The College of Arms has purchased a portrait of John Warburton (1682-1759), Somerset Herald. It was acquired from Sir John Elphinstone Bt, a descendant of Warburton's daughter Amelia (1735-1786) who married Captain John Elphinstone RN, an Admiral in the service of Catherine the Great.
Warburton was something of a notorious figure. Born at Bury in Lancashire, the son of a tenant of Lord Derby, he worked as a customs officer in Cumberland, Northumberland and Yorkshire and acted as a government informer during the Jacobite rising of 1715. Soon after being demoted for drunkenness in 1718 he left the revenue service and was appointed Somerset Herald, supposedly in reward for his service to the government in convicting some of the rebels. Admitted a fellow of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries, he was eventually ejected from both bodies. A noted collector of manuscripts and antiquities, he also published county maps for which he sought subscribers in return for including their arms in the margins, but without establishing their entitlement to arms. This caused bad relations with his fellow heralds. His collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays was destroyed by his cook, by whom they were burnt or 'put under pye bottoms'. After his death his books and manuscripts were sold at auction, the Duke of Norfolk buying sixty-three lots which he gave to the College.