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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 - Bridge Street

St Peter's Church from Bridge StreetAlmost all the views of Bridge Street we currently have - apart from the interior below - show the same area of the west side of the street. Louise must have found the east side singularly uninteresting!

This one is a large detail from the right hand side of Bridge Street, Chester painted between 1869 and 1873 - reproduced here because it's much clearer than the others and gives the best view of St Peter's Church at the Cross, with the Victoria Dining Rooms to the left of it. The painting also shows the two corners of the street as they were before the Tudor-style rebuild of 1888/92.

(Other views of the street would be very welcome - especially of the East side)

[Grosvenor Museum collection, large print available.]
Shopping day  This smaller view shows Chester as Louise probably first knew it - it's 1868 or earlier. Our dating is explained as we go down this page.

The title "shopping day" is a generic, and like "a busy street" (etc.) probably applied long after Louise was in the next world. The church does not lean like this in the original painting!
The next two pictures are interesting for the story that lies behind them. The first view is a photograph of a painting called Chester: Bridge Street looking South. It's one of Louise's early Chester views, and it must be 1869 as it shows the flags out for a visit by the Prince of Wales. Even in monochrome, some of the flags are instantly recognisable, including the Japanese Rising Sun on the left.

Bridge Street 1869 - flags
Now we have a very similar view, but this time the actual painting. In fact it's the same painting. The buyer decided he didn't want all those flags and had nearly all of them removed. While we don't know for certain that Louise did the removal, alterations to watercolours were quite tricky, so it's very likely that she did do the work. If we look around the deflagged painting, this becomes even more likely as there have been other small changes such as the man in the foreground carrying shorter sticks, and the distant wagon in the centre acquiring a covered top.

Bridge Street 1869 - no flags
Bridge Street
looking south from the cross   Because Louise was so fond of this street, her paintings are a history of it.

Bridge Street, Chester shows the view south from St Peter's Church at the Cross. At extreme left, we get a glimpse of steps up to the east-side Row. If we compare the corner building with its rendition in the flagless painting above, we can see that Louise has deleted an upper window (or forgotten to paint it!)
to the right of the shutters. But as this is a later painting, it's just possible it got bricked up! On the right of the painting, only two premises are missing from the top of the street, and we can look all the way down past The Plane Tree (the tallest building) to the next street junction. It's just possible there are tramlines in the road, so the period is 1873 to 1888. Sotheby's auctioned the painting in December 2001 for 21,200.

Bridge Street looking south from the cross The painting above gives one of the best views we have of Bridge Street Row East - i.e. the left hand side of the picture seen here in shadow. This side was heavily dolled up a few years later, but here we can see it has far less architectural drama than the sunny side of the street, so Louise probably had far fewer commissions for it. The church in the distance is St. Michaels, rebuilt in 1849-50, and strikingly different from its previous appearance. It marks the end of Bridge Street Row East. We have no official name for the painting so we'll label it Bridge Street Chester, looking south.

Basketware dealer (detail)   Again, we cannot be sure about tram tracks, so this painting is also 1873-88. However, it feels a little later in that period, though the only real pointers are the fashions. The centrepiece (enlarged at left) is of course the horse pulling a substantial caravan festooned with what looks like basketware, and the woman to the left side of it is probably hawking to passers-by as they go.

On the pavement we see a shop boarded up and to its right is Compton House with Cartwright's on the ground floor selling what look like cloths or children's clothes. The name board carries the number 10, an addressing requirement which we think came in in the early 1850s to assist the delivery of post - though even today many businesses ignore this for fear of looking helpful.

Bridge Street row interior An interior view of Bridge Street Row East on the corner with Eastgate Street, looking out to the Cross and the staircase up to St Peter's Church. Although we have no date for the picture, tramlines are visible outside. But the Row has not yet been rebuilt, so the period is limited to 1879 to 1888. Whilst Louise is often meticulous in creating detail or the look of it, the shop to the right [actually John Wild, Hosier and Glover] is reproduced quite vaguely, with very little to indicate what it sells. This may, of course, have been deliberate, to keep the viewer's eye looking out towards the daylight. [Grosvenor Museum collection, included in Picturesque Chester.]

Bridge Street photo   Left, we have another photo (of 20 or more) that Louise had taken of her paintings.

We have no official title for this view, but it obviously shows Bridge Street, West Side, looking north, and it's full of trigger dates.
Through the smoky atmosphere (actually the photograph decaying) we can see the tiny peak that St. Peter's church had on its tower until 1886. There are no tram lines so this is before 1879. The most prominent buildings are the Dutch Houses, wooden-framed buildings of the mid-17th century with plasterwork added. Next to them is the smaller jutting bay of a less visually-demanding building, and the presence of this building now dates the picture before 1873, as we'll shortly see. Finally, we look again at the skyline to the gap between the church tower and the chimney stack to its left, and what we don't see is the town hall spire, completed in 1869 (and possibly visible by 1868), so it's earlier still. Louise came to Chester sometime in the later 1860s, but seems to have been taking commissions before she actually settled there. She didn't date all her paintings (so we'd be happy to hear of further pointers on these paintings). But with even just a little help from histories of a local area - in this case Picturesque Chester - it's possible to bracket the date.

Bridge Street (2), Chester  For comparison we have this view of Bridge Street, Chester, rendered monochrome by the University of Georgia to advertise an exhibition of British Watercolors
from the West Foundation Collection at the Georgia Museum of Art in 2002 - and for all the reasons just given, it's much later than the one above.
The town hall now looms in the distance; a new tall building sits alongside the Dutch Houses; a horse tram service has appeared; and the church tower's small cap has been replaced by a stepped pyramidal tower, so we've reached 1886 already. We cannot see the corner into Eastgate Street, so we don't know if it's been rebuilt yet, but the two gables jutting towards the church clock suggest it has. Similarly, the very last buildings on the left side of the street could be evidence of the 1892 rebuild of that corner. With neither of these certain, we look to the right where a slender street light adorns the pavement. Chester had a gasworks by 1817, and gas lights throughout the city by 1831. But this is not the lamp originally installed (see the St Peter's Church detail at the top of the page), and the 1890s saw many towns generating electrical current to power their tramways, street lighting, industries and gradually private houses. So it's possible we are looking at an early electric light - but as the trams are not yet electric, 1903 is the latest date. Whilst the street lamp might seem a thin piece of evidence to hang a date on, given Louise's willingness to suppress and compress to improve her pictures, she is actually quite meticulous in the detail she does include. And that street lamp's narrow base would probably have insufficient ventilation for a gas light.

West Side of Bridge Street  On the left we have West Side of Bridge Street, showing the Dutch Houses, and alongside them The Plane Tree, a new building of 1873 that was built in traditional style to fit in with its neighbours, but was obviously also intended to dominate them with its height and decoration.

The Plane Tree matches the Row height of buildings to the right, rather than the Dutch Houses. This is consistent with its higher floors, but also allows the shops below to be higher and airier.

[Grosvenor Museum collection, included in Picturesque Chester. Large print available of this or a similar view (Dutch Houses, Bridge Street).]


Below, we have a close-up of the street-level shops from the same painting. The area looks rather more upmarket and better kept than our close-up of Watergate Street did. There is also more sense of shape to the items being sold than in the Bridge Street Row East painting above. The picture can be dated to 1873-9.

West Side of Bridge Street - detail

Note how some shops shade their goods from the sun. Two sheet the window itself, losing their display advantage, but at right there is a shop with a rather primitive-looking blind with horizontal struts so that goods are still visible to possible customers. In James Hooley's case this is rather odd, since the decaying photo (of a painting) above, dated 1868 or earlier, shows a roller blind there. Perhaps more artistic licence! At the left edge of the image above (and much clearer in the postcard below) is The Old Vaults (earlier known as Ye Old Vaults) public house. [As an aside, "Ye" should be pronounced as "The" since its first letter is not really a Y but an old Germanic/Icelandic character called thorn. It is, however, far too late to educate even the English on this point!].

West Side of Bridge Street - Dutch Houses    Steve Howe drew our attention to The Old Vaults, which had been established as a public house in 1789 and refurbished in 1900. The landlord in 1898 was William Barlow and the pub was affectionately known as Barlows in his honour. The pub had a bar at street level, but also at Row level above. It was reputedly haunted, with loud groaning wails and banging noises assigned to the spirit of an old landlord who had dedicated his life - and apparently his afterlife - to maintaining its quality. You can read more about this on Steve's own excellent Chester web site Chester: a walk round the walls which includes a page devoted to Chester's pubs.


At left, another colour view of the Dutch Houses, here showing the corner with Commonhall Street. The Plane Tree makes it 1873 or later, but otherwise we don't have a date for it, though the state of the road suggests it may be pre-trams. A point of interest is the advert on the street corner for Hewitt Wine and Spirits, and a large view of this image shows that the adjacent shop is lettered Hewitt. This may conflict with the paragraph above, but it could be that the Old Vaults ground floor bar was behind the shop at that time. The image, simply called Bridge Street Chester was kindly supplied by John Taylors Auctioneers, just prior to its auction on April 12th 2011.


Below, we have a postcard image kindly supplied by Christopher Proudlove from an item on his own site writeantiques.blogspot.com which includes his own biography of Louise (in his article for Saturday, February 19, 2005). The image is entitled Bridge Street and shows the group of buildings at the left of the two monochrome pictures above - but they don't match very well, which is why I've repeated edge strips from those images below for comparison.
Bridge Street (clockmaker and basket shop)
slice 1   slice 2  
As we've seen above, the first strip is 1868 or earlier; the second strip is between 1886 and 1903. The latter shows a wicker-basket shop, much like the postcard - thus linking the postcard more readily with the later period, and the dress fashions are reasonably in tune with that. The postcard could even be as late as 1910, when Louise left Chester. With a business directory, it might be possible to pin that down. Warrington Ales, C.W.Pearce Watch & Clock Maker, the basket shop itself and Mr Nooces Dress Making Rooms on the Row above the Old Vaults public house are all discernable. Also, by Louise's standards, this would be a relatively easy painting for someone who was 78 in 1910.

The problem (if that's the right word) is the ever-changing frontages, and here we have to bear in mind that Louise produced paintings, not photographs, and she did move things around to improve composition.
When we look at the postcard, we see two buildings possibly built as a pair, though the joining seems imperfect. The building to the left has a row built along it, but the staircase to street level isn't obvious. When studying the right hand building, my eye insists on seeing the upper part flush-fronted with its partner, but the middle part projected forward like a gallery, pressing down on the shop below. The big rectangular window is clearly displaced to the left by the viewer's perspective, and both buildings have very prominent timbering.

east In the pre-1868 strip (above left), the row building has a flat-top frontage which may be a brick-built false front. We can see that awkward roof line link from the basket shop, which has apparently not yet taken up that trade. But the upper window here projects slightly forward of the big middle level window, and they are clearly in vertical alignment with each other. The plasterwork is crumbling, but still hiding any timbers.

The second strip is between 1886 and 1903, and though it shows the basket business seen in the postcard, the building itself has its woodwork decently covered. Again, it doesn't appear to match the postcard in terms of windows - and the building to the left now has a gable front. Without exploring Chester's photographic archives, there are no certainties here, but my guess is that the building has been regressed to an earlier stage in its life, deliberately featuring its wooden structure. And the most likely prompt for this would be the pseudo-Tudor rebuild (fashionable in Victorian times) of the two corners of the street at the Cross in 1888/92.

I passed the image to Andy King, who has professional expertise in buildings and he made the following comments: "I agree that it probably originated as a double fronted timber framed building, rendered at an early date, then the left side was modernised and built forward in brick in Georgian days to hide the roof. However, about 1870 the parapet was lowered as styles changed yet again; the roof was extended and a barge board put up, then the right hand shop was extended at ground and first floor level and the whole [lot] given the tudor-bethan timber treatment about 1900. I doubt if the timbering is/was original." An extension at this late stage would explain why no other painting indicates it. Andy also added that taste in art had shifted - not least under the considerable impact of Impressionism - and Louise was meeting this change in later days by softening her images. He thinks the painting may be as late as 1905-10.

The section above right is taken from a sketch Louise made around 1865. The full sketch is reproduced on her Wales and West of England page and shows the same view as the sepia-coloured photo above, and may very well have been preliminary work for that painting. This section gives another glance along the east side of the street.

Bridge street at Pierpoint Lane  At left is a portion of a lovely view of Bridge Street (which in full extends right up to the Cross). The original was sold through Christies on 4th Nov 1994 for 13,800, and this part allows us to see a little bit further down Bridge Street. The period is between 1873 and about 1879.

The basket shop is on its corner with Commonhall Street, where the white horse is being led, and the near corner seems to be called Pierpoint Lane, though you can't see quite enough to be certain. The full image is on Louise's biographical page.


Looking towards Lower Bridge StreetThis street isn't shown on Baedeker's 1910 map of Chester, but could just be the first few yards of Whitefriars. We can now see that there is a staircase up to the row half-way along this bit of Bridge Street, and it may be the only access to it.

A wider road junction existed to the left of the buildings in the picture above. At right is an over-enlarged detail from a picture near the head of this page which looks past the buildings we've just discussed and shows the junction marked by its lamp over what is probably a round horse trough. Beyond it to the left, we can see the street sinking down as it becomes Lower Bridge Street.

Below, essentially the same view as here, this detail from a painting above that we labelled Bridge Street Chester, looking south includes

Looking towards Lower Bridge Street2the horse trough, but perhaps in an earlier condition or Louise might have simplified it. But we also see more of the left side of the street, with St Michael's Church just hiding the corner beyond it for Pepper Street.

Just a short walk down past the horse trough would take us to the Falcon Inn, temporarily reformed as a temperance cocoa house (it became a public house again in the 20th century). If we take the link below for Lower Bridge Street, it's the next building we have a picture of.
Continue south into Lower Bridge Street by clicking here.

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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