John Eckstein

‘Portland Place’ on Diamond Rock showing the ‘Governor’s and Painter’s tents’

John Eckstein (1765-1837) was not, strictly, one of Hood’s Boys but he was present on Diamond Rock and has left us a unique record of the place and the men involved. His role was possibly as the Official Artist to the Leeward Island Commissioners, travelling on board HM ships Ulysses and Centaur in 1803-4.

The Colonial Sense website describes him as: “A painter who worked in England and the West Indies. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in London between 1787 and 1802. In 1803 he accompanied Samuel Hood to the ‘Diamond Rock’ near Martinique. He then went to Barbados where he painted the portraits of officers stationed on the island, and seems to have died in the West Indies in about 1838.

During the spring of 1804, Commodore Sir Samuel Hood’s men in HMS Centaur had been engaged in cutting-out expeditions, and other enterprises, while several of his smaller craft were engaged in protecting the trade and seeking reprisals amongst enemy privateers. Such bold ventures took their toll, and it was following one of these that J. Eckstein first comes to our notice.

DIED. In the West-Indies, of his wounds, Lieut. Neville, of the Centaur, son of J. P. Neville, esq; of Badsworth, near Doncaster, and the last of seven brothers who have fallen in the service of their country.

Bath Chronicle, May 10th, 1804

Lieut. Neville, of the ship Centaur, volunteered in an attack on the Martinique shore, on the 7th of February, and fell at the head of his division of seamen, encouraging them by his example, and leading them on to the attack of the advanced guard of the enemy, which was completely routed and put to flight; the Ulysses conveyed his remains to St. Lucia, where they were interred with military honours. – The mortality, in Mr. Neville’s family, has not been less singular than afflicting; out of nineteen children that Mrs. Neville had born alive, only four remain, viz. two sons and two daughters; seven sons and one daughter, with their mother, having died within the last ten years.

Cumberland Pacquet, May 29th, 1804

The loss of a friend was a heavy burden that he felt needed to be appreciated by a wider audience. This resulted in some verse:

ELEGIAC STANZAS On the Death of Lieutenant S. NEVILLE, (Last surviving son of J. P. Neville, Esq. of Badsworth Hall,

County of York.), of His Majesty’s Ship Centaur, who volunteered in an attack upon the Martinique shore, on the 7th of February, 1804, in which he fell. He was the last of seven brothers who have successively died in the service of their country. The Ulysses conveyed his remains to St. Lucia, where he was interred with military honours.

Slow moves the multitude o’er Lucia’s shore,
The corps of Neville, solemnly before;
‘Tis not the power of death that sinks their brow:
Imprest with a superior awe they go,
Tracing the destiny of one so brave,
Who volunteered the honours of the grave.

Exalted terrors seize the standers-by,
And o’er his tomb the blazing vollies fly,
Which thund’ring echoes bear along the sky.
The dew of pity o’er the cheek of Fame
Shall wander as she writes her Nevill’s name.
Softly to mingle with the tears that flow,
Press’d from a sister or a parent’s woe.

Who loves Britannia! But must wipe the eye
To view the last of seven Neville’s die!
One gen’rous father then for England’s good,
Pour’d on he altars forth his dearest blood;
Anxious awaiting, each succeeding post,
The hapless news! – “Another child is lost!”

Son after son fell in his country’s cause;
Still in the ranks another Neville rose,
Until the last, the youngest champion fell,
And Fame exclaim’d – They served their country well!
How will the bosom of the fairest heave,
The thoughtful pity of the aged grieve!

Parents to whom the Nevilles were unknown,
Shall for the loss of seven children moan;
Brothers henceforth in loyal virtue lie,
And, for their country learn in turn to die.
And when Britannia in triumphal car,
With glory crown’s, shall leave the toils of war,

And to her country’s shore return again,
The band of heroes, which she lent the main,
Brother shall brother hail – parents their children bless;
But no fond parent shall a Neville press!
When meekley’d Peace, again with bounteous hand,
Shall scatter ease and comfort o’er the land;
The flute and tabor to the dance may play,
And night- with blazing tapers, mock the day.

Alas! The Neville’s roof must mourn;
No son unto its bosom can return!
None to entwine a sister’s arm in his;
None at their fireside must taste of bliss;
Not one to close a dying father’s eye,
Nor in the fam’ly vault must hence a Neville lie.

By glory snatch’d, and their superior fate,
They rank amongst the heroes of the state:
The distant seas record their patriot zeal;
Death hath affix’d unto their deeds his seal.
There country’s memory embalms their name-
The Neville’s are not dead – they live to Fame!

J, Eckstein Pictor.
Diamond Rock, Martinique, Feb. 7, 1804

Tyne Mercury, May 15th, 1804

Later that year, in his capacity as artist to Commodore Sir Samuel Hood, the Leeward Island Commissioners, he wrote an extensive account of the Naval force occupying the Diamond Rock – though it was not published till many months later.

Accompanying this text was a wonderful series of pictures. The original art work must have been executed very speedily, as a completed portfolio was almost immediately sent off for England, where it must have arrived about the end of January or early February. The portfolio was most likely carried home to England in one of the Leeward Island, Falmouth packets – either the Princess Charlotte, Kerr, or the Prince Ernest, Petrie. The former of these arrived at Falmouth on Tuesday January, 24th, twenty-seven days out from Tortola. Leeward Islands Dispatches and Mail apparently being received in London on Friday January 27th, 1805, while the latter anchored in Falmouth on February 6th, forty-two days out – her mail and dispatches being received at the Post Office, London on Saturday February 9th.


Speedily will be published, by Subscription, price 10l. 10s.

A MOST ELEGANT WORK, on Whole Sheet Royal; containing fourteen highly-coloured Plates of VIEWS of the DIAMOND ROCK, near Martinique. One Plate or Portrait of the Officers of His Majesty’s Ship Centaur, &c. and an elegant Title Plate, with the Portrait of Commodore Sir Samuel Hood, K.B. &c. (to whom the Work is by permission dedicated), accompanied with a Topographical and Historical Account of the Rock, since taken possession of by the English. The Drawings have been made on the spot by Mr. J. Eckstein, (in His Majesty’s Service on that station), for whom the Work is to be Engraved, and Published by J. C. Stadler, 15, Villiers-street, Strand; where the Original Drawings, as also Specimens of the Prints may be seen, and where Subscriptions are received.

The price to Non-subscribers will be considerably advanced.

Morning Post, Thursday, February 28th, 1805

John  Eckstein made his home in Barbados and in 1808 he came to the fore again, when a committee of the principal inhabitants, of Barbados publicly proposed erecting ‘a memorial to the memory of the late Hero, Lord Nelson’. John Eckstein was not slow in putting himself forward in two letters, one to the printers, the other to the Committee:

Bridge-town, Feb. 27, 1806.

To “Mr. Orderson, Printer, &c.


The zeal you evince in all public concerns, and the knowledge you have of the Gentlemen composing the Committee for conducting the Erection of the Bronze Statue, to be raised in honour of Admiral Lord Viscount NELSON, induces me to trouble you with the enclosed letter requesting you would have the goodness to hand it to them. It contains a respectful offer of my services to execute that Statue, and a request to inspect a Model and Pedestal I have made on a small scale, as a specimen of my conception and execution, which differs from a larger one in nothing but size.

I am greatly ambitious, that after many years of study and perseverance, I might obtain a share of the honour, and of public fame, which the skilful display of talents on such an occasion deserves. Let me therefore entreat your interest in recommending me to the Committee, on the solid ground of being really bred and fully adequate to the task. The moment appears peculiarly auspicious to me; while the war has hid in obscurity many Artists, the glory of a great victory lights up their prospects; and when every town in Great Britain will employ its favourite, chance has thrown me amongst you. Let me then make interest where I am! – and be the favourite Artist of BARBADOES. The Son of the Sculptor of the Great FREDERICK will not discredit your patronage, and is too proud to treat that as a Job, which he is desirous should be a monument to his reputation.

I am, dear Sir, your obedient, humble servant,

Now in the possession of James Maxwell, Esq. presented to him by Mr. Eckstein, after it had been viewed by the Committee and Subscribers, and the Public at large. This Model, to our own knowledge, cost the Artist upwards of thirty guineas.

Barbadoes Mercury & Bridgetown Gazette November 12th 1808

Bridge-town, Feb. 27, 1806.

“To the Gentlemen chosen to direct the erection of a Bronze Statue in honor of Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson.”


“Having finished a Model for a Public Statue of the late Lord Viscount NELSON (a description of which I beg to inclose), and His Excellency Lord SEAFORTH having been pleased to appoint Monday next to see it, allow me to hope that you will also honour it with your inspection on that day.

“A Bronze Statue, in memory of the lamented Admiral NELSON, being about to be executed under your directions by the inhabitants of Barbados, I humbly offer my services, and solicit your patronage.

“Trained from my childhood to the Arts, I aspire to the honour it will confer, and this Model is intended to prove the legitimacy of my ambition.

“Should you, Gentlemen, think proper to entrust me with the execution of your Statue, your support and approbation, the glorious subject I have to represent and the lasting renown it presents, must be the best pledges of the zeal which shall animate me in the arduous task; and the happiness of having obtained superior eminence, from your hands, induce a gratitude, unknown to those whose lot hath never been to seek your shore.

I have the honour to be, Gentlemen,

Your most obedient and most humble servant,

Barbadoes Mercury & Bridgetown Gazette November 12th 1808

There was an inevitable delay in collecting subscriptions and although it seems as though he was at one point the preferred artist, the commission eventually went to Richard Westmacott. It was unveiled on March 22nd, 1813. In recent times the statue was vandalised and removed to the Barbados Museum.

In 1815, Eckstein was appointed Comptroller of Customs, at the Port of Basseterre, Guadeloupe, by his Excellency Sir James Leith.1 He is reported amongst the seven named passengers arriving in May 1817 at Bridge-Town, from Portsmouth, in the ship Colonist.2

He obviously continued producing artworks for in 1818:


The Gentlemen that have honoured the first Number of Mr. Eckstein’s Engravings of Eminent Men in the West Indies, with their patronage, are respectfully informed, that the Originals were on Sunday, sent to England, in the Colonist.

Barbadoes Mercury & Bridge-town Gazette, April 18th 1818


At the residence of George Reid, Esq., Clarence-street, on Sunday last, after a protracted illness, John Eckstein, Esq., aged 72. Mr. Eckstein held for many years the appointment of Interpreter of the Colonial Court of this Island, and was besides a painter of considerable merit. Many of his portraits were remarkably happy, and some of his sketches of South American scenery displayed greater talent than their author himself seemed to be aware of. Mr. Eckstein valued himself more upon his genius as an historical painter, and finished many works of considerable labour. It is impossible for any one acquainted with the fine arts to look at these without perceiving that they evince considerable ability, and most glaring defects. Criticism has often sneered at the later without doing justice to the former. In private life Mr. Eckstein was a most estimable man. – Port of Spain Gazette, Nov. 7.

Barbadian, November 22nd 1837
  1. Barbadoes Mercury & Bridge-town Gazette August 22nd 1815
  2. Barbadoes Mercury & Bridge-town Gazette May 6th 1817