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An English lady's wardrobe

25 October 2019 – 1 March 2020
An English lady's wardrobe exhibition

The Tinne family

family group portrait photo

Photograph courtesy of the Tinne family

The family's fortunes

The Tinnes were Dutch sugar merchants and ship owners, who first came to Liverpool in 1813 from Demerara in what was then Dutch Guiana, later to be re-named British Guiana (and finally, following independence in 1966, Guyana) on the North East coast of South America. During the 19th century, as part of the firm of Sandbach, Tinne & Co, the family made a great fortune importing sugar, molasses, coffee and tropical hardwoods from their plantations.

Philip Frederic Tinne, the first Tinne to settle in Liverpool, was born in The Hague in 1772. In 1796, following Napoleon’s occupation of Holland, he went to Dutch Guiana. There he built up a lucrative career as an administrator, becoming Secretary of the colony by 1801, and wealthy enough to buy a coffee plantation, named Vauxhall and Westminster. In 1810 he and his Scottish-born wife, Anna Rose, travelled to England and then Scotland, where they spent some time in Greenock. Here he met James McInroy, who in 1782 had set up in business as a sugar merchant in Demerara. In 1790 McInroy was joined in the venture by Samuel Sandbach, Charles Stewart Parker and George Robertson. Their business involved the import of sugar, molasses, coffee and rum from Demerara, but they also dealt in "prime Gold Coast Negroes", and used them to work their plantations there.

In 1813, the same year that Demerara became a British colony, Philip Tinne went into partnership with McInroy, agreeing to be based at the company’s Liverpool branch, along with Samuel Sandbach. That part of the company was then re-named Sandbach, Tinne & Co, the name it traded under until 1891 when it was renamed the Demerara Company. McInroy, Sandbach & Co continued to run the other part of the business from Demerara, and briefly, from Glasgow as McInroy, Parker & Co.

Besides growing coffee, Sandbach, Tinne & Co acquired several sugar plantations in Demerara, including Diamond and Providence. Other properties acquired much later included the estates known as Wales, Industry, Greenveld and Leonora. Sandbach, Tinne & Co prospered, receiving an extra financial boost of more than £173,000 in 1835 as compensation from the British government for giving up the enslaved Africans on their plantations. Following the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834, Demerara’s sugar estates were worked by a combination of indentured Chinese and Indian labourers and by former enslaved people who continued as paid labourers. Sandbach, Tinne & Co's fleet of more than thirty sailing ships carried indentured labourers from India and China to Demerara, as well as European passengers and cargoes of tea and other commodities, to and from the Far East.

Philip Tinne

Emily's future husband, Philip Frederic Tinne, was born in Georgetown, British Guiana. Philip spent his early years living at his grandfather's home, Briarley, a large colonial-style house built by the family in its own extensive grounds in Aigburth. In 1884, following a set back in the family's fortunes on the sugar futures market, they were forced to move out of Briarley when its upkeep proved too expensive. They moved into another house built within the grounds, Mostyn, which was still spacious but smaller than the original.

Philip was educated at Eton, then at Magdalen College, Oxford, gaining a Third in Physiology in 1897. Interestingly, while at Oxford he developed an ambition to study for a career as a curator at London's South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum. His father encouraged him instead to pursue a more lucrative career as a doctor, the family fortunes having suffered further set-backs by this time. We can only speculate what he would have thought of his wife's clothing being collected and studied by curators at another national museum almost a century later, but hopefully he would have been proud.

After training and working for a short while at St George's Hospital, London, Philip went on to serve for several years as a ship's surgeon with the Elder Dempster line, before returning to Liverpool in 1907 to set up his practise as a GP in Aigburth.

GP practice in south Liverpool

Emily and Philip's first family home was Oak Cottage, at 6 The Serpentine, off Aigburth Road, where they lived until 1923. They then moved to a much larger property, Clayton Lodge, at 32 Aigburth Road, where they were to remain for the rest of their lives. Here they brought up their six children, and here Philip Tinne had his surgery, built onto the ground floor of the house.

Philip became a widely-respected and much-loved family doctor among the residents of the neighbouring areas of Aigburth and Garston, practising for some 50 years. While Aigburth was known then as a wealthy suburb, Garston was populated by some of the city's less well-off citizens, and family memory has it that, during the Depression in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Philip would often accept payment in kind for his services from local shopkeepers, in lieu of cash. This was at a time, of course, before the arrival of the National Health Service, when one paid one's doctor for individual visits. Undoubtedly, Philip could afford sometimes to waive the fees of his less wealthy patients due to the share of the family fortune he had inherited.

Servants and shopping

The Tinnes usually had six servants, who had separate accommodation in the form of a cottage situated over the former stables at Clayton Lodge, which later became a garage. In the 1930s, the servants were much reduced in number, both because of the expense of keeping so many, and also possibly due to recruitment difficulties, with fewer people willing to enter domestic service by that time. Consequently, their accommodation became vacant while the remaining few presumably 'lived out' nearby. This was fortunate in one sense in that the vacated premises were then used by Emily to store part of her ever-growing wardrobe of clothes.

Even with a reduced number of servants Emily still had plenty of time to shop. A local dressmaker made some of her clothes but she also bought many items from Liverpool's best-known shops and department stores. The Tinne family money paid for the huge number of clothes she bought. There are more than 700 items in the collection, but Emily once owned many more which have not survived.