Oldham, Nathaniel (DNB00)

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OLDHAM, NATHANIEL (fl. 1740), virtuoso, was the son of a dissenting minister. Early in life he went to India ' in a military capacity ' (Caulfield), but returned to England on inheriting from a near relation a fortune said to be of 100,000l. In 1728 he was living at Ealing, Middlesex, where he occupied Ealing House, formerly the residence of Sir James Montagu (1666-1723) [q. v.], baron of the exchequer (Lysons, Environs of London, ii. 228; Walford, Greater London, i. 21). He had another house at Witton, near Hounslow, and a London house in Southampton Row, Bloomsbury. He was intimate with Sir Hans Sloane, Dr. Mead, and other collectors, and began to collect natural and artificial curiosities, though with little taste or judgment. A 'choice collection of butterflies' was one of his principal acquisitions. He was a constant visitor at 'Don Saltero's' coffee-house at Chelsea, where he used to meet Sloane and others, and compare shells, plants, and insects. He patronised the arts, collected paintings, and had also a taste for the turf. He was at length compelled by his extravagant expenditure (chiefly on his collections) to take refuge from his creditors within the sanctuary of the court of St. James's. Here be used to frequent the refreshment-room, kept by one Drury, on Duck Island, in St. James's Park. He had at last decided to sell his collections, with a label over the door, 'Oldham's last shift,' when he was arrested by a creditor and sent to the king's bench, where he is supposed to have died. His career in several respects resembles that of Henry Constantine Jennings [q. v.]

Oldham's portrait was painted more than once by his friend Highmore. A full-length of Oldham (date 1740), engraved by J. Faber after Highmore, represents him in a green velvet hunting coat with a gun (Caulfield, op. cit.; Bromley, Cat. of Engraved Portraits, p. 286). Oldham was godfather to Nathaniel Smith the printseller, whose son, J. T. Smith of the British Museum, contributed an account of Oldham to J. Caulfield's ' Portraits, Memoirs, &c., of Remarkable Persons.'

[Caulfield's Portraits, Memoirs, &c. 1813, ii. 133-7; Granger's Biog. Hist. (Noble), iii. 349.]

W. W.