William Cotton III

Portrait of William Cotton III by DenningWilliam Cotton III (1794-1863)

William Cotton III of Ivybridge inherited the collection at the age of twenty-two years, on the death of his father in 1816. At the same time he also inherited responsibility for a large family of brothers and sisters, some of whom were still at school. It was an onerous position and one he took seriously.

In 1818 he completed his MA and thereafter spent some months travelling on the continent. In 1823 he married Mary Ann Collins at Bodiam, Surrey. The following year they leased the house at Clapham and moved to ‘The Priory’ at Leatherhead in Surrey. Before taking possession of their new home alterations were made by the architect, Edward Creasy, with the addition of a room to house the Collection.

The subsequent marriage, in 1827, of William’s sister Mary to a naval officer in Devon, led to frequent visits to the county by William and his wife. This resulted in their eventual decision to move to Devon themselves, which they did in 1839. They leased ‘The Priory’ at Leatherhead and moved to Highland House in Ivybridge, where they remained. The portrait above of William Cotton III at aged 50, by Denning, was painted only a few years after their move to Devon. Cotton was a great public benefactor and he offered considerable help of a practical nature to the community at Ivybridge. During the outbreak of cholera in 1849 it was Cotton who organised the clearing of drains and the caring of the sick and needy. His benefaction extended in 1853 to the gifting of the Cottonian Collection to Plymouth.