Richmond & South West London
© Marcus Roberts


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The Levy family became closely connected with Richmond through the son of Benjamin Levy, Elias. After Benjamin's death in 1702 Elias became the ward of court of Moses Hart and spent some time in Richmond visiting Heron Court, particularly after he decided against becoming a rabbi and determined to be a man of business.

Moses Hart had the charge of the £80,000 inherited by Elias which he invested in South Sea Stock. Elias showed a precocious financial acumen. His South Sea Stock in the care of Moses Hart during his minority had grown by a huge 600%. However he became determined to sell out his stock against the wishes of Moses Hart. On Hart's refusal, he quickly went to court to plead his case as minor and won the right to sell his stock. In so doing he saved his fortune as he had anticipated the disastrous crash of the stock.

Moses was no doubt impressed by this financial nous, and evidently forgave him his temerity as he later became engaged to, and married Judith Hart in 1727. Judith was one of Moses Hart's five daughters - this marriage was considered a great match, both parties brought looks, intelligence as well as great personal wealth to the union, especially as Elias had greatly enlarged the fortune that had been held in trust to him by his father through Moses Hart. Judith had initially had a dowry of £10,000 this was doubled after she found out that her other sisters had been given more and demanded an increase!

Together Judith and her husband worked hard in maintaining and increasing their fortune. They engaged in the Lisbon diamond trade, contracting for the government as well as financing the exploits of privateers. Judith spent many hours working for her husband in the counting house, partly to save money.

Judith Levy was a brilliant, witty and accomplished young woman who was nick-named "Minerva in skirts" by her husband. She proved a redoubtable figure and to be brilliant at business and she had great financial acumen. After the untimely deaths of her husband, aged 50, and several of her children (only a daughter and son reached adulthood), she settled permanently on Richmond Green and became such a focus of local society (and to some extent an eccentric figure) that she was termed the "Queen of Richmond Green". While in her earlier life she was noted to be economic with her money she now lived quite grandly and aristocratically.

She arranged for her daughter Isabella to marry well into a titled Christian family, when she married the Hon. Lockhart Gordon by special license. This marriage was arranged through the help of her close friend the Duchess of Northumberland at Sion House. This daughter died only 11 months after her wedding in 1754. Popular legend has embroidered these facts, as it has it that she died on her wedding day and that Judith Levy left her marital home at Well Close Square closed up and left exactly as it had been on that fateful day, complete with the remains of the uneaten wedding breakfast and nuptial decorations. Such a story may well have been a model for Charles Dickens' Mrs. Haversham, in Great Expectations.

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