6th September 2012
The Livorno delle Nazioni cultural association receives a donation in Robert Bateman's homeland
In June 2010, Vivienne and Dave Kay, residents of Ings village in Cumbria, England, came to Livorno to visit the grave of 18th-century merchant Robert Bateman in Livorno's Old English Cemetery (click here for previous article). Last week I returned the visit on my way through the English Lake District on a journey from Scotland to London.
It is said that the whole village of Ings donated money to the promising young Robert Bateman so that he could travel south to London as an apprentice. He eventually travelled to Livorno and spent around thirty years here as a merchant, exporting Italian marble to the British Isles. He became one of the most prominent members of the British community in Livorno in the 18th century and, when he died in 1743, left money in his will to have a wall and railings erected around the English cemetery, as testified by a plaque just inside the front gate on the righthand side.
Viv and Dave kindly offered to put me up for the night when I told them I was planning a visit to Ings. They live in one of the old almshouses built in around 1750 for the village in accordance with instructions in Bateman's will. Vivienne, who is an honourary member of the
Livorno delle Nazioni cultural association and an active member of the Bateman Club in Ings, also arranged for me to visit Reston Hall, the house that Robert Bateman had built for when he returned to England (which he unfortunately never did). The current owner of the house allowed us to look around the inside of this period home which still possesses a portrait of Bateman, displayed above the gorgeous old fireplace. A splendid oak staircase leads to the first floor, and the whole house is tastefully furnished and decorated with beautiful period pieces. Some of the rooms are let to holidaymakers.
At nearby St Anne's Church I met church warden John Hiley who is overseeing an ambitious refurbishment project of the church interior. The old pews have been sold off (Viv and Dave have one!), to be replaced with chairs and a more manageable space for possible cultural events in the village. A plaque above the main entrance bears witness once again to Robert Bateman's donations to the village - he instructed and financed the restoration of the church in the year of his death, 1743.
Later that evening, after a delicious dinner worthy of a Lakeland fell walker provided by Viv and Dave, we met other members of the Bateman Club in the village pub, The Watermill Inn. It was here that the club presented me with a cheque for 302 euros made out to the nonprofit Livorno delle Nazioni cultural association. The money has been raised personally by Vivienne by holding coffee mornings and talks about Robert Bateman and the Livorno connection. It will go towards the upkeep of the Old English Cemetery where Bateman is buried.
Other members of the Bateman Club also present were Dave Kay, Lindy Priestley, Wendy Randall, and Sue and Mel Wainwright. Don Morris apologised for not being able to attend the evening.
For further information about the Livorno delle Nazioni cultural association, click here