Explorations in the footsteps of Turner, Cotman and Ruskin with Professor David Hill
This is the eighth work of twenty-five bought in a lot of Sundry Drawings and Watercolours, offered at Anderson & Garland Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne, 21 March 2-17, lot 46 as Various Artists (British 19th Century) Sundry drawings and watercolours, mainly topographical and floral studies, including a grisaille “South Gate Lynn, Norfolk”, bearing the signature J.S. Cotman, various sizes, all unframed in a folio.
Here we continue to work through a sequence of five fine pencil drawings, all dated 1828, once mounted in an album, and some numbered the original page order.
This is the second of five drawings all by the same hand, on similar paper and similarly mounted and inscribed. Most belong to a numbered sequence that seems to indicate the pages of an album since most are mounted o similar paper, given a simple pencil line framing and inscribed with titles in the same hand.
The earliest subject (see part #7) is dated 19 June 1828 and shows a view on the river at Little Casterton, Rutlandshire. The present drawing is dated slightly less than a month later at Woodstock Park, near Sittingbourne in Kent.
None of the drawings is signed, nor is their authorship otherwise identified, but the geographic spread of subjects points to their being by a member of the Twopeny family. Little Casterton is just north of Stamford, Lincolnshire, and was the living of the Reverend Richard Twopeny (1757-1843). He was the third son of William Twopeny, a wealthy lawyer of Rochester, Kent, who in about 1780 established the family seat at Woodstock, near Sittingbourne in Kent. In 1826 the house passed to the Revd Richard’s eldest nephew, Edward Twopeny (1795-1857).
The present drawing is a painstaking and carefully drawn panoramic landscape looking over garden railings to a sheep-grazed park, with mature trees extending across a shallow valley to an upslope in the distance. In the foreground a gardener is at work, overlooked by a small boy in a petticoat and ruff collar. The boy is possibly three or four years old, and watches on, evidently in some contrition, whilst the gardener evidently sweeps something up from the path. Perhaps some accident is being cleaned up.
Woodstock Park was the family seat of the Twopeny family. The estate was bought in the latter part of the eighteenth century by the wealthy lawyer patriarch William Twopeny of Rochester. He built a new house on the park, which passed to his eldest son, also William who died in 1826 and left it to his brother’s eldest son Edward. The last was the elder brother of David Twopeny.
The house, which we will see in the next part (#9), lay derelict after the World War II, and was finally demolished in the 1960s. It stood a few miles south of the Kent town of Sittingbourne, not far from the village of Tunstall. Since the war the park has been redeveloped by Shell Energy as a Science Park, but the site of the house itself remains undeveloped to the north of the lane that runs past the science park towards Tunstall.
In the present drawing we look out, as the title tells us, from the drawing room of the house onto a narrow stretch of garden, bounded by a railing, and from there across sheep-grazed parkland dotted with mature trees. We can see from nineteenth century editions of the ordnance survey that the house was slightly unusual in having its principal fronts facing roughly west and east. In the drawing we can see that the light shines from the left i.e south, so we must be looking out from the west façade.
We can see from the map that the Tunstall Lane followed pretty much exactly the same course as it does today, passing close to the south of the house, before bending round to the right across a shallow valley, before rising again in the direction of Tunstall.
A couple of figures are recorded making their way along the lane, and we can pick up the course at the bottom of the dip in the middle-distance to the right, before tracing its route up through the trees beyond. As we shall see at least two later sketches in this series are taken from viewpoints in that same mid-distance.
For the time being, however, the present composition draws us back to the small boy. Who was he, we seem bound to wonder?. David Twopeny’s elder brother, Edward had only inherited the house in December 1826, and was executor of his uncle’s will, so must only just have settled all the various bequests and taken control over the Woodstock estate. His first thought had been to let it, but presumably there must have seemed good reason and prospect for managing the estate himself. 1828 must have been the first fully settled occasion on which he could invite friends and relations to the seat. And, furthermore Edward had fathered a son and heir in 1827, who could no doubt have been shown off to guests. Sadly the arithmetic will not quite allow identification with the child here, who must be considerably older than one year.