envelop spinner search close plus arrow-right arrow-left facebook twitter

Buckingham's Kortright Chapel

by LYNNE Murray on May 01, 2020

A Note from Historian Lynne Murray

                I don't think there is a lovelier spot in our historic church than the south end of our Kortright Chapel.  When the sun comes in through the beautiful stained glass windows, arranged in a bow, heaven doesn't seem so very far away.  We know from a brass plaque that the chapel was donated to Buckingham in 1905 by Lady Kortright in memory of her mother, Louisa F. Richardson.  Who was this person with a British title? 

                I found a surprising amount of information on the family.  A Miss Louisa Franklin was born near Berlin in 1807 and died in Philadelphia in December 1872.  She married John Richardson in 1826, an Englishman that had settled in Philadelphia and become quite wealthy while serving as President of the Bank  of North America.  They had a daughter, Martha Ellen, who literally married the boy next door.  The Richardsons lived on exclusive Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, next door to the English Consulate.  The Consul was Sir Charles Edward Keith Kortright that married Martha in a society wedding in October 1861, attended by the British legation and the Consuls from Baltimore, Boston, and New York. 

                Old Buckingham By The Sea tells us that Mrs. Louisa Richardson had given Buckingham gifts of over $2,000.  She had died of double pneumonia in 1872, so thank you notes were sent to her daughter, Mrs. M. E. Kortright.  Martha Kortright carried on her mother's dedication to the Presbyterian Church and broadened her philanthropy to a remarkable degree.   

                Lady Kortright gave the funds to build the Richardson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in memory of her parents.  An internet search brings up that church, still in existence, and located at 5923 Walnut St. in Philadelphia.  An architectural drawing and a photograph of the nave shows an impressive building.           

                The London Remembers website includes this 1889 newspaper article:  "Lady M. E. Kortright, widow of Capt. Kortright, formerly British Consul at Philadelphia, has frequently made generous contributions to the Presbyterian Hospital of that city.  She recently offered the managers $100,000 to build a convalescent's retreat, appointing trustees to carry out her wishes.  This fund is to serve as an endowment, Lady Kortright also providing the building.  Lady Kortright was a Miss Richardson, daughter of a former president of the Bank of North America.  She resides in England, but maintains her interest in Philadelphia's charities." 

                This article is from the April 22, 1889 NY Times:  ”Snow Hill, MD, April 21;  Lady Kortright who gave $40,000 to the Presbyterian Hospital of Philadelphia as a memorial to her father, John Richardson, has sent a check for $5,000 to ex-Congressman George W. Covington of Snow Hill for the purpose of completing the Makemie Memorial Church.  She is now on a visit to this country."  It looks like Buckingham wasn't the only local Presbyterian Church to be the recipient of Lady Kortright's largesse.   

                Probate records from the UK show that:  "On the 8th August 1888 the will of Sir Charles Edward Keith Kortright, formerly Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Philadelphia in the USA but late of 2 Grosvenor Crescent in the county of Middlesex, who died on 19 May 1888 at 2 Grosvenor Crescent was proved at the Principle Registry by Dame Martha Ellen Kortright of 2 Grosvenor Crescent, Widow and sole executrix."  A copy of Charles' will can be viewed on ancestry.com and Martha is the only person named;  apparently the Kortright's had no children.  Although Martha's father left her a wealthy woman, Charles did so too, and apparently more so.  A catalogue of Pictures by Old Masters, presumably originally owned by Charles, lists the property of the late Lady Kortright, to be auctioned in June 1907.  One hundred and twenty items by such renowned artists as, Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Rembrandt, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Rubens, Titian, and Van Eyck, must have brought a fortune.

                Martha's bio reports:  "Dame Martha Ellen Kortright of 2 Grosvenor Crescent, widow, died 18 January 1907 at the Alexandra Hotel, Knightsbridge."  In the minutes of the 125th General Assembly (1913) of the Presbyterian Church USA, it states:  ”Martha Kortright, a former resident of Philadelphia, who married a titled Englishman, remembered the Church of her birth and native land most generously in her will.”    

                I must tell you, friends, that I was looking for a Richardson or Kortright descendant.  You may have heard the support system under the south windows in Kortright Chapel is distintegrating and I was hoping to find someone in the family to whom we might appeal.  Unfortunately, I could not.  Martha had a younger brother that died at age 27 and there's no record of his having been married.  In any case, this was a very interesting topic to research.

Happy Trails, Lynne          

return to Church Historian's Blogs