LOUISE RAYNER IN NORTHERN ENGLAND
As yet we've seen few paintings of the north of England by Louise, suggesting that there were few to start with (perhaps because Louise had few opportunities to explore for subjects), or that many have remained in the hands of the families that bought them. But she did find a wealth of subjects in York itself. Only one of these is dated (for 1879), but that is the date of painting. The actual visit could have been as much as five years before, but we'd guess it was less.
THE BARS AND GATES OF YORK
Since York's geography will not be familiar to everyone, and since most of Louise's paintings that we know of show either York Minster or the bars in the city wall, this sketch map may help a little. The sketch is titled Gates for general understanding, but the wall entrances are bars. 'Gate' is from the Viking 'gata', meaning street, as you will soon note in York's street naming.
YORK - BOOTHAM BAR
|Louise's A View of York shows Bootham Bar, the north-western defensive gate in the city walls. This is the view from outside the wall into the city. Every one of the city's gates is different, though Monkgate and Micklegate Bar look similar until you become familiar with them. This scene was one of Louise's earliest subjects in York, with a painting of Bootham Bar being displayed at the Royal Academy in 1864.
As always, Louise provides mini-scenes of people, animals and transport all engaged in activity - in this case observed by York Minster, whose western-facing twin towers loom high in the left background. The Minster has matching twins at the east end as well, plus a central tower without spires. Some part of the Minster appears in most of Louise's paintings if the view permits it.
In this instance, the Clean Air Acts would also have helped - all those coal-smoking chimneys will be dormant now!
|When we first met the image below, York Small Gate, we could find no locational match and, given its title, thought the scene might be either imaginary or a blend of (possibly) Fishergate Bar with a transported view of York Minster. The reason for making this judgement is that we are looking at an almost 45 degree angle to the Minster - a fair match to the view at Boothham Bar - but as we can see above, the approach is entirely different. Since the Minster has similar towers at the other end, a second possibility was a view from about halfway between Monkbar and Walmgate Bar. In itself that vicinity might be feasible, but unfortunately the terrain, road layout and wall angle simply don't fit the painting, so we thought fictional.|
|This puzzlement didn't detract from the painting itself, and it's a shame we don't have a full-colour image of it. Once again we see formal shops sharing the street with casual stalls. But we were a little surprised by the house on the left, attractive though it is. Assuming construction around the 1500s(?) it would surely not have been allowed to be built against the outer face of the city wall where it could generate a defensive weakness - another reason for thinking that the scene was imaginary.
Then we received the image below, courtesy of Mark and Maridolna. Having a second view of the same scene immediately gave it more credibility. Furthermore, this is a colour image, and it more clearly differentiates the gateway from what lies beyond it - which is obviously Bootham Bar. That means that the painting presents the Bar itself and Boothgate (the road) in an earlier era from our first colour painting. |
Now that we knew what we were looking at, it took little time to discover that Bootham Bar (like Walmgate Bar below) had once had a barbican, a protected approach to the bar itself. In this case, the barbican was partially dismantled in 1815, and the rest dealt with in 1825 or thereabouts - 6 years before Louise was born. The removal of the barbican also allowed new buildings, so some shown in the first colour painting must have been relatively new-built. This means that Louise was not painting the barbican from life, but must have gathered information (possibly from engravings and other paintings of the Bar as it once was), and worked up her own paintings from those sources. And as usual adding her characterful population. We have no title for the painting, but for identification we'll call it Barbican at Bootham Bar, York until someone supplies its real name. Please note: we have corrected some fade, but not got back to the original colouring.
And then there were three. This painting, A View of St. Sampson's Square York, went to auction in November 1998 with the note "signed and dated 'Louise Rayner 1879' (lower right)". The image we have doesn't show the signature - possibly it was tucked into the frame.
We don't often put three such similar images together, but this is an odd one to us. Our first reaction was that it could have been done by Louise - the scene has her busy human and animal activity - but it didn't match her usual style. The people aren't quite the way she normally did people, and the architectural detail has a slightly different feel. In a quite subtle way, her figures are crisper here - and the colours just a little bit flatter (but that might reflect where it has spent the last 130 years).
We know Louise was in York in Autumn 1878, and we've established that she never saw the scene as she has painted it here. So her approach would probably have been to create her own outlines of the current Bar, and overlay these with her interpretation of views she found in older illustrations. But we also know that clients sometimes asked her to paint things in certain ways, and if she had a client for this painting, it is possible he asked her to bend her handiwork to give the particular look that caught our eye.
There is one further problem with this painting: it doesn't show St. Sampson's Square! The Square is on the far side of the Minster, due south of its central tower, as you'll see in the painting of the Black Bull Inn later on this page.
Looking at all three paintings, and especially the buildings close to the bar, it's clear that all of them were based on the same studies and/or source material. Louise did her usual variation of details such as wood decoration and flat or bay windows, but the overall scene rendition is the same. This is probably a product of her never having seen the real thing, and thus having limited knowledge of nearby interesting buildings which - in better-informed circumstances - she might have drafted onto her canvas.
YORK - MONK BAR
Our painting of Monk Bar, right, is A view of York with figures and a horse and wagon and looks from the north-east into the city. This is actually Goodramgate; Monkgate is the approach road and stops just short of the bar. The large arch in the defences is (relatively) modern - the small entrance would have once been the sole access. The cart coming through the arch is the one referred to in the title.
The nearest pavement is now absorbed by the road system that encircles the city walls, but the corner building on the right is still alive and well, and possibly in better condition than when Louise painted it. The building on the left looks to be a survivor, too, though it may have been given more substantial attention.
The foreground activity is a commonplace, but not so commonly depicted. Men to the right are digging deep, presumably to attend to a fractured sewer, gas or watermain, whilst the one at bottom left has a brazier to heat tar or whatever hot poultice was needed for the mending.
|And perhaps the inevitable crowd of onlookers included Jerome K. Jerome, who would later write Three Men in a Boat with its classic observation "I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours."|
The painting was auctioned in 2005 by Charles Ross for a hammer price of £5,600.
| The painting at left is not a Rayner painting, but has been included for historical comparison. Ian Dring kindly sent this image of Monk Bar before its barbican was removed. We don't know the name of the artist, so the image is very loosely dated 1660-1780. Ian says "The men in the picture are wearing clothes from the period: three-cocked hats (which were fashionable because they could be flattened and put under the arm), short cape (cloak) and breeches with swords hanging from their waists." He thinks this could be the oldest image of Monks Gate.|
This painting does wildly exaggerate the turrets on the barbican - one look at the York architectural society's pages will show by how much, though by the date of their image the one on the left had collapsed or been removed for safety.
Given Louise's recreation of other York Bars from the years before she could have seen them, this image does raise the question of whether she recreated a scene showing this Barbican, too. Please check your collections and let us know!
YORK - WALMGATE BAR
Walmgate Bar is York's entrance from the south-east. We have three views of this. The paintings are almost identical in their viewpoint, which suggests that all were created from the same original studies or the subject only made a good picture from this angle. The first is Walmgate Bar York 1888. The forward extension of the wall is a barbican, like those we've referred to above. It's a protected route to the gate proper, but this particular form of defence had only a short-lived popularity and the one here is apparently the last remaining town wall barbican, though they still survive for castles (e.g. Warwick). As we saw with Monk Bar above, a new arch has been cut through the adjacent city wall to allow freer movement of traffic (other cuts through the wall were made to encourage the railway to come into York when it was being built, but the railway opted to have its station outside the wall - and given the way it developed at York, that was probably just as well).
The upper picture has a small carriage drawn by a white horse in the gateway, suggesting nobility or perhaps mere wealth. It might also be more appealing to the kind of people who would buy Louise's paintings. It also has some of the looser style that was becoming popular with the public late in the nineteenth century. Note the window over the barbicon's arch; in the other two versions that we've seen (below) and in reality, it's a shield, not a window.|
Some time after creating this page, the original painting was sent for auction in January 2012 through DuMouchelles of Detroit, USA, and sold for $3730. As we can now see, the larger picture was obviously from a print, and this smaller image shows its real colour.
To the right we see tables in the street - traders out to catch the passing traffic - and at least three businesses in the buildings behind them. Our detail shots show the foreground table and how fashions were getting trimmer. Behind them we see that the archway will allow pedestrians and riders on horseback, but no cart of any size.
One of the shops has a jutting framework. This is to support a blind and belongs to the period before roller blinds arrived (or were too expensive for some businesses). A sheet would be tied over the frame as a shield from either rain or a strong sun, then untied on windy days or when the shop was closing. And some days, you wouldn't bother or feel the need for it. This close-up also makes it clear that even Louise sometimes had to use a straight-edge to get the best result.
The picture below, Walmgate Bar, York is probably more in tune with the commoner traffic.
Finally we have the variant below, also titled Walmgate Bar, York sold by Christies in 1986 for £5200. We see more of the shops on the right, and the left side appears to be a market of some sort - possibly a stock market, though the visible area looks too small. And as noted earlier, Louise is still working from the same viewpoint - possibly the only one that makes the picture work for her.
Incidentally, the Bar has a very imposing front, but the contrast on the inner side might surprise you (and one wonders if Louise ever painted that). Take a peek at this Francis Frith photograph showing the inner wall of Walmgate Bar circa 1885. It also shows that there was a smaller third entrance for pedestrians in addition to the two shown in the painting. This photo shows what the outer wall looks like on the hidden outer face of the barbican, and this makes it all the more likely that Louise felt she had only one satisfying viewpoint for Walmgate Bar.
YORK - MICKLEGATE
Micklegate is the gate facing the south west. Sadly we have no picture of this yet. We're not even sure if Louise painted one - but we would be glad to hear from anyone who knows!
|YORK - MINOR BARS|
|In addition to its main bars, York had minor bars through its walls. Fishergate Bar is one, and Victoria Bar (a 19th century creation) is the other one currently extant. We have no images of these, and at present don't know if Louise ever painted any.|
For a brief historical survey of the walls, go here: Wikipedia: York City Walls
|YORK WITHIN THE WALLS|
Above left: a luminous and characterful picture by Louise Rayner, though some of the figures look dwarfish when compared with the deep kerb. Someone made a dreadful guess and titled it "Oxford", but this is York with the two towers of the west front of the Minster looming in the smoke. There is church masonry to the right of the towers, suggesting that the view is from the south east. We've been told that Low Petergate is the probable viewpoint, and that certainly fits with modern photos, although they also suggest that the Minster's towers don't get the chance to loom like this. That would hardly have worried Louise, though! Her painting would be what she wanted it to portray, which is clearly majesty. Note: the image was very orange when we first got hold of it, so some colour correction has been applied. It's much better here, but may still be slightly off.|
Above right: Foss Gate, York, though the name is now rendered as "Fossgate". This is the extension of Walmgate as it progresses roughly north from Walmgate Bar, with the Minster's central tower up ahead. The Minster's east and west ends thus spread themselves invisibly to left and right behind the buildings of Fossgate, and again the angle on the Minster's tower suggests we're seeing it from south-south-east. As we look along the street on the left side, you can see a smaller church tucked half out of sight. We cannot match this to modern photos, so it may have been demolished. The road just before it is getting more light, so this is likely where the eastern end of Pavement arrives from the left, then crosses Fossgate to become The Stonebow. Beyond the crossing, Fossgate becomes Colliergate. This then suggests that the opening at near left is Lady Pecketts Yard (note that these may be modern names, not the ones used in Louise's time).
Stonegate, York (left) is an attractive scene sent for auction by Bonhams in June 2012. One of its features is the Minster visible beyond the roof-tops - moved by artistic licence from its true position to the one we see, and swung through a considerable angle. Above right is an unfinished study still in family hands that shows how Louise tried to frame the Minster's Rose Window at the end of Stonegate. As Andy King's 1991 photo shows, this is its actual position but hemmed in and obstructed by Stonegate's shops. The photo shows the corner where Higher Petergate goes off to the left, and the last section straight ahead becomes Minster Gates. The little Britannia-like statue above head height on the corner is actually Minerva.
Of the study, Andy says "It is quite large at 16" x 10 1/4" (406mm x 260mm) and I think the detail she has gone to with the Rose Window, the rest of the transcept masonry, and the right hand building with the unusual gable window, indicate this was intended to be for exhibition. However Louise obviously wasn't happy with the composition of the left hand side, and seems to have wanted to include not only a rather more prominent Minster tower, but also the interesting buildings in the left foreground. She has carefully drawn the main face of the red brick Georgian building to the left, but left out the glass shop front return (which may have been erased behind the re-arranged foreground buildings). And she erased the building at the corner of High Petergate presumably because it is rather out of scale and obscured the view of the Minster.
Once the architecture was complete, Louise would have gone on to add the figures (roughing them out in soft pencil, and then using bodycolour) from sketches either on the spot or from her records. But erasing the building at the corner of Petergate had also taken away the location of the 'Minerva' statue and Louise may then have been at a loss to convincingly reinstate it. At this stage she may have felt she had gone too far with her changes and decided to abandon the study.
If this is how things happened, it is likely that Richard said that he would like to keep it, as the study was included with his paintings, yet was clearly created by Louise. It could date from the 1878 visit when they were staying in York."
Another view inside the walls, with an enlarged section showing the crowd detail. The critic's remarks (see biography) about her streets teeming with life are very true. This is one of the quieter ones! Though shopping is going on, it looks as though the initial bustle has passed - or has not yet gathered speed.
The scene is near the centre of York and we are looking westwards along Pavement past the horse and cart to a crossroads. At the crossroads, Piccadilly goes to the left and Parliament Street (invisible here) goes to the right. High Ousegate is the road running along the right of the church while Coppergate runs along its left. The church is All Saints Pavement (there are two All Saints churches in York), and according to its web page the distinctive octagonal lantern tower was built to house a lamp to act as a beacon for travellers in the Forest of Galtres to the north of the city. We don't know when the church was built, but its contents include some from the 14th century. It's hardly surprising that Louise would look for an opportunity to include such an attractive church in one of her paintings. Figures was auctioned in July 2003 by Lawrences.
For several months we couldn't identify this painting sent by Jean Carroll until former York denizen John Pattison kindly did it for us. It shows Market Street leading from Parliament Street to the Jubbergate and Little Shambles. The church is probably Holy Trinity, also known as Christ Church and was demolished in 1937. The building facing us has a pantile roof. Pantiles used to come into this country as ballast aboard ships collecting British products. At first this had us believing that the building was in the Southeast or up the East Coast - or just possibly Chester.
Pantiles were fragile for horse-drawn transport and we thought that York was out of reach but forgot the Ouse and Humber rivers. At least two other paintings by Louise show York buildings with pantiles and this one still exists today. All the chimneys behind it have been demolished, but it was their distinctive pattern that confirmed the location when compared with an old photograph. We also thought the church design was distinctive but in fact it's widespread - with a match in Chester, Louise's normal domicile. In the painting, Louise has adjusted the church's position to give it more prominence.
The foreground is obviously an open market, and initially we thought the arch at left led to another section of it, but
|it's a roofed vehicle entrance to a business of some kind. By 1910 its arch had been replaced by a flat lintel. During the 1880s, number 9, the left half of the building facing us, was used by Wells, a "Broker" selling domestic goods, but Louise's painting shows something like clothing and this may be just before Wells took over (or perhaps was artistic licence to make it more colourful). At some point towards the end of the century, the shop became Webster's - who were soon successful enough selling trunks and domestic metalware to move to larger premises just off the canvas at this side of the arch. We cannot be sure, but the title of the painting is probably High Jubbergate, York, 1882.|
Black Bull Inn was in St Sampson's Square York, and we can see the Minster's central tower looming behind it from just a few streets due north. The Hand & Heart Inn, next to the Black Bull Inn, existed separately until it surrendered its licence in 1903 and the Black Bull Inn then took it over and extended into it. There is no longer a Black Bull Inn at this location, though there is one elsewhere, but we don't know if they are related. As with one of the Walmgate pictures above, Louise's painting here lacks detail and delicacy, and was either dashed off quickly or deliberately toned to down to match a different public taste. Our thanks to Sue Thie for forwarding the image, and to Mark Edwin Arstall for identifying the actual location.
|This is Selby Market Place, with the Abbey beyond it. Selby has had a market since around 1300, and its market cross dates from 1790. It was originally placed as we see it in Louise's painting, then moved to the park, then back almost to its original location, but adjusted to leave more road space.|
Selby Abbey is the only Benedictine Abbey in Yorkshire and has existed for almost 1000 years - initially smaller and growing over time, then suffering a rollercoaster of good times and bad. This was not helped by being founded on sand which led to collapses largely through financial difficulties and neglect. Louise's painting shows the west face of the Abbey in (probably) the 1870s-1880s, before its most recent crisis - a disastrous fire in 1906. From this the Abbey rose again with remarkable speed through substantial public donations. Her depiction is still essentially correct today except that the two square towers flanking the west entrance had an additional level added to each after the fire - a little narrower than the storeys below and somewhat higher than the peaked roof between them, but otherwise conforming to the Abbey's general style.
We believe that the painting is slightly deeper and wider than shown here, or that Louise painted more than one version, for we half-recall seeing another image of the same painting where people in the foreground had feet(!), and more of the shops on the left were visible.
Above: Durham Cathedral from Framwellgate Bridge, auctioned by Bonhams in May 2009. The bridge was built in 1120 (i.e. nearly 900 years ago) and only ceased to carry vehicular traffic in the 1970s when the Millburngate bridge was built. The name "Framwell" stems from the Fram Well on the north east side of the river. The town side of the bridge (at left in the painting) is Silver Street, part of the mediaeval section of the city's shopping area, leading steeply and narrowly up to the market square (which is why the building of the new bridge was such a relief). The Silver Street end of the bridge was once defended by a guard tower with a gate through it, but this has gone, and is not evident in the painting either.
The background of the view is dominated, of course, by Durham Cathedral. This was a direct product of William the Conqueror's successful invasion of England in 1066, and his intention to hold on to what he had taken. His first appointee at Durham with extensive political and ecclesiastical powers was weak and eventually murdered, but the second, William St Carileph, was far more effective and designed a large part of the present cathedral. He died before it was finished in 1135 (42 years after starting construction) but was very much the power behind it. And this makes the bridge and the cathedral almost exact contemporaries.
At present, these are all the images of Northern England that have come to our hands. Other paintings we know of but haven't seen are listed below. Some will be minor variants of those on this page, but even these can often clarify points, and we would still be interested in seeing them if you can send us an image:
Bootham, York and A View of Bootham Bar, York
Monk Bar Gate, York and Walmgate Bar, York
The Pavement, York and Traitors Gate, York Minster
Selby Abbey and Market Place [Selby]
Market Place, Beverley, Yorkshire and any others not listed but you may know of.
|Dudley Mall pages about Louise:|
|Louise Rayner||- the main biography and a list of her earlier paintings|
|Louise at Chester||- where Louise made her home and did some of her best work.|
|Louise at Dudley||- front page introduction|
|Louise at Flint||- the images for Henry Taylor's book.|
|Louise in Northern England||- York... Selby... and hopefully more|
|Louise in Eastern England||- Lincoln... Derby... Cambridge|
|Louise in London and the South East||- London... Tunbridge Wells... Hastings|
|Louise in Wales and the west Midlands||- Conway... Ludlow... Gloucester|
|Louise in the South and South West||- Oxford... Chippenham... Salisbury|
|Louise in Scotland||- Edinburgh|
|Louise in Southern Scotland||- Roslin (we have no other Scottish paintings at present)|
|Louise Abroad||- Rheims... Venice... and possibly Bruges|
|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 thus inevitable that there will be errors, though we naturally correct these when we can.
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 are also very welcome. Thank you!