Image: Hensleigh Wedgwood, anonymous illustration ca. 1870. Wikimedia Commons.

Hensleigh Wedgwood (21 January 1803 – 2 June 1891) was a British etymologist, philologist and barrister.

Hensleigh Wedgwood was the fourth son of Josiah Wedgwood II, grandson of the potter Josiah Wedgwood, and the cousin and brother in law of Charles Darwin.

Hensleigh Wedgwood was a member of the Theosophical Society, and a collegue of Anna Bonus Kingsford, Frank Podmore, and George Wyld.

Hensleigh Wedgwood was an ardent spiritualist, and a Member of the British Society of Physical Research, alongside Annie Wood Besant, Arthur Conan Doyle, Oliver Joseph Lodge, George Bernard Shaw, Alfred Russel Wallace, Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

The Wedgwood family were close colleagues, friends or relatives of Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, Joseph Albert Jack Pease 1st Baron Gainford, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Thomas Henry Huxley, Harriet Martineau, Katherine Maria Routledge, Aurelio Saffi, James John Garth Wilkinson.

For finishing bottom in the classical tripos at Cambridge in 1824, Hensleigh Wedgwood was awarded the first “wooden wedge”, equivalent to the wooden spoon. He was also interested in Spiritualism, holding seances and sending a hoax photograph of himself in the presence of “spirits” to Thomas Henry Huxley.

He married Frances ‘Fanny’ Emma Elizabeth Mackintosh in 1832, the daughter of Scottish man of letters Sir James Mackintosh and his second wife Catherine (Kitty) Allen, who was sister in law of Josiah Wedgwood. It was an open family secret that Hensleigh’s cousin Erasmus Alvey Darwin was carrying on with Fanny.

They had several children:

The Wedgwood family seen to have known James John Garth Wilkinson and his wife from at least 1866, when a Ms. Wedgwood and a Mrs. Garth Wilkinson were subscribers to the London Working Women’s College, and they both knew Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Carlyle. Emma Wedgwood and Mrs. Garth Wilkinson were sponsors of the National Anti-Vivisection Society in 1887 (NB: Emma Wilkinson died in 1886). Emma Wedgwood subsequently married Charles Darwin.

Francis Galton (cousin of the Darwin’s), having caught the fad for Spiritualism, arranged a séance in January 1874 at Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house with those attending including Charles Darwin, Hensleigh Wedgwood and Thomas Henry Huxley.

Charles Darwin’s son George Darwin hired the medium Charles Williams. [ Note: it is possible that Robert Masters Theobald, and George Wyld, were also present].

Hensleigh Wedgwood was also connected to University College London, alongside Erasmus Alvey Darwin,

Of interest:

Frances Julia Snow Wedgwood (1833 – 1913), daughter and the eldest of the six children of Hensleigh Wedgwood, was an English feminist novelist, biographer, historian and literary critic, and she also knew James John Garth Wilkinson through Thomas Lake Harris. The Wedgwood family employed John Flaxman as an artist for many years. Flaxman was a very close friend of William Blake, and he was a devotee of Emanuel Swedenborg, of whom James John Garth Wilkinson was the principle translator and biographer).

Godfrey Wedgwood (1833 – 1905), Julia Snow Wedgwood, and James John Garth Wilkinson were all subscribers of the Egypt Exploration Society in 1888.

James Ingall Wedgwood (1883 – 1951), son of Alfred Allen Wedgwood, son of Hensleigh Wedgwood, and Rosina Margaret Ingall, was the first Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church. James Ingall Wedgwood was influenced by Annie Wood Besant to join the Theosophical Society.

James Ingall Wedgwood was a former Anglican, a member of the Theosophical Society and a member of a co-Masonic order. His work on the Liberal Rite, as well as his efforts to establish a progressive branch of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, are his greatest legacies. James Ingall Wedgwood wrote Spiritualism and the Great War, in 1919.

Margaret Susan Wedgwood (1843 – 1927), Charles Darwin’s niece and mother of composer composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, Margaret Susan Wedgwood lived in Llandudno.

Charles Darwin visited Llandudno in 1824, and his visit is written up in John Price’s 1875 guidebook Llandudno And How To Enjoy It. Charles Darwin was a life long friend of ‘Old Price’, as he called his friend John Price. They had first met as children when Charles Darwin was aged 15 and ‘Old Price’ was aged 21. John Price also knew Francis Darwin and Darwin’s brother Erasmus Alvey Darwin, who was known as ‘Old Strol’. John Price was in correspondence with the children of Henry Thomas, homeopathic proprietor of the Llandudno Hydropathic Establishment.

William Wedgwood Benn 1st Viscount Stansgate (1877 – 1960), the father of Tony Benn,

William Wedgwood Benn’s grandfather Julius Benn was a friend of James John Garth Wilkinson, and his son Tony Benn was a close friend of James John Garth Wilkinson’s daughter Florence Wilkinson.

William Blake (1757 – 1827) was a friend of Erasmus Alvey Darwin, and a very close friend of John Flaxman. Blake engraved a number of figures and plates for the Wedgwood catalogue in 1815.