You may read other blogs that I have written about Richard Mackenzie Bacon. He was editor of the local newspaper in Norfolk in the first half of the nineteenth century. I have described him as a journalist, but he was much more than merely that. He was above all a printer (he described himself as such in the 1841 census) who invented the first rotary press in the world. That was in 1809; he was also an enthusiastic paper maker, having the first paper making machine installed in Norfolk. An accomplished musician, he published the first music magazine in the 1820s. He was founder of the Triennial music festival in Norwich. He was also commanding officer of the Norwich Corps of Rifles, a militia unit of part-time soldiers raised following the French invasion scare in the early years of the nineteenth century. There is much more that I could say about him, but in this post I wish to examine the lives and careers of his children. They too led interesting lives.
He had six children, five of whom lived beyond infancy. His eldest son, Richard Noverre Bacon, was born in 1799. He too grew up to edit the local paper, the Norwich Mercury. Although he was a well-known and influential journalist, he did not have the breadth of achievement of his father. The other son, George Peter Bacon, also became a journalist. After working in the family firm in Norwich he purchased the local paper in Lewes in Sussex. Richard Mackenzie Bacon also had four daughters.
The eldest of these daughters, Louisa Barwell, was born in 1800. She married a Norwich wine merchant in Costessey. After involving herself in her father’s music magazine (like him she was an able musician) she became a nationally acclaimed authority on the education of children. She produced many books and articles on this subject. Little Lessons for Little Learners was a simple book, written entirely in monosyllables (except for the title!). This book was a great success, running to fifteen editions. She also became friendly with other notable women of the period, such as Lady Byron, the poet’s widow, and the Swedish Nightingale, the opera singer Jenny Lind. The Barwells lived at 33 Surrey Street in Norwich, and Louisa continued to live there after she was widowed in 1876.
One of R. M. Bacon’s children remained unmarried, Louisa’s younger sister Mary. These already mentioned were all children of his first wife, the daughter of the French/Swiss dancing master Augustin Noverre. The last child of this union was another daughter called Rose, who lived only a matter of weeks, and her mother died shortly after her daughter’s death. Following the death of his first wife Richard Mackenzie Bacon married Margaret Gilbert Burks, the child of a Norwich businessman. His second wife had a daughter, who was also called Rose, and Margaret after her mother. Shortly before his second marriage Bacon had the new paper making machine installed at his paper mill in Taverham. To manage this new invention he moved from Norwich to the village, and his last child was born there.
When the little girl was five years old Richard Mackenzie Bacon’s paper making firm went bankrupt. He returned to live in Norwich and his wife’s father bought the majority shareholding in the Norwich Mercury. Bacon continued to edit the paper as his father-in-law’s employee, and the paper became his property once more when the shareholding was bequeathed to him. When Rose was twelve Bacon’s family moved to the Street in Costessey, where her parents lived for the rest of their lives.
Rose met her future husband, Richard Redgrave, through a mutual friend, the artist Charles West Cope. She was then living in London. Richard Redgrave was born in Pimlico, London, where his father was a manufacturer of wire fencing. He had earlier worked with Joseph Bramah the famous inventor and locksmith. While working for his father’s firm Richard Redgrave was inspired by the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum to devote his life to art. He left the world of business behind and studied at the Royal Academy. In 1843 when he was in his forties and Rose ten years younger, they married in Costessey church. It was on an unseasonably cold day in May. Her mother and father were both still living and attended the ceremony. On his honeymoon Richard began to experiment with oil sketches, having previously been mainly a watercolourist.
Rose Margaret was also an artist and would go on holiday with her husband, sitting with him at her easel painting landscapes. Richard Redgrave went on to have a successful career as artist, teacher and administrator. He was acquainted with Turner and Constable although they were of an older generation; Landseer was his contemporary. He was appointed Surveyor of the crown art collection and produced a 34 volume catalogue. With his brother Samuel he helped compile the Dictionary of the Artists of the English School (1874), which is an invaluable source for the biographical details of 18th century English artists and architects. A painter of landscapes and genre subjects his works hang in the national collections. He was offered a knighthood but turned it down. His name is important enough to be mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary of Art (1988). He died at the age of 84 in 1888 and his wife died ten years later. She was the last surviving child of R. M. Bacon.