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Sydney Parkinson


London  July  10th  1768

I Sidney Parkinson, Painter, of the Parish of St. Ann’s Soho, being to set out on a long and hazardous Voyage, from which God alone knows whether I shall ever return, I thought it proper to settle my Affairs so as what may be due unto me or what Things I may have may go to those of my Friends who most needs it. For which reason I desire that my Sister Britannia Parkinson may have what may be due unto me by Joseph Banks Esquire of New Burlington Street, London, from whom I have eighty pounds yearly and who has paid me up to Aug. 10th 1768 and ten Guineas more, the Money that I may happen to receive from him when abroad must also be deducted.


2ndly Out of the kind Regard I bear to my Friend William Galbreath, Peruke Maker, I desire that he may have one Guinea out of every Quarter’s Salary that may be due unto me of the aforesaid.


3rdly  I desire that my paintings on Vellum may be given to those for whom they are marked on the Back, and whatever utensils that are useful in Painting or Drawing to Mr Lee’s daughter, my Scholar.


All my other loose Things I leave unto my Brother Stanfield, and I hope this will be executed as faithfully as if it had been wrote in all the forms of the Law, being signed by me in the presence of

William Galbreath, Witness  -  Sidney Parkinson,        William Galbreath  Witness.


30th  October  1771

I the underwritten Elizabeth Hayhurst of the Parish of Saint Ann, Westminster in the County of Middlesex, Spinster, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I am one of the Dissenters from the Church of England commonly called Quakers, that I well know and was acquainted with Sidney Parkinson, late belonging to his Majesty’s Bark Endeavour, a Batchelor, deceased, for several years before and to the time of his Death, and during such time several times saw him write and subscribe his Name and thereby became well acquainted with his manner and Character of Hand Writing and Subscription, and having now seen and carefully perused the paper writing hereunto annexed, bearing date the tenth day of July 1768, purporting to be the last Will and Testament of the said Deceased, do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm that I verily and in my Conscience believe the whole Body and Contents of the said Will and the Name Sidney Parkinson thereto subscribed, to be all of the said deceased’s Hand Writing - Eliza Hayhurst.

The said Elizabeth Hayhurst duly made the above affirmation or Declaration according to Act of Parliament before me (?)  Simpson  Surrogate            - present Rt. Slade  Noty. Publ.


On the thirtieth Day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy one, Administration (with the Will annexed) of the Goods, Chattels and Credits of Sidney Parkinson, late belonging to his Majesty’s Bark the Endeavour, a Batchelor deceased, was granted to Stanfield Parkinson, the natural and lawful Brother of the said deceased, he having first made a solemn and sincere Declaration or Affirmation according to Act of Parliament, duly to Administer, no executor or residing Legatee being named in the said Will, and Elizabeth Parkinson, the natural and lawful Mother and next of Kin of the said deceased having first renounced.

Transcribed from a copy of the Will held by The National Archives, Kew, U.K.

Reference PROB. 11 / 972


  1. Sydney Parkinson worked for Joseph Banks from early 1767, drawing and painting his natural history collections from Newfoundland and elsewhere. Banks invited Parkinson to accompany him on his voyage to the South Seas, and advised him to make out his will before embarking. The 23-year old Parkinson decided to write his own will. Without any legal guidance his home-made will resulted in a number of problems when it came to being proved.
    First, it required an independent witness to declare that the will was written and signed in Parkinson’s handwriting.  This feat was done by Elizabeth Hayhurst, who appears to have known Parkinson well through the Quaker community.
    Secondly, Parkinson had omitted to appoint an executor in his will.  As a result, his estate automatically defaulted to his parents.  But as his father had died some years before, when his mother renounced her entitlement, his property was inherited by his brother Stanfield Parkinson.
  2. Parkinson indicates his Quaker connections in his will by leaving his possessions “to those of my Friends who most needs it.” The Quakers are more correctly known as the Society of Friends.
  3. Nothing is known of his sister Britannia Parkinson, or his friend William Gilbreath, the peruke maker. Peruke was another name for wig.
  4. Parkinson left his painting equipment to Mr Lee’s daughter. James Lee (c.1715- 1795) was a Scottish nurseryman who had gardens in Hammersmith, London. He was well-known for his cultivation of tropical plants brought from abroad. There is no evidence that he ever met Captain Cook, but he was friends with many of his associates including Joseph Banks, Dr. Solander, John Hunter, Francis Masson (the plant collector who sailed to Cape Town in Resolution in 1772), David Nelson (the plant collector who sailed in Discovery).
    Lee is said to have recommended Parkinson to Joseph Banks when he learned that he was looking for a botanical illustrator.
    James Lee’s daughter Ann (1753-1790) had a natural artistic talent which was further developed under the tutelage of Sydney Parkinson.  That is why he refers to her in his will as “my Scholar”.  By 1782 she was thought by some to be the best natural history painter in England.  Some of her works are held by the Natural History Museum, London with others at Kew Gardens.  The painting utensils that Parkinson bequeathed to Ann Lee are now in the National Library of Australia. 
  5. Stanfield Parkinson appears to have been a furniture dealer come upholsterer, judging by his bill to Joseph Banks in August 1771. Maybe Banks was trying to put some business his way after returning home from the voyage without his brother. Whatever business relationship there was between them soon disappeared in the ensuing argument over the papers left by Sydney. Stanfield later published his brother’s journal of the voyage, publication coming just a week after Hawkesworth’s account of the voyage.


Cliff Thornton

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 32, volume 35, number 4 (2012)


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