The Clabburn Family of Norwich

Notes by John Barnard
Updated 6 November 2015

My maternal grandmother, Ethel de Pearsall James, née Clabburn, was descended from a well-to-do family from Norwich. Her father, Arthur Edward Clabburn (1849-1901) served for a few years in the army, and afterwards made his living as an artist.

Arthur was the second of the six children of William Houghton Clabburn (c. 1820-1889), who was a prosperous businessman and manufacturer of silk shawls through the family firm of Clabburn, Sons & Crisp; he served as a local magistrate and as Sherriff of Norwich in 1866.  He was a close friend and patron of the artist Frederick Sandys from whom he commissioned portraits of himself and several of his family. Though not a formal member, Sandys was associated with the "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood", founded in 1848 by Rossetti, Millais and Hunt, and Clabburn also commissioned Rossetti to produce an oil replica of his Mary Magdalen at the Door of Simon the Pharisee. Clabburn lived in large house in the hamlet of Thorpe on the outskirts of Norwich, called Sunny Hill (now part of Thorpe House Langley Preparatory School), later moving to the nearby Walpole House.

According to Julie-Joy Hermann, the daughter of Garth Clabburn (1917-1983), one of Arthur Clabburn's grandsons, when her father established a sheep station in Victoria, Australia, after the Second World War, he named it Sunninghill after the village in Berkshire, which he had visited while on leave in England in 1941, rather than as a reference to his ancestral family home in Norwich. A possible reference to both names is provided by Garth's two granddaughters, Sophie and Celeste Clabburn, who perform as the successful Australian country-and western duo The Sunny Cowgirls.

William Houghton Clabburn's six children were:

Clabburn Family Portraits by Frederick Sandys

William Houghton Clabburn Hannah Lousia Clabburn (nee Blyth) 1860
William Houghton Clabburn (c.1820-1889)
Sheffield City Art Galleries
Hannah Louisa (née Blyth), Mrs W. H. Clabburn  (1825-c. 1880) in 1860
Norwich Castle Museum

Hannah Louisa Clabburn (nee Blyth) in 1869 Elizabeth Clabburn nee Denn
Hannah Louisa (née Blyth), Mrs W. H. Clabburn  (1825-c. 1880) in 1869
Norwich Castle Museum 
Elizabeth (née Denn) , Mrs Thomas Clabburn (1786-1862) (W. H. Clabburn's mother), circa 1860
Sold at Christies Nov 2009

Walter Clabburn (1851-) Henry James Catling Clabburn (James Blyth) (1864-1933)
Walter Clabburn (b. 1851) in 1871
(son of W.H. Clabburn)
Norwich Castle Museum
Henry James Catling Clabburn (1864-1933) (son of W.H. Clabburn)
Norwich Castle Museum

Spring (for which the sitters were W. H. Clabburn's children)
Sandys' Study for Spring;
the picture (dated 1860) shows five of W. H. Clabburn's children
Norwich Castle Museum