Pictures in the Museum of St Albans

Talk to the Society 0n 1 April 2014, by Catherine Newley, Curator

By Jean Gardner

Photo:The Cock Inn and Cock Pond, sketch by F G Kitton

The Cock Inn and Cock Pond, sketch by F G Kitton

LHS archives - scan B 1.24

With illustrations draw from the Society's archives

The title of Catherine Newley’s talk Framing St. Albans indicated that she had a sense of humour. As curator of the post medieval collection in St. Albans City Museum her work is wide ranging but it was the pictures that she spoke about. They included sketches, watercolours and oils in many different styles plus a selection of drawings and etchings.

Catherine explained that the museum was founded in 1898 as Hertfordshire County Museum and was intended to draw together the county’s architecture, art and natural history. It remained so until 1956 when it became St.Albans District Museum with the emphasis on the immediate locality.

When it was set up there were plenty of artists around. Frederick Kitton, a keen wood engraver became the first honorary curator. He was concerned about the history of St. Albans being lost so he made numerous sketches of the town. A series of ten shows Holywell Hill about 1900 with many of the buildings still recognisable. Others showed Harpenden Common and a beautiful watercolour of St. Michaels Bridge and many were made into booklets.

Kitton formed the Mookit Club with Henry George Moon whose colourful painting of Sopwell Fields shows them in rural splendour. He also illustrated the many orchids grown by Frederick Sanders, St. Albans’ world famous orchid grower, and went on to marry his daughter.

A contemporary of Kitton and Moon was E.A.Phippson who usually excluded street furniture and rubbish from his pictures. Chequer Street and Hatching Green Cottage have never looked as good since.

John Dunning painted Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden in 1895 but most of the collection is of St. Albans. Henry Milton Wilson’s Clock Tower and French Row both depict life as it was lived, as did Mrs Harry Hine’s Ten Etchings of St. Albans. And Triston Ellis shows the Abbey with scaffolding around it during Grimthorpe’s restoration.

Photo:Sketch of Neptune Smith by Buckingham

Sketch of Neptune Smith by Buckingham

Museum of St Albans

John Henry Buckingham’s work ranged from Bunyans Cottage, the clock tower, and the militia near the Ancient Briton to cartoons showing ‘prominent people’, a Michaelmas Fair in St.Peter’s Street and a bribery trial in the courtroom of the Old Town Hall. His caricature of Harriet Mellon, the Duchess of St.Albans shows her dancing partner putting his foot through her dress. St. Albans Grand Steeple Chase in 1832 was crowded with characters and said to be the beginning of the Grand National.

Just as funny are Louis Wain’s Cats up to all their tricks including playing tennis and having a tea party. Wain lived at Napsbury in his old age.

Frank O Salisbury

Photo:Eric Freeman, painted posthumously by Frank ) Salisbury

Eric Freeman, painted posthumously by Frank ) Salisbury

Museum of St Albans

 

Equally famous is Frank Salisbury who was born in Harpenden. The picture of his wife and daughters in Red Gables is familiar to most of us as Tales of Enchantment. He painted many well known people including Cardinal Wolsey and Edward Dunham the Mayor of St.Albans in 1907.

Particularly appropriate in the centenary year of the First World War is the painting of 2nd Lt.Frederick S.E.Freeman of Harpenden who was killed on the Somme. Catherine brought along his cigarette case which had a bullet hole through it.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Pictures in the Museum of St Albans' page
Photo:Caption in Museum of St Albans exhibition on The Home Front In WWI

Caption in Museum of St Albans exhibition on The Home Front In WWI

Rosemary Ross, November 2014


Bringing the collection up to the present day she spoke about the portrait of Joseph Gape of St.Michaels Manor who was three times Mayor of St.Albans in the 18th century. Recently authenticated as a Gainsborough by the BBC’s Fake or Fortune team it is only on loan to the museum, and when the current interest dies down it will be returned to the descendants of Joseph Gape for a badly needed restoration.

Catherine was an enthusiastic speaker who looks forward to seeing more of the collection on display when the museum relocates to the Old Town Hall.

Photo:Rothamsted Manor, sketch by F G Kitton

Rothamsted Manor, sketch by F G Kitton

LHS archives - scan B 2.92

Photo:Church Green in winter, sketch by F G Kitton

Church Green in winter, sketch by F G Kitton

LHS archives - scan B 2.113

Photo:Home Farm with Chestnut Cottage at the corner of Stakers Lane/Station Road and High Street, sketch by F G Kitton

Home Farm with Chestnut Cottage at the corner of Stakers Lane/Station Road and High Street, sketch by F G Kitton

LHS archives - scan HC 51

This page was added by Rosemary Ross on 03/02/2015.

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