The case of the missing Harry Baines Lott bust
- Credit: Honiton Museum
Back in 1977 a prominent Member of Parliament and his father made a request to the museum to borrow a marble bust of their relative Harry Baines Lott so that they could have a replica made. It was agreed that the original bust would be returned to the museum within five months. That never happened.
Over the decades since, numerous enquiries have been made by subsequent curators, the police, and the museum’s solicitors to addresses in London, Dorset, and Cyprus. Every lead has been followed up. Liquidators, and auction rooms have been contacted nationwide, asset lists and catalogues have been examined and the missing marble bust has been logged on the Art Loss Register.
Imagine our great surprise when in 2019 we received a phone call to say that a bust of Harry Baines Lott had been bequeathed to the museum by an ex-Member of Parliament. It was duly delivered but unfortunately it is the replica, not the original marble bust. The plaster imitation was created and signed by the artist S. Manning of London. The ‘courier’ has no knowledge of the original.
Harry Baines Lott was born in Honiton in 1781. His father Samuel was a banker, stationer, insurance agent and the Post Office Surveyor for the Eastern district. Just before his marriage to Mary Ann Buckland, Harry was made a Lieutenant in the Honiton Volunteer Infantry. When Samuel died in 1819 at his lodgings in Bath, Harry inherited his father’s estate and his partnership in the Honiton Bank.
Harry was elected as Member of Parliament for Honiton from June 16, 1826, to July 30, 1830, and May 5, 1831, to December 13, 1832. Harry, his wife Mary Ann and his large family lived at Tracey, Awliscombe, which was described at the time as a pleasure ground arranged with great taste, richly ornamented with choice American plants and shrubs with hot and green houses. He was instrumental in reviving the Honiton races which were held on St Cyres Hill and described as the best races in the West of England. He spoke at an anti-slavery meeting in Honiton in 1830 and was a county magistrate.
After suffering for three years with a painful and protracted illness, Harry died at Tracey in 1833. His heir was his eldest son Harry Buckland Lott who later went bankrupt after the failure of the Honiton Bank and died in France in 1869.