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Sanderson Miller, Warwickshire Gentleman and Amateur Musician

Sanderson Miller was born in 1716 at Radway, a village on the Oxfordshire and Warwickshire border a few miles north of Banbury. His parents were lesser gentry, probably merchants or land-owners. He is remembered today for his contribution to architecture and landscape design. A useful comparison would be with Lancelot “Capability” Brown, the most famous landscape gardener of his time. They both had similar backgrounds - from a lower social class - but became sought after by landed class because of their skill and progressive ideals (Brown, inventing the English estate garden, Miller at the forefront of the Gothic revival). Aside from his numerous houses, follies and famous sham castles at Radway, Wimpole, and Hagley, Sanderson’s surviving legacy is his diaries, from 1749-1750, and 1756-1757, held at the Warwickshire record office. They were transcribed in 2005 by William Hawkes for a Dugdale Society publication. This superb publication is extremely useful for scholars of garden design and history, but as Miller's entries also contain many references to his music-making, it is a valuable sources of information for those looking at the circumstances surrounding domestic music-making in the mid-late 18th century.He made music at his own home, in the folly he constructed in the south of Radway village, and in the houses of family and friends. As far as we can tell from his diaries, he did not take part in more formal musical activities, such as musical meetings, or music societies. Although he was somewhat separated from other notable Midlands gentry and musicians such as William Shenstone, Samuel Hellier, and John Pixell, he evidently met with these and other friends and acquaintances, sometimes travelling considerable distances. Here are two typical diary entries, with descriptions of his activities:

October 15th 1749

Letters from Mr Lyttelton and the Dean. With workmen. Wrote to Mrs Knight. Miss Legges, Miss North, Mrs Whyle dined here, and Mudge. With workmen at the Mount. Music with John Miller etc. Mr Hoare and his wife went away.

There is a tantalising glimpse of Miller’s life here. The Lyttelton he refers to is George Lyttelton, later 1st Baron Lyttelton, for whom Miller was in the early stages of designing Hagley Hall. With workman – he was improving his own house at Radway at this time. He was joined by 4 friends for dinner. Music with John Miller, and one assumes with Miss Legges, Miss North, Mrs Whyle and Mudge. Clergyman and amateur composer Richard Mudge at this time was rector of Little Packington. 1749 was the year in which Mudge published is Six Concertos.

October 13th 1756

Up at 6. With the gardener etc. about the drains etc. Came out at 8 with Mr Mourdaunt and Talbot. Rode to Shenstone’s, and walked round the place. Lady Baltimore, who was going to Trentham, stopped to see the cascades with us. Rained great part of the way to Birmingham. Went to Mr Mudge’s and Mr Smith’s. Mudge went with is to the Castle. Dined there. Rain. Got a post-chaise and went with Talbot to Warwick in four and a half hours. Went into the new Hall, where the assizes were held the first time. Conversation with Sir Charles Mordaunt.

Here we can see the hectic schedule Miller sometimes kept: a trip of 40 miles to William Shenstone’s house Leasowes in Halesowen in the morning (where he was advising); 8 miles into Birmingham where he met Richard Mudge, (at this time the curate of St Bartholemew’s, the now demolished chapel of ease for St Martin in the Bull Ring); in the afternoon travelled to Warwick to see the new Shire Hall, for which he was the architect. We are fortunate to be able to draw upon the numerous surviving letters written to Sanderson Miller to compliment his diary entries. In An eighteenth-century correspondence, being the letters of Deane Swift, Pitt, The Lytteltons and the Grenvilles, Lord Dacre, Robert Nugent, Charles Jenkinson, the Earls of Guilford, Coventry, & Hardwick, Sir Edward Turner, Mr. Talbot of Lacock, and others to Sanderson Miller, esq., of Radway, edited by Lilian Dickins and Mary Stanton, we start to see how complex the social networks were, and how music was a prominent a part of the social scene. Letters from Lord North (1st Earl of Guildford, father of Prime Minister Lord North), suggest they made music together, Miller playing the flute. Miller evidently attended oratorio performances in London with some of these acquaintances, apparently missing the first performance of Handel's Susanna, but probably attending Solomon in 1749. The following letter from Lord Guernsey (later 3rd Earl of Aylesford), who lived at Packington Hall in Warwickshire, is a great example of such a network: the reference to Mudge's absence from Packington reveals he was probably an accomplished performer, relied upon to lead the music-making in the house when friends such as Miller came to stay.

From Lord Guernsey.

Packington, December 3rd, 1752.

DEAR MILLER, It was no small disappointment to Lady Charlotte as well as myself, that your intended visit to Us should be stop'd by our absence from Packington. If Mrs. Miller is under no violent apprehensions of Warwickshire Roads, why should we not have the pleasure we so much desire of seeing you and Mrs. Miller this Christmas ? Upon notice of your coming we .will send our Coachman part of the way to conduct you so as to avoid some of the worst part of the road, & I can assure you Lady Charlotte is not less impatient than myself for the pleasure of seeing you and Mrs. Miller at this place. ... Musick is now banished from Packington, Mudge has been here but once since we came from London to stay above a night, & only once in that way, so that I have now no opportunity of that sort of Entertainment.

To be continued...

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