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Rayner Biography: Intro  //  Ann  Frances  Louise  Margaret  Nancy  Richard  Rose  Samuel  //  Known Paintings  Sources
Regional pages for Louise Rayner:   Scotland   Northern England   Wales and the west Midlands   South and South West
Eastern England   London and its Region   South Eastern England   Louise Abroad     Town pages:   Chester   Flint   Dudley

CHESTER NORTH TO SOUTH - Lower Bridge Street

Top of Lower Bridge Street, Chester
[This painting was on the superb Art Renewal Center for a time, but with a strong orange brown tinge. We think the original has faded and we rebalanced its colour a little to reduce this, though we think it is still a distance from how Louise painted it.]

From the paintings we presently have to hand, Lower Bridge Street seems to have been one of Louise Rayner's favourite stamping grounds. Above, we look southwards down Lower Bridge Street from the Falcon Cocoa House, situated where Bridge Street became Lower Bridge Street. Built in 1626, it became the Falcon Inn from 1778-1878, and was then transformed into a temperance cocoa house - thus giving us an earliest date for Louise's painting. The building with the two sweeping staircases is Bridge House, built for the Attorney-General of Cheshire in the early 18th century.
Looking back to the Falcon

Above, another view of the Cocoa House. The shop to the left has the name Williams; we cannot name the building across the alley.
Hawarden Castle Entry

Above right is Hawarden Castle Entry, Lower Bridge Street with Tudor House on the right of the entry. The boxed link overhead is a enclosed continuation of the Row down this side of the street. Being only occasional visitors to Chester, we cannot place this location exactly, but the stairway across the street surely lies somewhere between Bridge House and the Falcon Inn depicted above.
[Grosvenor Museum collection, included in Picturesque Chester]

Below: our Chester section frontispiece uses a late 19th century commissioned photo of one of her paintings, but this is the original. It is from near the top of the street with (possibly) Castle Street joining it on the near-right. Beyond it is a flight of stairs up to Gamul House, a Jacobean timber-frame house now concealed by a brick facade. Buildings on the right more or less slope down with the contour of the street. But the row buildings on the left fight the slope until they are forced to surrender and make a sudden sharp drop. The same pattern repeats itself further down the street.
Market in Lower Bridge Street In the middle of the street on a small box (too early for the "soap box" label to have been coined!) we see a man either declaiming his view of the world or - just possibly - serving as a barker for one of the market stalls behind him. This is one of the earlier paintings, judging by the pavements, and rich with detail. The title of the painting is Market Day Chester. In June 2007 it passed through a Sothebys auction, selling for 15,000.

Gamul House, Lower Bridge Street
In the view above we've moved down to Gamul House, Lower Bridge Street, and are looking back the way we've just come. The pillared building in the street barker view is just barely visible to the right, but the outside stairs can now be seen from the lower side, showing how they turn in to follow the buildings more tightly. Quite apart from the change to the paving, we also note that the prominant sign that hung from the same pillared building in the earlier picture has now (apparently) disappeared. The caveat in the last sentence is just to recognise that Louise might have omitted the sign if she thought it detracted from the view! [Grosvenor Museum collection, included in Picturesque Chester]

Lower Bridge Street, Looking South This picture, above, is officially Lower Bridge Street, looking south, but it could have been called Old Coach Row (unless Louise had already given that name to another painting), for this section of the street on the east side between St Olave's Church and Duke Street was known by that name. The steps at right show that we are right by Gamul House, but the much poorer quality of the paving in this scene indicates an earlier date (possibly Harvie's Almshouses, Duke Streetmuch earlier) than the picture of Gamul House above. What is also interesting is that Louise is criticised for allowing her later work to lose freshness and vitality and simply become derivative of her earlier paintings. But here it is the older painting that looks simplified and somewhat dashed-off, while the Gamul House view is crisp with detail and human observation (the boy with the iron hoop, for example). One explanation of this inconsistency is that we may be looking at a later copy of the original painting (and as she had probably sold the original, she could have been working from a study rather than the final version).

Just beyond the wagon in the painting above, there lies a crossroads. The barely visible road to the left is Duke Street, and here on the right we have an illustration of Harvie's Almshouses, Duke Street, showing four of the six that ran along the north side of the street, and in the distance, what might be Lower Bridge Street cutting down to the crossroads. To improve the composition of the painting, the tower of St. Mary-on-the-Hill has abandoned its usual distance and helpfully shuffled closer to Louise's brush and canvas.

[Both Grosvenor Museum collection, included in Picturesque Chester, and small print available of Duke Street.]
Looking toward Handbridge
We're now back at the crossroads Looking towards Handbridge, Chester, with Lower Bridge Street coming over our right shoulder, disappearing under the city wall through the 1788-rebuilt Bridgegate we can see ahead, on past the towering Dee Mills, and then out of sight across the River Dee towards Handbridge and Wales. To the right of our view is Shipgate Street, leading to a second gate that once went through the wall close by, but was demolished in 1831. It also leads to St. Mary's Hill and the church we saw from Duke Street.

The painting was auctioned by Sotheby's in June 2003; the sale price is unknown to us, but 10-15,000 pounds was anticipated. We don't have a date of painting and there are no obvious triggers in the scene to suggest one. Visitors' views are welcome on this.

Old Edgar at corner of Shipgate Street        Bear and Billet Inn
The two principal buildings seen in the crossroads painting are the Old Edgar (on the corner) and the Bear and Billet, and Louise did (at least) two more studies of the buildings, as we see here. At (left) is the Old Edgar, Lower Bridge Street which had once been an inn (hence its appearance), but was later converted into two houses. It still bears the inn's name, which arises from a local tradition of King Edgar of England visiting Chester in 973, and requiring eight other kings to row him across the River Dee in demonstration of their submission to him. The painting on the building wall reprises the event, but we don't have a date for Louise's painting.

Almost the last building before the Bridgegate is the Bear and Billet Inn (right) (with George Spicer sharing the building for his own business). The road is visibly steep at this point. Whereas the Old Edgar probably dates from the late 16th century (but much restored since), the Bear and Billet dates more positively from 1664, when it was built as a town house for the family that had a half-share in the Bridgegate tolls. The warehouse doors in the gable are for a hoist to store grain there. Looking at all that glass, one wonders how the family felt about the Window Tax brought in just a few years later (1696) under King William III, and not repealed until Louise was commencing her adult career. No doubt the gate tolls got a little heavier! The painting itself is The Bear and Billet, Lower Bridge Street, but the date is unknown.

These two paintings have a very similar feel to them - the painting style, the people, the state of the street, etc. - and may even have been sketched on the same day. There are odd little differences such as the sign above the door of the red-brick building sandwiched between the principal subjects, but this could have been accidental or deliberate omission. More interesting is the chimney stack that went missing from the same building, but even that isn't true evidence for a different date, because comparison between the two paintings will show that a whole column of windows is missing in the Bear picture! Paintings provide even less reliable history than some photographs!
[Both from the Grosvenor Museum collection and included in Picturesque Chester. Small prints available.]

This small image Edgar Inn, Shipgate Street, Chester may not seem to offer anything new, but we see almost the whole of the Bridgegate, which tells us that this is a later painting as it shows an arch on the upper level like the one in Eastgate Street (though probably without a clock). It also shows a little more of the side street - and we could swear that church spire has tiptoed to the right!

Andy King says "This spire intrigued me as there is no church in that position on the North side
Edgar Inn, Shipgate Street, Chester
of the river. However the large church and spire of St Mary Without-the-Walls was built in Handbridge (south of the river) in 1887 to replace St Mary-on-the-Hill, next to the Castle [now a Heritage Centre]. I'm not convinced you could actually see the spire from where the paintings were made. I suspect that Louise's patrons in the Grosvenor family put up some of the money for the church in Handbridge. So in the tradition of all the best artists, Louise had to find a way of making the invisible visible!"
Chester Prison
Had you gone through the Bridgegate, across the Old Dee Bridge, turned west alongside the river and then looked back to the north, you would have had something like this view of Chester Castle from the River Dee - or to put it less romantically, the county jail serving out its twilight years (it closed in 1884 and soon after became the first county hall). The church is St. Mary's-on-the-Hill - previously seen from Duke Street and reached via Shipgate Street from the crossroads near the bottom of Lower Bridge Street. The church tower (restored in 1861-2) is the only obvious date marker, but it was very likely that the picture was painted after that date anyway. Otherwise we have no date for the painting. [Grosvenor Museum collection and included in Picturesque Chester.]

Chester (front page)    Northgate    Bridge Street    Lower Bridge Street    Foregate to the Cross    Watergate Street

Many of the Chester images appear with the co-operation and courtesy of the Grosvenor Museum, Chester.

Harry Drummond, January 2015.
DudleyMall pages about Louise:
Louise at Dudley - Front page introduction, Dudley, link to Richard Rayner's work at Dudley.
Louise Rayner - the main biography, listing some of her early paintings
Louise at Chester - where Louise made her home and did some of her best work.
Louise at Flint - her drawings for Henry Taylor's book.

Louise on expedition:

North to South progression, West before East
Louise in Scotland - Edinburgh
Louise in Southern Scotland - Roslin Chapel (we have no other Scottish paintings at present)
Louise in Northern England - York... Selby... Beverley... Durham
Louise in Wales and the west Midlands - Conway... Ludlow... Gloucester
Louise in the South and South West - Oxford... Chippenham... Salisbury
Louise in Eastern England - Lincoln... Derby... Cambridge
Louise in London and its region - Temple Bar, Drury Lane, Holborn, Greenwich, Eton and Windsor
Louise in the South East - Tunbridge Wells, Knole, Herstmonceux, Canterbury, Hastings... more
Louise Abroad - Rheims, Nuremberg, Bruges... and possibly Venice
In preparation: - The Rayners at Windsor

Please note: we claim no art expertise, and in no way do we offer provenance for any paintings. What you see here was compiled out of interest in Louise Rayner's paintings and those by her family, but is based on sometimes very fragmentary evidence. It is inevitable that there will be errors, though we naturally correct these when we learn of them.

We would gratefully receive any information or corrections that will help us to fill the gaps and resolve unproved links - for example confirmation of dates of birth, death, etc., and details of other addresses the family lived at (and roughly when). Images of any of the family's paintings would also be very welcome. And we'd like to thank the many people who have already contributed - you've helped to make these pages as good as they are. Thank you!

Copyright 2015 DudleyMall.

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