Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Twining, Richard

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TWINING, RICHARD (1749–1824), director of the East India Company and head of the old tea business in the Strand, descended from a family which can be traced from the beginning of the fifteenth century at Tewkesbury, near which is the village of Twining. For over two centuries the family lived in the vale of Evesham, at Pershore, and at Painswick in Gloucestershire, where the parish register contains 102 Twining baptisms between 1551 and 1798. From Painswick Thomas Twining, born in 1675, went to London with his father; he settled first in St. Giles's, Cripplegate, and then about 1710 founded the tea business at Tom's coffee-house, Devereux Court, Strand, where it is still carried on. He was a freeman of the Weavers' Company. On his death in 1741 his only son Daniel succeeded to the business, and, having twice married, left three sons, Thomas [q. v.], Richard, and John.

Richard (Daniel's son by his second wife, Mary Little) was born at Devereux Court in 1749, and educated at Eton. He entered the tea business at the age of sixteen, succeeded to the entire management in 1771 (joined eleven years later by his brother John), and participated in the extraordinary development of the tea trade caused by the operation of Pitt's Commutation Act in 1784–6, during the drafting of which the minister repeatedly consulted him. The result of the sweeping reduction of the tea duty by this act was the practical extinction of tea smuggling, which had been previously carried on extensively in Holland. In 1793 Twining was elected a director of the East India Company. He had previously published three papers of ‘Remarks’ on the tea trade of the company, and one of his first acts was to carry a self-denying motion prohibiting directors from trading with India; he took a prominent part in the affairs of the court until his resignation in 1816 in consequence of weakened health. He was a considerable traveller, and his tours on the continent and in England formed the subject of copious journals and letters to his half-brother Thomas, extracts from which were published by his grandson, the present Richard Twining, in 1887, with the title of ‘Selections from Papers of the Twining Family.’ They show scholarship, considerable reading, and humour. He died on 23 April 1824.

By his marriage, in 1771, to Mary Aldred of Norwich, he had six sons and four daughters. The eldest son, Richard Twining (1772–1857), born on 5 May 1772 at Devereux Court, Strand, was educated under Samuel Parr [q. v.] at Norwich grammar school, and in 1794 entered the tea business, to which he devoted seventy years of almost unremitting labour until within five weeks of his death on 14 Oct. 1857. He was appointed chairman of the committee of by-laws at the East India House, and, carrying on the scholarly habits of his father and uncle, was an old member of the Society of Arts and a fellow of the Royal Society. By his marriage to Elizabeth Mary, daughter of the Rev. John Smythies, on 5 May 1802, he had nine children, of whom the eldest son, Richard, succeeded to the business, and edited his grandfather's and granduncle's correspondence.

The second Richard Twining's daughter, Elizabeth Twining (1805–1889), promoted many philanthropic and educational schemes, was the first to organise ‘mothers' meetings’ in London, took part in founding Bedford College for girls, and during her residence at the old family ‘Dial House’ at Twickenham restored the parish almshouses and established St. John's Hospital. Besides numerous religious and philanthropical writings, such as ‘Ten Years in a Ragged School’ (1857) and ‘Readings for Mothers' Meetings,’ the earliest publication of its kind, she wrote and painted various botanical works, of which the most remarkable was ‘Illustrations of the Natural Orders of Plants’ (2 vols. fol. coloured plates, 1849; 2nd edit. 2 vols. 8vo, 1868).

The second Richard Twining's younger son, William Twining (1813–1848), educated at Rugby under Arnold, and at Balliol College, Oxford, studied at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and practised as a physician. He published ‘Some Account of Cretinism and the Instructions for its Cure,’ 1843, and was instrumental in introducing the Abendberg system of idiot asylums into England.

The first Richard Twining's second son, Thomas Twining (1776–1861), born on 27 Jan. 1776, entered the Bengal service of the East India Company in 1792, was employed in the finance department, became acting sub-accountant-general and commissioner of the court of requests, and afterwards resident at Santipore and then of Behar, where Twining-gunge preserves his memory. ‘Travels in India and America a Hundred Years Ago,’ published long afterwards in 1893, records his experiences and his views on ‘the danger of interfering in the religious opinions of the natives of India,’ were printed in four ‘Letters,’ 1795–1808. He was twice married, and died at Twickenham on 25 Dec. 1861. His son Thomas Twining (1806–1895) was an authority on technical education, upon which he published a volume in 1874, besides lectures and reports; he also served on various committees, chiefly in connection with the Society of Arts. Part of his collection of technical drawings and models is now in the South Kensington Museum; but his own technical museum at Twickenham was burnt down in 1871. He died at Twickenham on 16 Feb. 1895.

[Selections from Papers of the Twining Family, ed. Richard Twining, 1887; Recreations and Studies of a Country Clergyman of the Eighteenth Century, ed. Richard Twining, 1882; Some Facts in the History of the Twining Family, by the Rev. W. H. G. Twining and Louisa Twining, for private circulation, 1892, revised edit. 1895, supplement by Louisa Twining, 1893, and pt. iii. 1896, by the same; Gent. Mag. 1824; private information.]

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