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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 EAST TO WEST - Watergate Street

West of the Cross, we go into Watergate Street, and in Louise Rayner's picture below we're looking westwards along Watergate Row North. As can be seen, the Rows provide a second business level, either for the same business at
Row interior street level or for a totally different enterprise. Modern shopping malls are not quite as innovative as they sometimes seem to be!

Some buildings here were rebuilt in the 1970s/80s, but preserved the line of the mediaeval Row.

God's Providence HouseIf we look across to the south side of Watergate Street, just past the nearest column in the painting above, we can see the peaked roof of God's Providence House. This view shows the house after its rebuild in 1862, and by doing so dates that painting 1862 or later. But Louise also painted it in its earlier form as we see at right, in her painting entitled God's Providence House, Watergate Street. [Both Grosvenor and in Picturesque Chester. Not known if prints are available.]

street detail
One of the pleasures of Louise Rayner's paintings is the way you find pictures within a picture, such as this detail above left from South Side of Watergate Street - shoppers' animated conversation by the stalls, a donkey loaded with produce, baskets in the gutter, a young girl surveying the scene while behind her a boy sits half-hidden on the steps up to the Row. Above them, the crowd of onlookers with two gossiping women at right. And the tatty, neglected air of the buildings: crumbling plaster, battered wood, damage to the Row's railing is normal daily life in microcosm.

street detail   And here we have a view of Watergate Street Row South Chester before 1899, in other words on the opposite side of the ones we've just been looking at, looking back towards the Cross, and seen in a cooler, bluer light. "Before 1899" points to the view being affected by the remodelling done to the buildings close to the Cross. The child in the foreground is playing with a spinning top - set spinning by the stick and string in his hand.

[From]High Cross Chester   This painting went to auction at Bonhams in 2012 as View of High Cross Chester, but that isn't the location, and Louise wouldn't have made that mistake. However, it could be a minor but unfortunate slip in the titling at some later date.

It seems more likely that Louise actually titled it (as a reasonable guess) View From High Cross Chester, which makes far more sense, especially when you turn out a lot of paintings of the same subjects and need to differentiate.

At left, we have Bishop Lloyd's Palace, described in other text here, but at right we get our best view of Holy Trinity Church's towering spire (possibly assisted by Louise's brush!).

The painting has a sense of high finish about it, which suggests it may have been an exhibition version or for a demanding client - or maybe Louise needed a good sale to finance her next picture-hunting trip.

Then again, she was perhaps just having a good day and enjoying herself!
A mildly  interesting point as a follow-on to the above mis-titling comes from Mark Edwin Arstall who discovered that the Cheshire Observer had reported on 25th January 1873 that Miss L Rayner attended a meeting of Chester Archaeological and Historic Society, where a paper on the subject of "Roadside and Market Crosses" was read. Newspapers in those days were much more closely focused on their communities than now. While this may have just been a literal listing of attendees, it may also have been a recognition of the standing as an artist that Louise had acquired in the city.

           Watergate Street looking east
Earlier on this page we looked at a section of South Side of Watergate Street, and the painting above, Watergate Street, Chester, has an identical section. Possibilities include a print with a new name; two identical paintings, perhaps for friends (we know this happened in Edinburgh); or one being a wider, more inclusive canvas than the other. Here we see the complete view, looking back up most of Watergate Street, over the Cross into Eastgate Street, and in the distance the bridge of  East Gate itself. The black house to the right is Bishop Lloyd's Palace, with its very detailed carvings of scenes from the Bible, the 3-legged symbol of the Isle of Man, and more. Louise reproduced this detail to considerable effect, and put similar effort into the roof line, as can be seen in the second close-up view below.

The painting at right, Wastgate, shows some of the advantages and drawbacks of a clientele wanting the same thing as you did yesterday and the day before. Repetition must at times have been tedious for Louise but it also quickened the shaping up of some of her paintings, and she probably became impressively fast at laying out the lines for her scenes. So here we have the familiar woman with a donkey - except it looks like a cow this time, and the girl that we saw standing sentinel in the painting above is replaced by a boy in a similar pose. But there is more variety in the people above street level, and there are other points of interest. The first is its name - we don't know what Wastgate refers to, unless it's an older variant of Westgate or Watergate. If this were York, the 'gate' could mean 'street' but
Wastgate (in Watergate Street)
we don't recall Vikings getting as far as Chester. Above street level, the packing case leaning against the railing might well be a coffin, and the windows of the building above and beside the coffin have been reduced in width and number. And one last point: note the bowed-out rain pipe that comes down the face of the building near our boy sentinel. This pipe appears in different degrees of straightness in different paintings, and with Louise may actually offer dating evidence. If her sister Margaret had been painting these scenes it would more likely be her sense of humour breaking out, and therefore totally unreliable!

   Watergate Street roof detail

The close-up of Watergate Street, Chester shows that the painting is not later than 1899, as the sash windows in the Palace were replaced by leaded lights in that year. Students of fashion may be able to date the painting more accurately, but the lack of tram lines offers no assistance, as the Baedeker street map of Chester shows that no line ran that way as late as 1910 (if ever). Three Watergate Street pictures have been auctioned by Bonhams and Christies between 2003 and 2006, with prices of 4,700, 14,500 and 28,690.

[Grosvenor Museum collection, included in Picturesque Chester, and large print available.]

Watergate Street looking west by Bishop Lloyd's Palace
       The title we have for the painting at left is Watergate Street by Bishops Lloyd's Palace, which may not be quite right. The interest for us is that most paintings of Watergate Street that have so far come our way tend to look east, but this more west-looking one doesn't, and it gives us a look at the street further along from the palace. Just above and forward of the covered wagon we can just see a walkway at second floor level - much more obvious in the painting below.

Watergate, looking east

This second view of Watergate Street looking East - from a print that passed through the hands of in 2005 - is similar to the one earlier, in that the buildings seem little changed. That said, the clothes have a more modern feel to them, the long wheelbarrow at right with two small children riding in it is a very nice touch, and we see a new and interesting section of Watergate Row South just beside them. Because the street is quieter, we see more of the street level buildings, and because the picture is lighter, we see more detail. And at this point we are reminded of Peter Boughton's remarks noted earlier: the shadows are long enough for early morning, but they seem to fall from due north!

1860s sketch of detail

Louise first(?) sketched the palace in the 1860s, and the enlargement above from her sketchbook provides a closeup of her careful work on the decorative detail.

full height sketch At left is the same sketch showing the full height of the building, and at a guess she would have been standing or sitting at the end of Watergate Row North, pictured earlier, when she made her record. Already, her figures have the informality of everyday poses that so characterise her paintings. This sketch also includes a detail that we haven't seen in any of her paintings of the building - the name of the street level business, which is just readable in the sketch as Ayrton and Groome.

Watergate Street and Holy Trinity ChurchAt right, we have Watergate Street and Holy Trinity Church. Watergate Street is now noticeably starting to drop away towards the river, but has not yet run out of buildings. Just ahead to the right is Trinity Street, and immediately beyond it is Holy Trinity Church.

We cannot see much of the church, but the spire was possibly brand-new when Louise did her painting. Until the 1860s, the church had had a square tower, but this was strengthened in the course of a general rebuild, and the new spire erected upon it. So the painting cannot be earlier than 1869. In the distance, just over the carters' heads we get a glimpse of what might be the Watergate itself, rebuilt in much the same way as Eastgate, and less than a decade afterwards.

[Grosvenor Museum collection, larger view included in
Picturesque Chester, not known if a print is available.

1860s sketch of detail

Moving westwards past Holy Trinity, we cross a road into what is sometimes referred to as Lower Watergate Street. Here we find Stanley Palace, also on our right, which was built c.1583-97 for Sir Peter Warburton, a local lawyer and Member of Parliament. On his death in 1621 the house passed to his daughter Elizabeth who was married to Sir Thomas Stanley and he gave his name to the house. It became the town house of James Stanley, the 7th Earl of Derby, whose opinions remained openly Royalist after the English Civil War was lost and led to his execution for treason in 1651. From about 1770 the house was entered from a courtyard surrounded by cottages on the other side. It gradually fell into disrepair and was itself converted into cottages.

In 1866 the building nearly went to America but was saved by a Chester historical society for preservation, and it was probably at this time that Louise painted it, giving it the title Stanley Palace or Derby House (she did more than one). For a period in the 19th century the building was indeed known as Derby House, but the earlier name was later reapplied, probably by the preserving body. The house eventually came to Chester Corporation and needed a lot of work in restoration, and its frontage was extended. But enough original parts remain for it to be alleged to be the most haunted house in Chester and there are regular night tours for those who want them.

Go east to Foregate Street and Eastgate Street by clicking here.
Chester (front page)    Northgate    Bridge Street    Lower Bridge Street    Foregate to the Cross    Watergate Street

Some 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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