Portrait of Thomas Hancock

Charles Hancock

Portrait of Thomas Hancock by Charles Hancock, oil on canvas. Thomas Hancock is depicted standing half length. He is dressed in black and holds a pipe at his chest. The painting is in a rectangular gilt frame with beading.

Thomas Hancock (1786-1865) was the son of James Hancock, a cabinetmaker, Betty Hancock (nee Coleman). He was a member of the Hancock family of Marlborough, England. The Hancocks were a significant British family in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, known for their contributions to science, art, and industry.

Thomas Hancock was an inventor and rubber industrialist. He is best known for inventing the ‘masticator’ in 1820, a machine which shredded rubber scraps to allow them to be recycled. He also developed and patented a means of applying rubber to clothing, in order to make it elastic. This line of research led to Hancock producing a number of elastic articles of clothing, including braces, waistbands and straps at his factory at Goswell Mews. Hancock later worked with rubber industrialist Charles Macintosh, supplying his company with masticated rubber to make waterproof clothing.

Hancock filed 16 patents related to rubber between 1820 and 1847, including one in 1843 for vulcanised rubber; rubber treated with sulphur to become more durable and temperature resistant material.

This portrait was painted by Charles Hancock (1800-1877), Thomas Hancock’s brother. Charles was a painter and inventor who had 25 paintings displayed at the Royal Academy.

This object is part of a collection relating to the Hancock family, acquired in 2018 from a descendant and family historian of the Hancocks. The collection comprises portraits covering 4 generations of the Hancock family (including 7 painted by Charles Hancock), personal and business archives, and a series of related objects. Thomas Hancock is the centre of the story. The Hancock company ran until the 1930s, led by Thomas’s nephew and assistant, James Lyne Hancock, and then a great nephew John Hancock Nunn.


Object Number:
gold plated (gilded), paint and wood (unidentified)