Monday, 17 January 2011

The English Vandyke Families

Were any of the English Vandyke families related to Sir Anthony Vandyke, the Dutch artist at the court of Charles I? (Vandyke's Self Portrait with a Sunflower is shown below.)

We have recently been contacted to do some research on the Vandyke family of Steyning by an Australian visitor to our website. He provided the information he already had and posed some questions about the members of this family. The most intriguing of these was whether there could be any truth in the old family story that they are descended from Sir Anthony Vandyke (or van Dyck), the artist.

We found from our archives that they came from Lewes to live in Steyning, where they and their children and grandchildren stayed from 1730 to 1810. We plotted their family tree. We even found out the exact spot where they lived, sadly now covered over with a late eighteenth century building. We passed on all the information that we had found. Unfortunately, we could not go far enough back, in the Steyning records, to provide any clues to whether these Vandykes were descendants of the artist. Indeed, it seems to have been quite a common name in London and the south-east, even when Sir Anthony was alive, since many Dutch immigrants had settled here by then.

It seems that Sir Anthony, who spent much of his adult life in England, had left a mistress in the Netherlands and took a wife in England. Each of them had just one daughter, as far as we know. It would seem unlikely, therefore, that Sir Anthony had any direct descendants with the Vandyke name.

BUT, there is a memorial plaque on the north wall of the tower at St Mary’s church, Horsham which records the death of a Mary Slade, formerly Vandyke: “a descendant of Sir Anthony Vandyke”. That certainly seems to suggest that there might be truth in the family folklore, if this Mary was related to the Steyning Vandykes. That got us thinking. We realised then that the use of the word “descendant” might have changed over the years, as so many words have done. We wonder whether perhaps, in those days, the word “descendant” simply meant that they were related. If that was the case, then there could be some truth in it.

What do you think? Can you help us? Do you have any Vandyke forebears or friends who might hold the key?

Jacquie Buttriss