This engaging miniature portrait of a small girl has an engraved inscription around the border of the reverse of the case reading "Christobel Florence Arthur Startin aged two years and four months May 1897".
Although the miniature was sold as unsigned, inside it is signed "Painted by Mrs Frank Townsend, January 1898". Louisa Townsend was born as Louisa Barber in Chepstow, Monmouthshire in 1847 and active as an artist in North Devon and London between 1896 and 1920. She was the wife of the boarding school teacher and amateur cricket player, Frank Townsend (1847-1920) Frank Townsend and Louisa was an inaugural member of The Society of Miniature Painters, now the Royal Miniature Society, exhibiting five works in the Society’s opening exhibition in 1896. She exhibited further works with the Society and six works at the Royal Academy between 1896 and 1920 including a portrait of W. G. Grace (18 July 1848 – 23 October 1915), in the year of his death, which later acted as the frontispiece plate to ‘The Memorial Biography of W. G. Grace’, edited by Lord Hawke, Lord Harris and Home Gordon and published in 1919.
The portrait, although not a miniature was offered for sale at Knight's Sporting Auctions as lot 173 in March 2012. It had an estimate of £12,000-£15000 and was described as;
William Gilbert Grace. Gloucestershire & England 1865-1908. Louisa
Townsend c1910/15. Large watercolour portrait painting of Grace, head
and shoulders, wearing a striped dark suit. Signed to lower border by
Townsend. Cameo oval gilt mount and framed in ornate gilt frame. Image
12”x16”, overall 16”x19”. An excellent image. VG. . The image very
similar to the portrait featured in Grace’s Memorial Biography.
The price realised is not currently known. Although Grace was definitely the best known face of cricket in his day, he is still probably the most recognisable of cricketers to this day and was portrayed many times in photographs, the major media of the day, and cartoons and caricatures.
Christobel was the daughter of Rev Henry Startin (1852-1895), the vicar at Horrbridge, Devon, and Effie Maude Bickersteth, daughter of the Bishop of Exeter. At his death Henry was recorded as of Horrabrldge Vicarage, and of Chateau de l'Air, Orleans and in 1895 he left an estate of £9513.14.0. Henry's appointment to Horrabridge was not without controversy, as indicated in this account from The Tablet;
That lay patrons should regard a living as a providential provision for
the stupid son of the family is under all the circumstances hardly
surprising, but that nepotism should flourish even among the Bishops is
surely unnecessary. Perhaps some explanation of the following facts may
be forthcoming : "The vicarage of Horrabridge lately became vacant, and,
as will be seen from the particulars given below, the Bishop of Exeter
is the patron. The annual income is not very large, but Horrabridge is a
pleasant village, and if the Bishop had cared to look for them he would
have found many deserving curates in his diocese glad to accept such an
incumbency. This, however, would have hampered his lordship in
fulfilling the Apostolic injunction which bids him provide for those of
his own household. He has appointed his son-in-law, the Rev. Henry
Startin, and an evidently 'inspired' paragraph in the local papers
carefully mentions that this gentleman is 42 years of age. The statement
conveys the impression that Mr. Startin is an experienced clergyman who
may fairly be promoted to a living, whereas the fact is he has only
been in orders two years. Who can wonder that such an appointment has
elicited throughout the diocese comments which are anything but
flattering to the Lord Bishop ?"
The miniature of Christobel reveals a sad story from World War II.
She was born in Devon in 1895 and in 1926 married Montague Wriothesley Noel (1892-1941). He was commander of HMS Torrent when it was mined and sunk off Falmouth on 6 April 1941. HMS was originally the armed yacht HMS Anna Marie
Displacement: 337 tons.
Completed in June 1930.
Requisitioned by the Admiralty September 1939.
Served in an anti-submarine role.
Commander Noel is commemorated by a plaque in the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Exton, Rutland, England
'In thankful memory of MONTAGUE WRIOTHESLEY NOEL Commander Royal Navy. Son of Admiral Charles Noe, Born November 12th 1892. During the First World War he was twice decorated with the Royal Humane Society's Bronze Medal for life-saving at sea. Having retired in 1935 he was appointed Financial Secretary to the Diocese of Lichfield and lay reader therein but on the renewed outbreak of war he volunteered forthwith for active service again and on April 6th 1941 while on Convoy duty in the English Channel gave his life for his men. Joyful, courageous and loving of heart, fervent in spirit serving the Lord, he brought men to CHRIST. GOD is love and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in GOD and GOD in him'
At top, coat of arms with motto: 'TOUT BIEN OU RIEN'.
Type: Wall tablet
Vessel: HMS Torrent
Event Date: 6/4/1941
Although not confirmed, this is believed to be a picture of Anna Marie, prior to being renamed HMS Torrent