Mr and Mrs Wakefield and Catherine Bell


Francis Wheatley (1749-1801), Norfolk Museums Service,  More information here

In 2009 I did post about this picture and received some comments. It was painted  around 1774 and depicts Edward Wakefield, his wife Priscilla (on the right) and Priscilla’s sister Catherine Bell in the centre.  Read about Catherine here

It is such an intriguing composition that seems full of hidden meaning. I welcome any further comment on the background, the position of the subjects, the hands, the objects they are holding and the clothing.

Published in: on July 4, 2018 at 2:05 am  Comments (1)  

Tottenham remembers

In 2018 two Tottenham residents developed a website that highlights many aspects of Priscilla’s life.

Priscilla Wakefield: Tottenham Activist

Follow the associated Twitter account @TottenhamQuaker

Published in: on July 2, 2018 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Familiar science

The following article was published by The Royal Society and features Priscilla and two other women who contributed to what is described as ‘familiar science’.

Eleanor Anne Peters, (2017) “Observation, experiment or autonomy in the domestic sphere? Women’s familiar science writing in Britain, 1790-1830” in Notes and Records 17, 71-90. DOI: 10.1098/rsnr.2016.0018

A link to the article is here:



Published in: on June 9, 2018 at 5:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Edward Gibbon Wakefield Doctoral Scholarship

The University of Canterbury in New Zealand offers a scholarship in the memory of Edward Gibbon Wakefield who was the grandson of Priscilla Wakefield.

Information about the scholarship is here



Published in: on June 9, 2018 at 4:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Online Priscilla

When I first began researching Priscilla Wakefield I had to scour the national libraries to locate print copies of her publications. I had to make appointments and take time off work to visit research libraries. I had to take hand written notes in pencil or pay for expensive photocopies. Times have changed. Internet sites such as this bring together digitized copies of Priscilla’s works

Published in: on December 19, 2014 at 7:47 am  Comments (1)  

Darton & Harvey archive

A recent Internet search has revealed a source related to Priscilla’s publications. It is the Darton & Harvey archive held at the University of Reading. The link to information about this archive is here and Priscilla is noted at the bottom of the entry.

Published in: on November 1, 2014 at 4:52 am  Comments (1)  

More about maps


The inclusion of folded maps was a feature of Priscilla’s travel books. The above image provides a sense of the scale of these maps in comparison to the text. It must have been a source of delight to children to carefully unfold them and follow the adventures of Arthur, Henry Franklin and Sancho in North America.

This image is on the website of an online auction for Excursions in North America with the following description.

third edition, 1 large folding engraved map of North America, some very light browning, contemporary ink inscription to front free endpaper, contemporary blind-stamped calf, gilt, spine gilt in compartments, rubbed, 1819 § Birkbeck (Morris) Notes on a Journey in America , third edition, 1 large folding engraved map ‘from the Coast of Virginia to the Territory of Illinois’, hand-coloured in outline, some slight soiling, modern morocco, spine gilt, edges uncut, 1818; and 4 others, similar America, 8vo, (6).

Published in: on October 27, 2014 at 4:01 am  Leave a Comment  


There has been interest from later descendants and academics in researching Priscilla Wakefield. One of the descendants was Mrs Mary Priscilla Mitchell who accumulated a lot of Wakefield material. Following is a link to the transcript of a recording that was made in 1986 and held in the Borrow Collection at Flinders University Click on the ‘view/open’ link to read the transcript.

Of particular interest is the confirmation that Priscilla’s Journals could not be located at that time and appear to be lost.

Published in: on May 25, 2013 at 5:20 am  Comments (1)  

Ailing Priscilla

Because of continuing ill-health Priscilla moved to Ipswich in 1813 to live near her daughter Bell. But it appears she left alone and husband Edward was not included in the removal. Over time Edward Wakefield had become an increasingly shadowy figure whose presence seemed more of an irritant to Priscilla especially when he chose to ‘stay down’ (downstairs) when she wanted to write. Edward died in 1826, the same year his grandsons Edward Gibbon and William Wakefield would be tried and convicted for the abduction of a young woman in a failed elopement plan.

Priscilla spent the remaining 19 years of her life in Ipswich. Her health greatly deteriorated and was of such concern that she was not told immediately told of Catherine’s marriage in 1823 for fear of the excitement. (A Sort of a Conscience, p. 76) She died in September 1832 as the former convict Edward Gibbon Wakefield was reinventing himself as a colonial reformer.

In his publication A Letter from Sydney, published in 1829, a fictional character visits his Grandmother who is quite possibly modelled on Priscilla.

“Just before I embarked at Plymouth, I visited my grandmother, in order to take leave of her for ever. Poor old soul! She was already dead to the concerns of this life ; my departure could make but little difference in the time of our separation, and in regard to her affection for me, it could be of no importance to her which of us should quit the other. My resolution, however revived her for a day all her woman’s feelings. She shed an abundance of tears, and then became extremely curious to know every particular about the place I was going. I rubbed her spectacles whilst she wiped her eyes, and having places before her a common English chart of the world, pointed out the situation of New Holland.”

A digital copy of A Letter from Sydney can be found here

Daniel Wakefield (1776 – 1846)

As a young man Daniel’s London life style was of great concern to his mother Priscilla. The circumstances around his marriage to Isabella suggest her fears were well founded. But he subsequently remarried and perused a successful career in the law. There is a biography of Dan in the DNB and here is a portrait done in 1824.

It is not surprising that Dan was the author of a number of publications and this Worldcat search provides a useful list. But the following information from the Coroners’ Inquest into his death published in The Observer, 27 July 1846 reveals more about the man.

He died at his home No. 5, Cambridge Terrace, Hyde Park. On a Sunday morning he failed to come down to breakfast and was found collapsed in his shower-bath by Mary Brind the housemaid. The doctor was called but he died shortly after. The inquest heard that also in the house were Miss Clarke, his adopted daughter, and Mr Henry D. Pearson a young gentleman of seventeen who had resided with him since the age of four. Daniel had not been well for about three weeks prior to his death but had not sought medical advice. The verdict was that he died from the effect of apoplexy.

A note following the report of the inquest states that he died in very embarrassed circumstances “a result which may be wholly ascribed to his benevolent disposition. He has on many occasions been known to refuse money and return fees for holding briefs on ascertaining that his clients were in distress”.

His sole heir was his daughter Sarah Clarke known as Sally. A Sort of a Conscience, p. 388.

Published in: on January 2, 2013 at 9:09 am  Leave a Comment