To put his competence beyond doubt Knighton decided to confront the College with a qualification that it could not refuse – a degree in medicine from Edinburgh University – even though this meant selling a London house which he had already bought and furnished, earning no fees for at least two years, and moving to Edinburgh with his wife. In October 1804 Knighton sold the house, 28 Argyll Street in St James, to Caleb Whitefoord, a successful wine merchant, lifelong supporter of the arts, and sometime diplomat – as a friend of Benjamin Franklin in London Whitefoord was chosen as an intermediary at the end of the American War of Independence.
Two months earlier The Times had advertised a substantial, well-appointed house in the same position and on the same side of Argyll Street as No 28. Selling points included two drawing rooms, spacious entrance hall and stone stair case, dining parlour, breakfast room, three servant’s bedrooms and a servants’ hall, kitchen, scullery, garden, and cellars for beer, wine and coals.
I can’t prove that the ad was for No 28, but I do know that No 28 occupied a plot of more than 93ft x 26ft in a fashionable area – not bad for a provincial physician. Whitefoord was able to display a large art collection there, and was the sort of man Knighton admired – educated, cultured, and convivial. He had a sense of fun, and invented a ‘New Method of Reading Newspapers’ by scanning across the columns rather than down. I’d like to believe that Whitefoord and Knighton remained in touch.
In later life Knighton remembered his time in Edinburgh with affection. He left without taking his degree but, as he’d studied there for two years, the Royal College of Physicians examined him and admitted him as a licentiate.
Connoisseurs examining a collection of George Moreland's by James Gillray, 1807.
By kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London, under creative commons licence http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw62986/Connoisseurs-examining-a-collection-of-George-Morelands?LinkID=mp04807&search=sas&sText=caleb+whitefoord&OConly=true&role=sit&rNo=3
his house number. I found him in a street directory, misread the faint ‘8’ on the microfilm for a ‘3’, then wondered why there was no corroborating evidence to connect him with No 23.
- D. G. C. Allan, ‘Whitefoord, Caleb (1734–1810)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29282, accessed 27 June 2013]
- W A S Hewins, ed, The Whitefoord Papers, being the correspondence and other manuscripts of Colonel Charles Whitefoord and Caleb Whitefoord from 1739 to 1810, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1898) [Internet Archive http://archive.org/stream/whitefoordpapers00whituoft#page/n7/mode/2up accessed 16 June 2013]
- The Times (London, England), Thurs, 30 August 1804, Issue 6113, page 4, col A
- London Metropolitan Archives: Middlesex Deeds Registry MDR 1804/2/351 MDR 1804/8/84
- Westminster City Archives, London: Church Rate Collector’s Books MF737–740