Elizabeth Liddell

Elizabeth's father's address in Tyneside suggests he was a wealthy ship-owner, and perhaps she met her husband through naval connections; but having married into the Edinburgh professional elite she drew her identity from intellect rather than industry. As well as being the wife of an important lawyer, and grandmother of one of world's greatest physicists, James Clerk Maxwell, Elizabeth was well-known in her own right as an accomplished artist.

1770 - 1831
Dockwray Square, North Shields
John Liddell of Dockwray Square, North Shields 1735-1802. In 1784 'John Liddle, shipmaster' was listed in the Edinburgh Directory at North Leith.
Jane Hubback (4) 1736-1805
1 George Street (1793-1803). This house was described at its sale: 'The lodging or dwelling house, being the fourth and fifth storeys of the tenement marked No. 1, South side of George Street, belonging to Robert Hodshon Cay, Esq. Advocate, and consisting of a dining room, drawing room, kitchen, two bed chambers, and a bed closet on the first floor, five bed rooms and three light closets, one of which will hold a bed on the second floor, as also two ceiled garrets, and one unceiled above, with four cellars and other conveniences.' (5, 1 January 1803). They moved to 11 Heriot Row (1804-1810)
In her will she ensured her children all had keepsakes: to John Cay his great-grandfather's diamond ring, to Albert Cay the picture of himself she had painted, to her youngest daughter Jane 'the picture of the blacksmith painted by me', and to her youngest son Robert 'I especially bequeath my gold chain'. (3) She was a talented artist, her works kept at the Maxwell family home, 14 India Street.
Chapel connection
1797 (baptism)
Married on
26 September 1789
Robert Hodshon Cay
Jane (1797), John, Albert, Robert Dundas, Elizabeth (1803-1804) Frances (m. John Clerk-Maxwell and mother of the physicist James Clerk-Maxwell)

Frances and Jane Cay
by Elizabeth Liddell (6)


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Elizabeth Liddel's Will, National Archives of Scotland
  4. 'Elizabeth Cay' in Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800 (online edition accessed 1 August 2010)
  5. Memorial inscription in H.H.E. Craster, A history of Northumberland vol.8, the Parish of Tynemouth. (Andrew Reid, Newcastle, 1907) p.130
  6. James Clerk Maxwell Foundation online gallery accessed 1 August 2011

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