St Leonard's Church, Heston, Greater London: Monument to Robert Child, probably commissioned by Sarah Child, 1782, as executed (10)
Robert Child (1739-82) was one of Adam's major patrons, at Osterley Park from 1761, 38 Berkeley Square, London from 1769, and Upton House, Warwickshire in 1772. He was a member of the third generation of the Child banking family, and succeeded his brother Francis as head of the family and the banking firm in 1763. Child had been a partner in the firm from 1760, but even after he inherited his brother’s role, he is not known to have taken an active role in the business. Instead, he served as MP for Wells from 1766 until his death in 1782. He was also a Director of the East India Company, serving as Chairman in 1715.
Two weeks after succeeding his brother, Robert Child married Sarah Jodrell (1741-93), the daughter of Gilbert Jodrell of Ankerwyke House, Buckinghamshire. Together they had one daughter, also Sarah, who eloped with John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland just two months before Child's death. Child did not approve of this union, and on his death, his entire fortune and property passed first to his wife Sarah, and on her death in 1793, to his eldest granddaughter, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane (1785-1867). A funerary monument was designed by Adam in memory of Robert Child, and the widowed Sarah Child is thought to have been the patron.
The monument was executed in accordance with Adam volume 19/81, against the south wall of the Church of St Leonard in Heston. It is composed of a sarcophagus containing an inscription panel, flanked by pedestals ornamented with crests, and surmounted by flaming urns, and the whole is set against a pyramid in relief, ornamented with an urn flanked by two mourning putti. One of these putti once held a circlular band and the other held an inverted torch but both of these tokens are now lost. The carver was Peter Matthias Van Gelder (1739-1809), and on the monument he included both his own name, and that of Robert Adam.
The Church of St Leonard is half a mile west of Osterley Park. Parts of the original medieval fabric survive, but it was largely rebuilt in 1863-66 by T. Bellamy (ND). The older funerary monuments, however, survive within the church, including that of Robert Child.
There is a drawing showing Robert Child's monument as executed within the collection at the V&A Museum. This, however, is not in an Adam office hand, and Rowan has suggested that it may be a copy made by the sculptor, Peter Matthias Van Gelder.
See also: Osterley Park, Hounslow, Greater London; Upton Park, Warwickshire; and 38 Berkeley Square, London
Literature: A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, pp. 294-95, Volume II, Index p. 25; A. Rowan, Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum: Robert Adam, 1988, p. 61; B. Cherry, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London 3: northwest, 1991, pp. 423-24; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 364, 371-73, Volume II, p. 265; 'Child, Robert (1739-82), of Osterley Park, Midx.', History of Parliament online; Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_East_India_Company_directors