At the age of 21, Henry Vaughan was the sole heir to a substantial fortune from his late father and uncle. The family’s wealth came from inherited property, and a successful hat manufacturing business in Southwark and Gloucestershire.
Vaughan was a reclusive art collector. He never married and resided at his Cumberland Terrace home in Regent’s Park. Vaughn was elected a member of the Athenaeum Club and a Fellow of the Society of Arts. He was also a founder member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club.
Gifts to the public
In 1866, Henry Vaughan presented Constable’s ‘Hay Wain’ to the National Gallery. The following year, he gave his Michelangelo drawings to the British Museum. In 1868, he donated a small group of curios to the newly opened Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.
Upon his death in 1899, Vaughan bequeathed his collection to British public institutions. He left works by Constable and Turner’s to the Tate, and the V&A. The National Gallery of Ireland and the Royal Institution for Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Edinburgh received his large collection of Turner watercolours.
The British Museum accepted drawings and watercolours by British artists including Flaxman, Stothard, Watteau, Raphael, and Rubens. Vaughan also bequeathed more than £100,000 to charities. He was in a vault in Highgate cemetery rather than in his native Southwark with his family.
Captain James Cook
On 6 August 1868, Vaughan donated a small group of curios to the newly opened Albert Memorial Museum. This included wooden war clubs, stone adzes, a shot pouch, a powder flask and an albatross foot. Many were Polynesian in origin.
The late Adrienne Kaeppler researched this collection. She recognised these items from Sir Ashton Lever‘s private museum in Leicester Square. Her work indicated that these items were collected on the second or third voyages of Captain James Cook. Lever’s museum became too expensive to maintain. It was ultimately sold at auction as individual lots in 1806.
The Leverian auction was only a short walk from the Vaughan home and factory. Henry’s father George Vaughan II, and his uncle, Isaac, were both wealthy men in their fifties. They are the most likely contenders for the identity of the Vaughan or Vaughans listed as the buyers for some 80 lots over the 65 days of the sale.
Several fragile items didn’t survive the early museum years. However, many of Vaughan’s Captain Cook items are on display in RAMM