HAWES, Sir Benjamin (1797–1862), politician. Full length cut silhouette

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HAWES, Sir Benjamin (1797–1862), politician. Full length cut silhouette of a gentleman in a black wooden frame circa 7 x 11 inches with brass suspension loop. At the foot of the silhouette is an ink inscription "Sir B. Hawes M.P." and on the reverse a cut window onto the backing board shows the trade label of the silhouettist J.Gapp.

Sir Benjamin Hawes was the son of Benjamin Hawes, a wealthy Lambeth soap-boiler, and despite withdrawing from acyive involvement in his father's trade, he was always known as ‘Hawes the Soap-Boiler’. In 1820 he married Sophia Macnamara, daughter of Marc Isambard Brunel, and supported various engineering projects of his brother-in-law Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Elected MP for Lambeth in 1832, he proposed radical changes in several areas, and promoted technical advances.  He instigated an enquiry into the running of the British Museum in 1835, and in 1841 the establishment of the (Royal) Fine Arts Commission. After 1841 he became a leading opposition speaker for free trade, and was made under-secretary for colonies. After defeat at Lambeth in 1847, he was elected to the corrupt Irish borough of Kinsale the following year.

In 1851 Hawes became deputy secretary at the war department and left parliament. He favoured integration of the various military departments, and his opposition to root-and-branch reorganization during the Crimean War made an enemy of Florence Nightingale who strongly denounced him. Hawes commissioned Brunel to design a prefabricated hospital for Scutari, and in 1856 was created KCB for war services. He died unexpectedly at his Westminster home on 15 May 1862. An obituary in The Times praised his ability ‘to reconcile the zeal of a reformer with the routine of office’. (ODNB)

John Gapp was the first recorded Brighton Chain Pier artist, and cut full length silhouette portraits from paper from 1823 when the Chain Pier was built up until about 1835. The Pier was taken down in 1896 following severe storm damage.

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