Richard Baldwin
1717 – 1758 (c.1668 - 1758)

Mystery surrounds the early life of Provost Baldwin.1 According to the Entrance Book, he was born in about 1668 in Athy, County Kildare, and was schooled at the famous grammar school in Kilkenny that had also nutured Swift, Berkeley and Congreve2; but there is some reason to believe that this is a polite fiction to disguise the fact that he was born of poor parents in Lancashire in 1672, fled to Ireland after having killed a schoolfellow in a fight, and by good fortune was taken on as a stable-boy by Provost Huntington, who, recognising his ability, put him through College.3 His attendance at Kilkenny is confirmed by the school register.4 He was there at the same time as Swift and they were also in Trinity at the same time as undergraduates, although they were not friends. While Swift was a satirical Tory, Baldwin became a stern Whig. This was largely thanks to his experience of the Jacobite occupation of College from 1689 to 1690 when he was driven to take refuge in England. Elected to fellowship in 1693, he had risen to be Vice Provost by 1713 and took advantage of Provost Pratt’s absences in England to strengthen his grip on the affairs of the College and was duly rewarded with the provostship in the summer of 1717. His autocratic manner of government led to many clashes with the Fellows, especially those with Tory sympathies. He took up office at about the age of fifty and remained Provost for over forty years until his death in September 1758. He died a wealthy man bequeathing his whole estate to Trinity.

Painting Details

By Francis Bindon
Oil on canvas

  1. Anne Crookshank and David Webb, Paintings and Sculptures in Trinity College Dublin (Dublin, 1990), p. 14.
  2. J.V. Luce, Trinity College Dublin, The First 400 Years (Dublin, 1992) p. 43.
  3. Anne Crookshank and David Webb, Paintings and Sculptures in Trinity College Dublin (Dublin, 1990), p. 14.
  4. J.V. Luce, Trinity College Dublin, The First 400 Years (Dublin, 1992) pp 44-5.