John Singleton Copley

The birthplace of the Anglo-American artist John Singleton Copley was Boston, Massachusetts.Born in 1738 (or possibly 1737) to Irish immigrants, Copley became a successful artist in Boston and New York, but left for England in June 1774, followed by his family a year later, in order to escape the political turmoil on the eve of the American War of Independence.

St John the Baptist Church at Croydon in 1785, where John Singleton Copley was buried

He became one of the foremost artists in London and spent more than five years on the huge Gibraltar Great Siege oil painting, which the jacket of our UK book Gibraltar has used. The original painting was commissioned by the City of London in 1783 and today hangs in London’s Guildhall Art Gallery as one of its key exhibits. Copley never returned to America, but remained a refugee for the rest of his life, dying in 1815 at the age of 77. It is often said that he was buried in Highgate Cemetery, but it was his son of the same name who was later buried there. He himself was buried in the Hutchinson family vault in St John the Baptist church at Croydon, where in 1780 another prominent American refugee had been buried – Thomas Hutchinson, the former Governor of Massachusetts at the time of the Boston Tea Party. The church, now Croydon Minster, suffered a disastrous fire in 1867 and was rebuilt. Copley’s original memorial was lost, though was later replaced.

Further Reading

For more on the Great Siege, see our book Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History.