Woolsthorpe Manor, a modest Lincolnshire farmhouse, was once the home of Sir Isaac Newton (1642/1643–1727). Newton was the son of another Isaac, who died before he was born, who was the son of a successful sheep farmer and lord of the manor, and Hannah Ayscough, the daughter of a local minor gentry family, who left him in the care of her mother when she remarried. He left at the age of 12, returning only once to escape the plague in Cambridge in 1665/1667. Yet, during this brief period, he discovered the principles of differential calculus, the laws governing planetary motion and succeeded in refracting light through a prism. Reputedly, though almost certainly apocryphally, he was also induced to develop the concept of gravity from an apple falling on his head from a tree.
Woolsthorpe was bought by the Royal Society in 1942 with help from the Pilgrim Trust, and presented the next year to the National Trust, together with an endowment, to mark the 300th anniversary of Newton’s birth. He is portrayed in a striking portrait of 1712 by Sir James Thornhill, wigless and dressed in a gown. This is one of three portraits of him by the artist which was inherited by marriage by the Foulds family until being acquired by the National Trust with the help of the National Art Collections Fund in 1994.