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Not Brentford

The Trimmer Family


Selby Whittingham


Extensive information about the Kirbys and Trimmers is given in the DNB, booklets by Mrs Yarde, Colvin etc.. Details about the connection with JMWT were given by Rev. Henry Syer Trimmer c.1860 to Thornbury (1877, pp.xii, 8, 10, 116-17, 119-28, 221, 223-7, 246-64, 440-1, 607).

Details of other families associated with the Trimmer family.

James Trimmer I and II

James Trimmer I (ca 1705 - 1791) was a brickmaker at Brentford by 1742, in partnership with John Clarke. He was originally from Farnham, where his father was a victualler/brewer. He passed his brickmaking business to his son James II.

James Trimmer II (1737 - 1792) followed into his father's brickmaking business. He married Sarah Kirby in 1762 at St Mary, Ealing, wit. T.T.Haverfield. James Trimmer II passed his brickmaking business to his eldest three sons:Joshua Kirby, William Kirby and James Rustat Trimmer.

Joshua Kirby Trimmer (1767 - 1829) was at North Cray, Kent, in 1795, (when JMWT's friend Rev. Nixon was curate at Foot 's Cray) but soon returned to Brentford, being at Brentford Butts, New Brentford, in 1815. He died at Strand on the Green in 1829. He also owned a quarry at Bangor, N.Wales.

William Kirby Trimmer (1770 - 1811) lived at Green Dragon Lane, Old Brentford. His widow moved to Mercury House in Windmill Lane in 1816.

James Rustat Trimmer (1773 - 1843) was at Mercury House, Windmill lane, in 1829. He was the last owner of the family brickmaking business, giving it up c.1838, ie. almost a century after his grandfather commenced the trade in the area. He died at Brandenburg House, Hammersmith.

John Trimmer (born 1775 and the closest in age to JMWT) died of consumption 28.8.1791 at Margate, where the Trimmers used to stay, probably leading to JMWT also going there c.1786.

Henry Scott Trimmer's (1778 - 1859) youngest son, Frederick Edmond (1813 - 1883), remained at Heston, but employed solicitors at Brentford, Ruston, Clark & Ruston, in 1880. His collection of decorative porcelain was sold at Sotheby's, 21-22.12.1883.


Taxation records

In the 1791 Valuation of Lands and Houses in the Parish of Ealing :"Two Dwelling Houses with adjoining offices, Gardens and Barn and Yard. A large Kitchen Garden Walled, two Stables a Chaise house two Lime Kilns, Sheds for Chaulk, Breeze and Ashes, Yard, Wharfe and Lime Burners House. Rate 70."

The Carriage Tax 1757-62 (Surrey) lists John Trimmer, Brentford, chaise 1759,1762, and Trimmers, chaise, 1757-62 (NA T47/3).
James Trimmer denied having 100 oz. of silver plate in 1776 (NA T47/7).
The site "is now occupied by the 'Waggon and Horses', the 'Plough' and offices. Opposite is the old water works, now the 'Living Steam Museum' [Kew Bridge Steam Museum ]" (D.Yarde, 1990, p.14). The site of the house is currently (2009) empty awaiting the building of flats.

Sarah Kirby(Mrs Sarah Trimmer)

Born .6.1.1741 at Ipswich, daughter of Joshua Kirby and Sarah Bull.
1755. Kirby family moved to London.
1759. Kirby family moved to Kew.
1762-1802. Lived on the Trimmers' brickfield estate at Old Brentford near Kew Bridge, tenants of Robert Tunstall Esq.
1763-80. Children baptised at St Mary, Ealing.
1780-5. Her first educational books published.
1786. Established a Sunday School at St George, Old Brentford.
22.5.1792. Husband James died. Buried at St Mary, Ealing.
1802. Moved to house in Windmill Lane. Her son Henry Scott had inherited its copyhold from his father and surrendered it to his mother. By the will of her daughter Julia Lydia in 1844 it reverted to Henry Scott.
Died. 15.10.1810.
Buried 5.1.1811 in the family vault at St Mary, Ealing.
Memorial service 6.1.1811 at St Lawrence, New Brentford. Sermon by Rev. T.T.Haverfield printed and dedicated to Dowager Countess Spencer. Memorial erected to her at St George, Old Brentford, where she had been a parishioner for nearly 50 years.

Portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence c.1790, Henry Howard c.1798, (NPG; exh.RA 1798), George Romney (private coll.) etc.



Joshua Kirby (father of Sarah Trimmer nee Kirby) was an old friend of Gainsborough, who chose to be buried beside him at Kew. The Trimmers had many friends at Brentford and had musical parties at their home (Yarde 1972, pp.17-21). H.Syer Trimmer said of Zoffany, "He lived at Chiswick, and, as my father lived at Kew, they were friends - that is, my father as a boy was often at Zoffany's . constantly in his painting-room ."
(Thornbury 1877, p.258; H. Scott Trimmer lived at Brentford, not Kew ). Henry Howard RA was another friend of the family and stayed with Mrs Trimmer (Thornbury 1877, pp. 1224, 258-60; D.Yarde )

Revd. Henry Scott Trimmer 1778-1859
Born 1.8.1778 Old Brentford, youngest son of James Trimmer and Sarah Kirby.
July 1790. Visited his sister Selina and Countess Spencer at Tunbridge Wells (Spencer mss, BL; sale of his library, Sotheby 19.4.1860 (149), Tunbridge Wells Guide given to him by the Countess 1789).
6.7.1798 matriculated, Merton College, Oxford. 1802. B.A. Oxford.
15.8.1802. Ordained deacon by Bishop Porteous at the chapel of Bishop's Palace, Fulham; and appointed curate by the Bishop of St Leonards, Shoreditch, at a stipend of 50. The patron was Revd. Henry Plimley, a Trimmer family friend, who had been instituted vicar December 1801.
19.12.1802. Ordained priest by the same at the same.
1803. Curate, Kedington, Suffolk
1804-59. Vicar of Heston.
Married 1805 at Kedington Mary Driver Syer, daughter of Revd. Barrington Blomfield Syer and Maria Moore.
1815. Appointed JP, usually acting in New Brentford district (Nottingham University, 4th D. of Portland Mss).
1821. Appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Middlesex (do )
Died 20.11.1859. Buried at Heston.
Henry Scott Trimmer's wife died two days after her husband on 22.11.1859, after 54 years of marriage. She is buried at Heston.
Will 18.10.1853, 2.9.1856, pr. 1.1.1860

Portrait by Henry Howard (exhibited at RA 1821) (private coll.). Howard also exhibited at the RA a portrait of his mother in 1798, of the Rev. W.Kirby FRS FLS in 1819 and of the Rev. E.Trimmer and son in 1834. Sales. 17.3.1860, Christie's, Pictures by Ancient and Modern Masters. 1,647.17.6.
19-20.4.1860, Sotheby's, Library. 203.18.6.

Artist. According to his eldest son, "Turner, when beginning his great classical subjects from the 'Aeneid' , regretted his ignorance of Latin; and my father undertook to teach him for instruction in painting in return." (Thornbury 1877, pp.123-4). (On another page, 225, Thornbury said that he, "long past the meridian of life" "bartered lessons in painting for lessons in Greek"; cf. pp.440-1). Thornbury added that "Mr. Trimmer himself was not unskilled in Art, having painted landscapes, I am told, with great skill." (1877, p.224). He probably learnt the rudiments of drawing from his mother. His grandfather had dabbled in painting (Thornbury, p.248), and his uncle was brought up a painter (p.249).

None of his own works seems to have survived. There is a Turnerean Carthage scene which apparently descended from his eldest son which conjecturally could have been by him or by his eldest son, who copied several Gainsboroughs (Thornbury, p.250).

One account by Thornbury of the genesis of JMWT's Grand Junction Canal at Southall Mill (exh. Turner's Gallery 1810), (engr. 1811, Windmill and Lock ) is that it was based on a sketch by Trimmer (Thornbury 1877, p.224). Alternatively Thornbury said JMWT sketched it ("Hanwell Windmill") on his way back (to London?) from visiting Trimmer at Heston (1877, p.127).

Other stories claim that JMWT intervened in works painted at the Trimmer household: in a portrait of one of Trimmer's children painted by Howard, adding a cat wrapped in a red handkerchief (Thornbury, p.223), and in a view of Heston church by Trimmer's wife (label on the back of the picture).


JMWT seems to have visited Trimmer frequently at Heston, perhaps when also going to Isleworth or Twickenham ("within walking distance" - Thornbury p.225). "Turner once went with my father and mother to see the pictures at Osterley House, collected by Mr. Child. There was a splendid Gainsborough my father had once rescued from a garret. Of this picture Turner made, memoriter, a small pencil drawing in the evening, and also a sketch of a woman gathering water-cresses whom they had seen on the way, on which he had written, 'Checked blue apron.' 'These, said my mother, when he had finished them, 'are for me.' 'If you take them,' said Turner, 'I must do two more.' These were sold at my father's sale. However, once at my uncle's [probably Joshua Kirby Trimmer of Strand on the Green] he made a very clever water-colour drawing, which they have now, of two of my cousins playing on the floor." (H.S.Trimmer in Thornbury 1877, pp.127-8).

Thornbury said, "I have a strong belief that the interior of a church in the 'Liber' is taken from Heston." (1877, p.224). This plate, published in 1819, was based on the unfinished Interior of a Gothic Church (Turner Bequest: BJ 24), which has been dated to c.1797, before Trimmer went to Heston.

Thornbury evidently failed to check with his sons, and was wrong in saying that "it is almost the only church interior" painted by JMWT, when there are more unidentified ones in the "Wilson" sketchbook.

Greg Finch adds 'Christie's (24 March 1981, lot 109) attributed a watercolour interior of Merton College Chapel, Oxford, to Turner. A layman shows the chapel to two ladies. Turner painted Oxford scenes during the years Trimmer was there, and Trimmer was an undergraduate at Merton. The figures therefore possibly show Trimmer showing off the college to two of his sisters.'

H.Syer Trimmer was clearly wrong about when his father and JMWT first met and John Gage mistakenly followed him, "c.1806" (1980, p. 289).

JMWT and Hannah Danby read of the death of another Trimmer in The Times which they thought was his (Rev. Henry in 1842? That would suggest a long gap in the friendship), so the latter was startled and called at Queen Anne St just after JMWT's death (Thornbury 1877, pp.126-7). Thornbury suggests that JMWT was in love with a relation of Trimmer's staying at Heston (1877, pp.225-6).


November 2009