Explorations in the footsteps of Turner, Cotman and Ruskin with Professor David Hill
This is the ninth 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 drawing is a painstakingly-drawn landscape showing the view from a wooded foreground up a sheep-cropped slope to a house in the middle distance. A track crosses the foreground, with a figure walking right, perhaps carrying a gun, with further to the right, a boy on a horse carrying a large box, attended by another boy and followed by a dog.
This is the third of five drawings all by the same hand, on similar paper and similarly mounted and inscribed.
The previous drawing (part #8) is dated 15 July 1828 and shows the view from the drawing room at Woodstock. The present sketch was made the following day, and records the view of the west front of the house from the Tunstall Lane. The time of day is later afternoon, perhaps about 4 p.m, for the sun is a little way west of south-west. It is almost the opposite view to that from the drawing-room window and is the only one in the sequence to show the house itself, and indeed may be unique in recording the house in its prime.
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, who most directly connects the localities depicted in this group. In 1834 he married the younger daughter of Rev Richard Twopeny in the church at Little Casterton. 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.
We have already heard that David’s brother William was also an artist. There is a fine book on his work by Eric R. Swain ‘William Twopeny in Kent’, published by Winston Publications in 1986. That includes some valuable information about the Twopeny family, but most relevantly for our purposes, a photograph of the house as it stood in about 1900.
The house 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 quite considerable 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.
The Kent History Forum includes an important memoir of the house, which sits usefully alongside this drawing:
‘As built Woodstock was a typical square Georgian house with low roofs hidden behind a facade. The windows had louvered shutters flanking them and the front door (up four steps) was flanked by Corinthian columns. The skylight was of the well-known ‘fan’ design later to be used throughout the 19th century on ship’s paddlebox faces.
There was a single storied north wing attached to the main block. This wing contained a vast ballroom together with the library. On the roof, above the ballroom, was a magnificent ventilator.
During the 1840’s the then owners built a matching wing on the south end of the main block. The south wing contained a large billiard room and other, small rooms. The south wing was also single storied and matched the north wing, but had no ventilator. An old woman I knew as a boy had a grandmother who worked at Woodstock and could remember the scaffolding around the new south wing.
In all there were, maybe 45 rooms of various sizes and splendour. The main entrance hall was paved with black and white polished marble squares. The staircase was in the rear hall and rose, around the hall to the full three floors. It was not an especially fine staircase. There were very fine fireplaces in all the main rooms. The door fittings too were quite grand. The dining room, sitting room, ballroom and library floors were light oak parquet.
The kitchen was, with the other utilities, in the basement. There was a dumb waiter lift that carried food up to the dining room.
The park was quite splendid, well landscaped and full of good trees and shrubs. Rides radiated out from the formal, Italian garden at the rear (east) of the house. At the west front there was a big carriage turning circle and then lawns dropped away to a quite large lake. The lake was quite deep and a friend of mine lost a steamboat (powered by a Mamod oscillator) well out from the shore.’
The drawing shows that the house had two matching wings in 1828. The north wing is that to the left in the present drawing. Perhaps the memory was of the south wing being rebuilt or repurposed. It is perhaps slightly disappointing that none of the drawings show the pond, although working from the old Ordnance survey, the present drawing must be just about taken from its shore.
As with all five drawings in this series, the figures are well-drawn, charming and interesting. Of the series, however, this is probably the most elaborated in terms of the trees. The calligraphy seems almost to take on a life of its own.
As we shall see over the next couple of days the trees became the artist’s principal subject at Woodstock.