Margaret Sandbach

WAG 2528


This artwork has been identified as having links to a person connected with transatlantic slavery. This research is part of the Walker Art Gallery’s ongoing work to be more transparent about the collection’s relationship to Britain's colonial past. Margaret Sandbach (1812 - 1852) was a poet and novelist. She was the only daughter of Edward Roscoe (1785 - 1834) and Margaret Lace (1786 - 1840). Her grandfather, the Liverpool banker, collector and abolitionist William Roscoe (1753 - 1831), was John Gibson’s (1790 - 1866) first and most influential patron before moving to Rome. In 1832, Margaret married merchant Henry Robertson Sandbach (1807 - 1895). The Sandbach family were part of the Sandbach, Tinne & Co. dynasty. They were shipowners, merchants, bankers, politicians and plantation owners. They exported sugar, coffee, cotton, timber, molasses and rum from the Caribbean. The company were prominent in Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo in British Guiana, now known as Guyana. The Sandbachs became extremely wealthy through the enslavement, trafficking and forced labour of many tens of thousands of people. Margaret and Henry spent the winter of 1838/39 in Rome where they visited Gibson’s studio and became his lifelong friend and confidante. Margaret encouraged Gibson to prepare notes for his autobiography. Many of these memories were dictated to her during his visit to the family home Hafodunos Hall near Abergele in 1851. Gibson had wanted Margaret to write his biography but this was impossible owing to her untimely death due to breast cancer at the age of 40. Gibson’s subsequent biographies by Lady Elizabeth Eastlake (1870) and T Matthews (1911) are based on a series of personal letters between Margaret and Gibson. Margaret published her first book ‘Poems’ (1840), and her second book ‘Aurora and Other Poems’ (1950). Both books were inspired by Gibson’s work, in particular ‘Aurora’ (1842) once owned by the Sandbachs (now at National Museum Wales).