Carruthers, Richard (1792-1876)
Richard Carruthers (20 September 1792 – 21 September 1876) was born at Peddershill (an isolated farm north east of Longtown), north of Carlisle, Cumbria. He was baptized at St Michael’s Church, Arthuret on 23 September ’92; the place where his parents, Robert Carruthers (farmer, d. 1806) and Elizabeth Gaddes (d. 1826) were married on 12 May 1773.
Carruthers was probably educated close to home, although it is not known who gave him his early art training. However, Carruthers was in London by 1813 (possibly even as early as 1808), and was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools on the 23 March of this year at the age of 20. During Carruthers’ time at the Academy J.M.W. Turner was an Academician, an artist who assisted with the teaching of students. Another Academician at this time was Robert Smirke RA, who was born in Wigton in 1752 and who lived in Carlisle before moving to London to pursue his career as an artist.
In 1817, Thomas Monkhouse, merchant and warehouseman, commissioned Richard Carruthers to paint a portrait of the poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850). Monkhouse was a cousin of Mary Hutchinson (1770-1859), and in the same year as the Wordsworth painting, commissioned one of himself by Carruthers. Richard Carruthers travelled to Rydal Mount, near Grasmere, Lake District, in the summer of 1817 to paint Wordsworth. Carruthers, 25 years old, was a relatively unknown northern artist at this time. This painting was the artist’s first major commission and became well known because it was the first portrait of the poet to be engraved.
The first attempt at the painting was almost completed when it was abandoned by mutual agreement. The second attempt was at first approved of, although once on show in the home of Monkhouse, family members began to find fault with its likeness. Sara Hutchinson outwardly professed Wordsworth’s liking of the portrait in a letter she wrote to Carruthers on 25 January 1818: ‘Mary tells me that William was delighted with the beauty of his picture.’ However, Carruthers did not meet success through his painting of Wordsworth, despite hoping he would, and by 8 May 1828 Wordsworth himself spoke out on the ‘wretched Thing’. Around 1817-19 Carruthers left the Royal Academy and made a painting visit to Italy.
Some time around 1819 Carruthers’ health began to deteriorate and he was advised to seek a warmer climate. It was in Lisbon that Richard Carruthers gave up his career as an artist in order to pursue one in business. In March 1828 Sara Hutchinson writes to Edward Quillinan (1791-1851) that Wordsworth was considering sending his youngest son ‘Willy’ to Lisbon as a clerk to Richard Carruthers.
Richard along with his brother and partner, Isaac, later expanded the Carruthers & Co business to Rio de Janeiro, becoming important merchants of the time. They imported manufactured goods, cottons, yarn and later wine through the help of their brother William, who was operating in Lisbon. One of Richard Carruthers’ first employees was Irineu Evangelista de Souza, who would later become one of Brazil’s most important entrepreneurs. Isaac and Richard Carruthers left Brazil in 1837, returning to England. In 1840 De Souza visited to learn the methods of British commerce, going on to become one of Brazil’s wealthiest businessmen.
In the years following his return to England Carruthers began building the mansion ‘Eden Grove’ on a 42 acre estate at Crosby-on-Eden, near Carlisle. The architect was Peter Nicholson (1765-1844). On 23 May 1874 Carruthers married the daughter of a cutler. Catherine Robinson (25 May 1840-14 June 1906) of Carlisle had joined the household at Crosy-on-Eden as staff in 1861. By 1866 she was made pregnant by Carruthers and went to stay with relatives in Poulton, Lancashire, where she remained following the birth of their son, Richard Carruthers. The father’s name was not recorded on the birth certificate. Robinson remained as ‘staff’ on the census until 1871, and probably as part of the household until 1874. In this year Carruthers and Catherine Robinson decided to marry. The ceremony took place on 23 May 1874 at St John’s Church, Dukinfield, Greater Manchester. By the time they married Richard was 81 years old and Catherine almost 34. Richard became frail in his later years and died at the age of 84 years old, two years after his marriage to Catherine.
Catherine Carruthers continued her husband’s support of local charities and played a prominent part in parish events. The Carlisle Journal reported on 3 August 1883 that on one occasion, ‘Mrs Carruthers opened her grounds of Eden Grove to the children of Crosby-on-Eden. Refreshments were served after races and games and tea supplied by the ‘lady of the house’.’
Catherine Carruthers died at Eden Grove on 14 June 1906. She was buried in the family grave with her husband at Kirklinton. There is a memorial to Richard Carruthers at St Cuthberts Church, Kirklinton, which adjoins one to his parents, erected by Catherine. There is also a memorial to him at St John the Evangelist in Crosby-on-Eden.
Their son Richard Carruthers had some early training in law, but lived quietly at Eden Grove until his death on 15 October 1933, aged 66. He never married and is also buried in Kirklinton graveyard. On the day before his death the Eden Grove estate was sold.