Agriculturist and MP Thomas Coke, first Earl of Leicester is shown seated at a desk, a quill in one hand and a plan for a water meadow in the other. The room in which he sits is thought to be a corner of the Manuscripts Library at Holkham Hall, in Norfolk.~
Descended from the Earls of Leicester, Thomas Coke was born in London. After his education at Eton, he embarked on the Grand Tour. In 1776 he inherited the 30,000 acre family estate in Norfolk, including Holkham Hall, which he developed in a classical, Palladian style. As a member of the Whig party and a strong supporter of Charles James Fox, Coke sat as MP for Norfolk for an almost uninterrupted period of 56 years. ‘Coke of Norfolk’, as he was referred to, was known for his success in developing and improving agricultural practices and husbandry on his vast estate and persistently voting in support of agricultural interests. His practices of crop rotation, enclosure of pastures and annual sheep shearing proved influential to English farming practice.
Artist Thomas Weaver also painted a 'Portrait of Thomas William Coke, Esq. inspecting some of his South Down sheep with Mr Walton and the Holkham shepherds' (collection of the Earl of Leicester, Holkham Hall, Norfolk).
Thomas Weaver was born at Worthen, near Shrewsbury, and became a self-taught painter of animal and sporting subjects. He exhibited works at the Royal Academy between 1801 and 1809 and at the Liverpool Academy in 1814. Many of his paintings were engraved. Weaver died at Much Woolton, near Lancaster, at the age of about 70.
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