Above, a superb view of Conway, showing both the castle and
Aberconwy House (right), which was originally a 14th Century merchant's house. We don't have a confirmed date for
the painting, but one of her trips took Louise into the area circa 1868, and the family still has some of the
sketches she made.
Chris Green kindly provided our main image of Conway Castle in response to this site's previously
expressed concerns about a picture drawn to our attention some time ago (see below). Chris
says he bought his version at Sotheby's in 1983 for £3200 and was very much taken with Louise's style and artistic
confidence. That same year he took his family on holiday to North Wales, intending to visit Conway to discover
whether anything existed of the original scene depicted in the painting. To his surprise and delight, as he drove
towards the castle he found himself making the approach portrayed in the picture. Furthermore Aberconwy House still
exists today in the care of the National Trust, and is the only medieval house to have survived the town's turbulent
Chris approached the Trust and found that the house had undergone renovation work only a short time previously and
they had been trying to discover what the outside of the house had originally looked like. Then he showed them a
photograph of his painting... With Chris's generous permission, the painting now appears on postcards, mugs, etc.,
to assist the Trust in their valuable work.
What makes the top painting
especially interesting is that some time ago, Joe White sent us an image of a roughly finished but appealing painting
of Conway (here on the right). Sotheby's, the modern Rayner family, and our own untutored analysis all agreed that it
wasn't by her, despite carrying her signature (under the sitting boys on the right), and having the same detail and air
of bustle that characterised so many of her paintings. There is a possibilty that it was a study by Louise, but the
prevailing opinion is still that it was someone else copying her work to learn her technique. If it was Louise, it was
on a different visit, for the trees around the castle have changed considerably from the image Chris Green supplied,
and Aberconwy House is in a different condition, too. But we'll probably never know for certain. [Note: the image was
soft-focus and digitally sharpening it has inevitably altered its texture; we also reduced a blue cast that may have
arisen during photography.]|
Below, two closeups from Joe White's picture, concentrating on Conwy House. Whether
they are by Louise or not, they still have historical value, of course.
Left: a monochrome reproduction of Old Conway offered at auction at
£800-£1000 by Sotheby's on 14 July 1988. Many of Louise's paintings were small,
but this one is only 4.75 x 2.5 inches (12 x 6.5cm) - just slightly bigger than it is here. On this occasion it didn't
sell, though a pair of Margaret's paintings in the same auction went for 10 times the estimated price.
During the 1860s and 1870s, Louise travelled widely in search of subjects for her art, sometimes with
Margaret, sometimes with Richard, and occasionally the three
together. The Rayner family still has several sketches and other survivals from the 1868 trip, and among these is
the painting below of Conway Quay, with the castle keeping watch in the distance. Although
it isn't signed, it is believed to be by Louise, and is a gentle contrast to her busy streets.
Out of chronology, but in keepuing with geography, we note here that in 1882 Louise provided four illustrations for
Henry Taylor's 1883 book Historic Notices... descriptive of the Borough and County-Town of Flint.
To follow up on these, click Louise at Flint as we gave them a separate page.
|By 1868 Louise was also taking commissions for work in Chester, of course, and is known to have been
living there in 1865, prior to taking up more permanent lodgings. As Chester forms a major part of her life and output,
we have separate pages on it - see Louise Rayner in Chester - but we can include a
sketch from her early days here.|
The sketch shows Chester Bridge Street largely as it was when Louise first moved there in 1865. It was possibly
(Louise's Catholic Apostolic faith permitting) made on a Sunday as the shops are bereft of the blinds that characterised them
on weekdays. It also reminds us that when the family made initial sketches, they were working tools, with the words
from a subject (signs, etc.) interspersed with reminder notes of colours, textures and other features (compare
Richard Rayner's extensive Dudley notes).
Below, we show close-ups of a couple of areas.
Far left, we see slate written on the roof, and at near left the reminder
black appears on the lower wall. The gentleman in the stovepipe hat just missed obliteration by a rain(?)
splash beside him.|
The sketch also has faint ruled lines, possibly to help Louise get proper perspective for the street.
Above, Michael Barnes kindly sent us a photo of this slightly bluish print (title not known) of Mount Street Wrexham, full of bustle and
with St. Giles Church filling the skyline. The date could be 1852 or 1882; 1852 might fit with Louise's early excursions into
Wales, but we think that the later date is much more likely. An interesting conflict between this painting and the one below is the pattern of the shop windows
on the right of the street near the corner. These could make this painting the later one if they were not just Louise's fancy. Finally, we think that the print
may be a cut-down version of the scene that Louise originally painted. We don't have a title for this painting.
Street View, Wrexham below is believed to be dated 1898 or just earlier,
and it displays the softer look that Louise often adopted in that period. The style of presentation makes it almost certain
that this was a clipping from The Queen magazine at about that time. We are looking along Mount Street towards the east
end of St Giles Church. The street name is the current one, but may not be the one used in Louise's time. Its appearance has
certainly changed drastically since then, though the alignment is much the same. We believe there is at least one more earlier
painting of Wrexham by Louise, but we haven't seen it yet.
Shrewsbury's old town sits on a defensible hill with the River Severn surrounding it like a bag, and with Shrewsbury Castle in the neck and within running distance. Over 2500 listed buildings still exist today, including some shown here. So Louise would have found it a fruitful location for her artistic endeavours, but so far we only know of three paintings..
Left is Fish Street, Shrewsbury, looking south-south-east. In addition to the plentiful activity we see at street level, Louise has also shown a wealth of bird life up on the roofs. In the distance, two churches vie for attention. The spire is St. Alkmond's Church, and the more prominent church is St. Julian's. We have no date for this picture, and no local history knowledge of the scene to assist us (informed comment would be welcome), but at a guess we'd say late 1860s or into the 1870s. It was auctioned by Bonhams in March 2008 with a presale estimate of £8,000-12,000.
Below is Old Houses, Shrewsbury - wonderfully decrepit if you didn't live in them. The location is unknown but the business beyond the covered wagon is Bagnalls.
|At right is Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury. From the position of St. Alkmond's Church spire we're in the upper part of Wyle Cop heading north west towards High Street - but if you're not a local, there isn't enough evidence to say exactly where. Somewhere off to the right - possibly just before Wyle Cop itself bends right in the painting - is the entrance to Fish Street, close to St. Julian's Church noted earlier.
The painting was auctioned in 2005 by Bonhams.
Above: Dudley Market Place, 1870, looking from the Market Place down Castle Street. The street off to the right was Hall Street (now regenerated as the entrance to the Churchill Precinct). The distant church is sometimes referred to as "bottom church", though it stands at the head of another steep slope. There is a corresponding "top church" a short distance up High Street behind our viewpoint. Bottom church took damage during the English Civil War in the 1640s when the castle (left of the church on the skyline) was being beseiged and soldiers sheltered in or beside the church. The castle was founded after the Norman invasion, and it or its denizens had a history of being on the wrong side of military and political arguments forever after. The castle paid for this one as well. The painting was bought on behalf of Dudley and is in the Art Gallery collection. Prints used to be available, but seemingly not now.
A second painting, showing High Street, Dudley, including top church, is in the collection of the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead. The paintings we know are both dated 1870, but they are probably based on studies made in 1865 when Louise and her younger brother Richard visited the area on one of their subject-seeking art expeditions.
About the time that Louise was in Dudley
with Richard, she also visited Ludlow. Given the castle comment below, they probably came together.
Above left, this view of Ludlow is believed to be entitled Narrows with the
Butter Cross beyond [c.1865], showing the Buttercross from its left side. The painting was offered for
sale in 2002 by Haynes of Broadway but
was at that time mistitled "Chester". Above right, Ludlow Castle Keep. We first displayed a painting very similar to this, but noted the lack of people - a rarity for Louise - and suggested the painting was more like one by her brother Richard. Well, that's exactly what it was, and it now appears on his page. This is Louise's painting of the same view - but with people! Note that the picture had a bad flash reflection towards the right side. This has been digitally repaired - but without the original for guidance, so a variation is inevitable.
Alongside at right, is The Street Urchins. Although the location is not given, the building beyond the far end of the alley strongly resembles the Buttercross at Ludlow. Checking a map shows that this could be a view along Harp Lane, with the market stalls behind us. We have no date for the painting, but it could be another product of the 1865 visit.
Below: two more Ludlow scenes from c.1865 were provided to us courtesy of Shropshire
Museums. Both views are available from the museum as prints.
Lower left: The Buttercross from the front, showing the top of Broad Street as well - compare the clock with the picture above.
Lower right: Market Square. This view is towards the right side of the Buttercross, although the
market buildings hide it.
|Ludlow (right) is another take on the Market Square by Louise. The
picture colours are a bit calmer, and the sky a bit wilder but otherwise the general scene seems little changed.
We don't have a date for this but the tree at the left of the picture is a little smaller, so this might be just a
few years earlier than 1865.
The picture is available as a print from My Art Prints.
|This image of The Butter Market at Ludlow was kindly supplied by Louis Taylor Fine Art Auctioneers who must have been ecstatic in December 2009 when they sold it for £37,000 - making it the record price for a Louise Rayner painting. We have moved further eastwards from the views above, taking the right-hand street past the market buildings. Beside us on the left are a heavily decorated house being slightly overwhelmed by its bigger neighbour, and just beyond them is the Butter Market (more commonly referred to as the Buttercross). Straight ahead is this road's junction with the top of Broad Street and another ornately patterned Tudor-style building, The stepped-out building on the corner was probably oak frames filled with wattle and daub in an early part of its life, then plastered completely to modernise its looks and reduce the effort of maintenance (but local historians may know better!). We don't have a date for the scene, but we'd put it with others here, in the 1860s.|
By the time she painted this, Louise was obviously getting the hang of painting people(!) and really let herself go. There are more than 60 people in the foreground alone, and plenty more inside the Buttercross, in the distance, and even one or two at windows. So many, in fact, that it is almost as if she were challenging herself to see how many she could reasonably fit in. Or perhaps her brother Richard (not usually a crowd painter) was with her and challenged her as a joke! It is quite possible that he was with her, because this painting may stem from their 1865 artistic foray, but the sheer mass of figures may be evidence of a rather later time. It's certainly from when she could still comfortably do detailed work. Street lights hang out from either side of the Buttercross, but the one on the mainstreet side could easily have been lost against its similar-coloured background and simply hinted at. Instead, it holds up very convincingly to close examination.|
We don't have a proper title for the painting, so we're just calling it Ludlow Buttercross, East Side until some kind soul tells us what it should be ("Market Day" will be ignored!).
|As we view the painting above, we are conscious that a road (King Street) runs straight towards us. This continues a short distance behind us to a crossroads, splitting around a small island of buildings as it gets there and our next painting is at that crossroads. King Street's approach is hidden but it runs left to right across the foreground of the painting, in front of the building, as we see, but also behind it. Straight ahead of us is a downward sloping road called the Bull Ring, which passes the well-known Tudor-period Feathers Hotel that still exists today. Louise apparently stayed at the Feathers Hotel in 1865, and it is thought that this picture is a product of that visit. This would tie in with the visit with her brother to Dudley in that year.|
The painting is titled View of Tolsey House, Bull Ring, Ludlow, and was kindly sent to us by its owner Gillian Richards, prior to it going to auction at Bonham's in November 2013. This busy scene, with people in groups working or talking or playing, shows the crossroads with Tolsey House (or just "The Tolsey"), the 15th century-built former court house, sited on the island by the top corner of the Bull Ring. If it was a court house, it's easy to imagine how readily the wretched and the ne'er-do-wells would have adjusted its common name. But further information passed on from Gillian advises us that the courthouse was once open on the ground floor, and one of the courts held here was Pye Powder (corrupted from the French "pieds poudres"), where market disputes were heard whilst "the dust was on the feet". Acts and charters of Edward VI governed the taking of tolls on market goods, and the court of Pye Powder acted for the summary justice of market offences such as dishonest trading and restrictive practices.|
A shortened image of the same painting was previously displayed here with the title View of the Tolsey House, Bull Ring, Ludlow, with animated street scene. We're not sure which title is the auction world's official one.
In her helpfully(!) enigmatic way, Louise titled this "A Street Scene", one of her handful of frequently re-used titles.
We only had a tentative identification of the location as Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, but Darren Mitchell kindly wrote to confirm this, saying it shows Tolsey Lane, looking out to the High Street. The building at left currently houses a funeral directors and a florist shop. The building with the overhang on the right is called Cross House (presumably from the road junction) and is now a dental surgery.
The Tudor building on the left sports a rather nice barley twist chimney; and the sun sign at right suggests an inn or perhaps Sun Insurance (one of the earliest insurance companies).
If you know more about the streets and buildings shown, e.g. previous users of the buildings or things like "that building was gone by 1880 or heavily rebuilt", do please email us at email@example.com, as we'd welcome those details, too. Thank you!
|The painting went to Sotheby for auction in 2005, anticipating £4,000-£6,000, but we don't know the outcome.
|From Roman times or even earlier, Westgate Street was the most important street in Gloucester, being on major trading routes of the time. In mediaeval times the street had a middle row of buildings as with Ludlow and Dudley, but these are long gone, leaving a wider street in their place. To the left of Louise's picture (just titled Gloucester, as far as we know, and looking towards the north-west) is St. Nicholas's Church. The step in its spire is a legacy from the English Civil War, when Gloucester was besieged by the Royalists in 1643, and their artillery scored a direct hit on what was once a 200 foot high spire. In Louise's nineteenth century view, pavements have arrived, but not street lighting. There are one or two hints of large skirts, but usually on large women, so these give no pointers to period, so we'd suggest the 1870s until someone can confirm or correct us. A lot of old building still survive in the street today, but fresh modern frontages have disguised them a little too well for them to match the charm of Louise's painting.
Finally, we know that Louise did a painting of Mount Street, and of St. Giles Church, Wrexham, North Wales;
at least one more view of Tewkesbury (one was on sale in 2005); and surely more of Gloucester. But we'll have to wait for someone to send us images before we can include them here.
NOTE: This page is directly continued by Louise in the South and West (here).
|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.