy with engravings inserted, but the volume was not issued with them. 2. 'Engravings and Etchings of Sepulchral Monuments, Cinerary Urns, Gems, Bronzes, Prints, Greek Inscriptions, Fragments, &c., in the Collection of Henry Blundell, Esq., at Ince,' 1809, 2 vols, in folio, containing 158 plates and three frontispieces. Of this work only fifty copies were printed for presentation to Blundell's friends. The work was begun by the advice and assistance of his friend Towneley, whose help is not believed to have been very great.
Blundell purchased many works of art which came into the market through the revolutionary wars. He bought a relief — still at Ince — which he had himself formerly presented to the pope. Dr. S. H. Spiker has left an interesting account of a visit he paid to Ince in 1816 in company with Richard Heber the book-collector. There is a full catalogue in the works of Michaelis, who examined the collection in 1873 and 1877. A later account, understood to be by Mr. F. G. Stephens, appeared in the ‘Athenæum’ in 1883. This writer notices also the paintings, some of great interest, and other objects of art at Ince-Blundell.
Blundell was anxious for the perpetuation of his family, and quarrelled with his son for resolving not to marry. In consequence of their estrangement, the father settled the Lostock estates upon his daughters—Katharine, wife of Thomas Stonor of Stonor, and Elizabeth, wife of Stephen Tempest of Broughton. Blundell died at Ince-Blundell on 28 March 1810. His funeral in Sefton Church was followed by a procession half a mile in length. A tablet to his memory was the work of the then unknown John Gibson. The epitaph is attributed to William Roscoe. Blundell's death was followed by a litigation amongst his children, but the will was sustained, and the Lostock property, which in 1802 had a rent-roll of 4,753l. 0s. 4½d., went to the daughters, and the Ince-Blundell estate, which at the same time had an income of 3,263l. 9s. 1d., passed to Charles Robert Blundell, who died 12 Oct. 1837. He had met his father's proposals by a threat of alienating the family estates; and he now left them to a maternal relative, the second son of Edward Weld, of Lulworth, in preference to his sisters' children. After much litigation from 1840 to 1847 his will was upheld.
[Gent. Mag. vol. lxxx. pt. i. (1810), pp. 289, 385; Baines's History of Lancashire, iv. 213; Foster's Lancashire Pedigrees, 1873; Gibson's Lydiate Hall and its Associations, 1876; Gregson's Fragments relating to Lancashire, 1824, p. 224, new ed. 1869, p. 221; Catalogue of the Towneley Library, pp. 10, 16; Athenæum, Nos. 2917, 2918, 2919, 22 and 29 Sept. and 6 Oct. 1883; Nichols's Illustrations, iii. 739 (a communication from James Dallaway which is repeated in his work of Statuary and Sculpture among the Ancients, London, 1816, p. 352); Spiker's Reise durch England im Jahr 1816, Leipzig, 1818, i. 396 (Engl. transl., London, 1820, i. 313); Waagen's Art Treasures of the United Kingdom, iii. 242; (Michaelis gives other references to notices of the marbles); Roscoe's Life of William Roscoe, London, 1833, p. 63; Waagen's Art Treasures of Great Britain, 1854; Early Exhibitions of Art in Liverpool, 1876, p. 35; Britton's Beauties of England and Wales, ix. 309.]