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Canning, Richardlocked

  • J. M. Blatchly

Canning, Richard (1708–1775), religious controversialist and topographer, was born in Plymouth on 30 September 1708, the son of Richard Canning (d. 1726) and his wife, Margaret (d. 1734). His father retired from the navy after twenty years' service as a courageous naval commander and in 1712 took the family to Ipswich, where he 'through resentment of party, founded on mis-reported facts, died a private Captain' (memorial inscription, St Helen's, Ipswich) in 1726, aged fifty-seven. By then Canning had passed through Westminster School, where he was King's scholar in 1723, to St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1729, before proceeding MA at Peterhouse six years later. He became perpetual curate at St Lawrence, Ipswich, in 1734 and soon added other livings near by: Harkstead, Freston, Rushmere St Andrew, and Thornham Magna. From 1738 to 1756 and from 1766 to 1768 he held four livings at once. He married Cordelia Westhorp at St Dunstan-in-the-East, London, on 25 July 1739. They had a son and daughter who were christened Richard and Cordelia. His wife died in December 1751, at the age of thirty-six. Their son, after being educated at Emmanuel College, succeeded Canning at Harkstead in 1769, and their daughter died unmarried, also aged thirty-six, in 1780.

Canning was a pillar of Anglican life in Suffolk, and a leading member of the clerical, literary, and musical circles to which the young Thomas Gainsborough belonged until he left for Bath in 1759. Canning's formal and rather humourless portrait by his friend survives. Intolerant of dissent, he wrote several pamphlets replying robustly to vindications of separatism by the Presbyterian Charles Owen and the deist Henry Dodwell the younger. As a tory, he ran an unofficial opposition to the whigs who were then running the Ipswich corporation. Having learned that he was preparing to publish, under a fairly transparent cloak of anonymity, a criticism of the corporation's handling of borough charities, the bailiffs in 1746 rejected his very practical offer of a thousand armorial book-plates to guard against further losses from the valuable library of the town preachers. This snub, however, did not deter him from exposing past mismanagement the following year, when he published his Account of the gifts and legacies that have been given and bequeathed to charitable uses in the town of Ipswich (1747), which was revised for a second edition in 1819. In 1754 he published translations of The Principal Charters which have been Granted to Ipswich, which he hoped would keep the corporation, now tory, on the right lines.

In the Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, John Nichols confidently called Canning editor of the second edition of The Suffolk Traveller, an early road book published by John Kirby in 1735 and reissued, much enlarged, in 1764 over the original author's name. The printed prospectus, however, named Kirby's second and third sons, Joshua and William, and there were substantial additions made by Thomas Martin and John Tanner. Andrew Baldrey, Joshua Kirby's business partner, provided the county and road maps; others of the separate hundreds and of Ipswich exist only as originals. Canning's part was presumably to prepare the much revised edition for the publisher John Shave.

Of his eight published works, only two sermons disclose Canning's identity, and he published nothing more after 1764. In 1770 the bailiffs, by now whigs again, began litigation over various stipends, including his; four years later he won. A widower for twenty-four years, he died in the parish of St Margaret, Ipswich, on 8 June 1775 and was buried in St Helen's, Ipswich, six days later. His daughter's memorial inscription praised his universal benevolence to town charities. Canning did more than criticize earlier trustees of the Ipswich charities, for he gave generously himself, and his son, who died without progeny in 1789, left £10,000 to the SPCK.


  • G. R. Clarke, The history and description of the town and borough of Ipswich (1830), 205, 315
  • memorial inscription, St Helen's Church, Ipswich
  • Ipswich Great Court Book, Suffolk RO, C5/14/9, 1750–77
  • J. Welch, The list of the queen's scholars of St Peter's College, Westminster, ed. [C. B. Phillimore], new edn (1852)
  • parish register (marriage), London, St Dunstan-in-the-East, 1739
  • parish register (burial), Ipswich, St Helen's, 1775


  • T. Gainsborough, portrait, oils, 1755 (half-length), Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich
J. Venn & J. A. Venn, , 2 pts in 10 vols. (1922–54); repr. in 2 vols. (1974–8)
J. Nichols & J. B. Nichols, , 8 vols. (1817–58); repr. (1966)