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SAMUEL RAYNER (1806 - 1879)

Knole Castle interior Samuel's carte de visite 1865

Closeup of Sam's signature Close-up of Sam's initials and date from bottom right of the painting.

The main picture shows Interior of Knole Castle, Kent, dated 1858, and this painting is also signed and titled on the original label on the reverse side. The picture appeared on the Collins Antiques auction web site in 2002. Top right: Samuel Rayner in his carte de visite of 1865 (age 59).

Samuel Rayner was born at Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire (where some of the Rayner family live even today) on the 15th April 1806. Known as Sam, he was the third of five children in a large and patriarchal family of Cornchandlers and Farmers of the Baptist faith. Circa 1812, his parents (Samuel, born circa 1781, and Margaret (nee Wiggins)) moved to London and ran an ironmongery business at 7 Blandford Street, Portman Square, Marylebone.

Samuel's father died at the age of 36 in late May, 1817, and was buried at Colnbrook Baptist Chapel. Samuel was eleven at this time, and it appears that his wealthy grandfather Thomas (who died the next year) may have encouraged him to paint. Thomas is thought to be the artist Thomas Rayner, who flourished in the 1770s, and he clearly saw genuine potential in his grandson, for Samuel developed sufficiently as a watercolour artist for his painting of Malmsbury Abbey to be accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1821, when he was 15 years old. At that time his address was still 7 Blandford Street. (His mother remained there for the rest of her life and may have continued to run the business with the help of her other children until her death, when she, too, was buried at Colnbrook).

Samuel exhibited a second painting of Malmsbury Abbey (West Front) at the Royal Academy in 1822, and at some point around this time, Samuel took training in Architectural draughtsmanship with John Britton. Over the next few years he travelled on sketching expeditions with other artists, taking details of buildings and monuments.

Early landscape

One of his early landscapes (location and title unknown).

He specialised in topographical subjects in sepia wash, and architectural and historical subjects in watercolour. His titles exhibited at the Royal Academy were mostly English cathedrals and abbeys, and indeed the majority of his paintings were of church abbeys, ruins, castles and old mansions, but often interior rather than exterior views.

It was commonly noted (see below) that his style closely resembled that of George Cattermole - which wasn't surprising, since George Cattermole and George's brother Richard were involved in producing drawings for John Britton's Cathedral Antiquities of England, and Samuel had five of his own drawings engraved for inclusion, so the three could well have worked together at a time when Samuel's own style was still evolving. Given that George and Samuel became great friends, this is probably when that friendship was formed. [John Britton was an antiquary of considerable note, involved in many substantial literary projects which cost lavish sums of money to produce, but while Cathedral Antiquities ran to 14 high-quality volumes (between 1814-1835), it was definitely not a financial success.]

Visiting (and showing paintings in) the London art galleries was probably the way Samuel met Ann Manser, the daughter of William Manser (a successful London publisher) and a promising artist herself. Although they enjoyed each other's company, Ann's father seems to have been far less pleased with their mutual regard, and it is thought that they eloped to get married (on 2 October 1823, according to family records) before he could prevent it.

Afterwards, they returned home to take up residence at 11 Blandford Street, just a few doors from Samuel's mother's business. Their first son, William, was born in 1824 but died young (perhaps in childbirth). When their first daughter, Nancy, followed in 1826, she was always referred to as the eldest.
Herstmonceux castle's moat entrance
Two of his paintings from that period were Salisbury Cathedral and Wells Cathedral, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1824 and 1826 respectively.

They both continued to paint and at this point Samuel's mythical initial 'A.' came into being. Samuel and Ann both exhibited work at the Royal Academy in 1827, and the R.A.'s records show two paintings of the Interior of Westminster Abbey by S.A. Rayner. This almost certainly should have read 'S. and A. Rayner' - but Samuel's name has been wrongly rendered ever since.

The years 1827 and 1828 were eventful. At the age of 21 Samuel inherited his share of his Grandfather's estate, and also received a "VERY handsome order" from the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth. This prompted the family to move to Derbyshire where they lived in what was then a fairly new terrace at Museum Parade (now South Parade) in Matlock Bath (close to the administrative county town). Even so, they envisaged the need to keep a foot in London, and retained their house at 11 Blandford Street. Shortly after the move, Nancy gained her first sister, Rhoda (known as Rose), born in 1828.

Above right: Samuel's view of Herstmonceux castle's moated entrance.

Museum Parade from A. Jewitt's Matlock Companion, 1832, compared with its appearance (as South Parade) in Andy King's photo of 2002. The building with the extended entranceway and bay window above was Mawe's Museum, while the extended entrance next door was to Vallance's Royal Centre Museum. 170 years on, the buildings are little changed.
Museum Parade 1832

Ground floor frontages have given way to shops, but above them, the old buildings remain almost intact. Of course, the traffic's got worse (and the weather little better!) but Matlock Bath's life as a tourist centre has done much to preserve things. How else would that hotel sign support have survived?
South Parade 2002

In Museum Parade, Samuel set up a lithographic printing and publishing business in partnership with John Vallence, but he continued painting and had a large painting of Rouen Cathedral hung at the R.A. in 1828 (after a possible visit in 1827). When not working for the Duke, Samuel was busy sketching views of the locality in order to complete his first book Rayners Sketches of Derbyshire Scenery Part 1, containing 6 plates lithographed by his friend J. D. Harding of Portman Square (a leading artist & lithographer) Published by S. Rayner, Museum Parade, 1st August 1830. And, being conveniently close to Haddon Hall, he painted it on several occasions and encouraged his artistic offspring to do the same. (You'll find a separate page on their joint endeavours here.)

In 1833 the whole family moved back to London to live at No 6 Dufour Place, Broad Street, St James, Piccadilly, where their fourth daughter Frances was born in 1834. Why they moved back isn't quite clear, nor why they didn't return to Blandford Street. However, the original address might have been held on a lease that couldn't be broken, or was even disposed of by then. But a possible reason for return might have been that Samuel's mother's health had declined, for she died a short while later, on 15th March 1834 at the age of 50.

Samuel's lithographic printing interests, and Ann's talent at engraving on Black Marble may have then prompted the return to Derbyshire - this time to 17 Friar Gate, Derby in 1836. Derbyshire spar and local and imported marbles were available there (as they had been at Matlock Bath) from the quarries, and Samuel and Robert Moseley formed a partnership in a lithographic printing and publishing business at 17 Friar Gate and at The Corn Market in Derby.

Baron's Chapel, Haddenham Hall

This is The Baron's Chapel at Haddon Hall, a favourite Rayner subject, with versions by Samuel, Margaret, Louise and Frances. The chapel appears in Samuel's 1836 illustrated book about Haddon, and is the subject of one of his last paintings exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, Autumn Exhibition 1875. This was a popular painting with Samuel's clients, and there will be numerous examples in the market today, but most tend to be more upright than this landscape view sent to us by a private collector.

In 1838, Samuel did engravings for Henry Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle under Lyne, sending him a receipt (that still survives) on 9th January 1839 for the sum of £11.12s.0d paid for them, the money being drawn on Coutts Bank.

St Johns Church, Derby

Samuel's engraving of St. John's Church, Derby. (The original is bigger and the railings don't create quite as black a line as they do here.)

In February 1845, Samuel was elected as an Associate of the Old Water Colour Society, and J. L. Roget's History of the Old Water Colour Society (published 1891) has this to say:

The third Associate elected on the 10th of February, 1845, was a draftsman of architectural subjects, by name SAMUEL RAYNER. He exhibited twenty-nine drawings in the gallery in the six years 1845 to 1850. Among them were about nine of abbeys and picturesque buildings in Scotland and the north of England, besides six of Haddon Hall, four in the Midlands (at Kenilworth and Lichfield), one of Salisbury, and two of Knole; and four foreign subjects, two from Caen and one of Heidelberg.

His studies were cleverly handled and agreeable in colour, but obviously based on the manner of George Cattermole, whose works they sometimes resemble so closely that they may easily be mistaken for his. Rayner was not, however, a direct pupil of that artist. He also did some work for the engravers. In Britton’s Cathedral Antiquities, there are two plates after his drawings in the illustrations of Wells (1824), and in the Exeter (1826) three more, besides one drawn by Cotman after a sketch by S. Rayner. In S.C. Hall’s Baronial Halls &c. Of England, vol. 1, is one lithotint (of ‘Retainer’s Gallery, Knole’) after S. Rayner. [from vol. 2, p299]

Barons Chapel Window   Clergy in a cathedral

Above left: paintings of the Baron's Chapel were hardly rare, but this segment of a picture kindly supplied by Ted Hodgetts of Ontario, Canada, is unusual in picking up the glass imagery and also looking through to the building beyond.
Above right: Clergy in a cathedral interior, probably 1867, was put on auction by Waddington's in Toronto, Canada for an estimated figure of $500-700 (Canadian) in June 2004.

In 1846 Samuel's uncle, Joseph Rayner, died and included this in his will: "I give and bequeath to the children of my late brother Samuel Rayner two hundred pounds stock in the new three and a half per cent to be equally divided between them." Assuming his four siblings were still alive, nephew Samuel would have received £40 of this. At this stage, we don't know much about his finances, though there is a suggestion in a letter that Ann wrote in 1848 that they could have been struggling somewhat - in which case Samuel's share (given its value in those days) would have been very welcome.
Whatever his circumstances, Samuel seems to have had a wide circle of friends and was well liked. Some of them (naturally) were artists, and gave occasional art teaching to Samuel's children, though they never received formal lessons. Even so, the girls were doing well, and in February 1850, his eldest daughter Nancy was herself elected an associate of the Old Water Colour Society. But the following year, things went wrong for Samuel when his father-in-law was charged with fraud and Samuel was implicated. The case was reported in the Times newspaper and is analysed here.

As Roget again reports: At a meeting of the Society held on the 10th of February, 1851, for the election of candidates, after the ‘attention of the Society’ had been ‘called to his case,’ it was unanimously resolved ‘that Mr. Rayner’s name be erased from the list of Associates.’

The date of Rayner’s birth has not been ascertained, but he cannot have been a very young man at the time of his election. Probably he is the same artist to whom, under the name ‘Samuel A. Rayner,’ Graves attributes twenty works at the Royal Academy, four at the British Institution, and nineteen at Suffolk Street [London] between 1821 and 1872. There was a drawing by S. Rayner at the Dudley Gallery in 1865 and another in 1871. No less than five daughters of the ex- Associate followed his profession, and one joined our society.
[vol. 2, p300]

From time to time Samuel took commissions to paint the interiors of people's houses. We don't have a date for this, but it's called Interior of a bedroom Interior of a bedroom
This one (also with no known date) is called Interior of a drawing room in a town house. It's possible that it's the same house as above. Interior of a drawing room in a town house
In December 1994 French auction house Libert & Castor sold this one as "Couple assis jouant aux échecs dans un interieur", which readily translates into Couple sitting playing chess in an interior. Couple sitting playing chess...

The Oratory    Left, The Oratory, Naworth Castle, Cumberland, auctioned by Cheffins in 2007 with a target price of £800-£1200. We're not sure if the location is truly part of the title, but if so, the county should be Cumberland. If not, its post-1974 reincarnation is "Cumbria", and Naworth Castle is about 12 miles east of Carlisle. The painting is dated 1857.

The photo doesn't quite do justice to Samuel's detail work in the painting, and if we were to go looking for favourites, this painting would be among ours for that reason.

A quite similar painting A monk's study extends leftwards to show a fireplace and has a somewhat different standing figure at right, but the seated figure is the same.

Andy King says he went to Naworth Castle many years ago but never got to see the room shown in the painting. He got the feeling this might be one of Samuel's part fantasy, part factual paintings as there are slightly different versions of the same theme.
Monks reading    Monks Reading is among the last scenes painted by Samuel - in 1878, just a year before his death. It's obviously based on his sketches for the painting above, this time giving the broader view of the room - and he completely changes the window! A thin, long diagonal object like a staff, sword, or the cane here was a common feature of his paintings.

The window area was borrowed by his daughter Margaret for the 3D image you can see on her page.
Samuel exhibited quite a few paintings of Naworth (popular after Walter Scott's Belted Will, etc.) - interiors and exteriors - and one painting The interior of a monastery, very similar in composition to the above, was purchased by Prince Albert and is believed to still be in the Royal Collection at Osbourne House. It is in landscape format and shows a seated monk reading, and a standing monk carrying old books by a flat topped open window and with a large fireplace to the left, the rest of the scene being very similar, with the same chest to the right. It is believed that Osbourne House still has Samuel's The fallen tower of Heidelberg as well.

The Armourer

In the Armoury

Denise Speake sent us this image (above left) of The Armourer at the beginning of December 2007. Unfortunately, a virus wiped out the email information we had at the time, but we know it was a white knight variation of a very similar picture In the Armoury that was produced in 1858 and sold anonymously in 1980 at Sothebys, Belgravia. This second image was probably colour - it just lost a lot of tone when photocopied in 1980. The text area copied very variably, producing the very patchy look you see after the text was pulled tightly together to save space here - it all came from the same page! While it might be assumed that Samuel created both paintings at much the same time, his steady output of very similar paintings of the Baron's Chapel at Haddon Hall makes that an unsafe assumption, so we cannot date the coloured image here.

You might call this a companion picture. It's The Armourer's Assistant which Rago (New Jersey) auctioned in August 2009. We don't know the outcome.

It might be from the same period as the two above, but it has a richer, less drawn look to it. The grimy look is hopefully just a severe reflection problem.
The Armourer's Assistant

CryptKingston Church, signed with Samuel's monogram and dated '64. The painting contains minute cryptic messages in Latin and the whole thing is probably a fanciful reworking of an earlier illustration. It is the kind of thing that both Samuel and his friend George Cattermole had been producing for Dickens during the 1840s.

His disgrace must clearly have influenced his situation, and from that time on - another 23 years - Samuel exhibited his works mostly in the provinces. We also know that he lived at a series of addresses in the late 1850's to mid 1860's, including a period in Brighton and nearby Hove. These included 15 Berner's Street, London; 48 Western Road, Hove; 37 Montpelier Street, Brighton; 4 Clifton Terrace, Brighton; 24 Soho Square, London; and 8 Alma Terrace, Allen Street, Kensington (London). Interestingly, his disgrace doesn't seem to have reflected on his daughters' careers as they became more active, though they never escaped the separate and severe disadvantage of being women in a strictly male-controlled profession. But it must have given Samuel some pleasure to see their success, especially in the 1860s.

White Horse Yard

This painting went to auction at Sotheby's in 2002, and shows White Horse Yard, Edinburgh. It's an 1870s painting, making it one of his last, but the exact year cannot be safely deciphered. His daughter Margaret also painted this scene with some striking differences, and the two paintings are compared on Margaret's page

artist & spectator in ruin Artist & Spectator in Ruin was auctioned by Bruck (North Carolina) in autumn 2006. The painting has Samuel's SR monogram deep in the grass along the bottom edge, with the date July 1876. One of Samuel's beloved tombs lies among the bushes to the right, but the central focus is, of course, the two figures. Although they are not identified, it would be easy to suppose they might be Samuel looking over the shoulder of his son Richard as the latter worked on his own creation. The location is thought to be Lindisfarne Abbey.

Samuel was also proud of his son, of course, and in this case we have proof in Samuel's own hand. A recently-surfaced letter has Samuel writing from 38 Pembroke Square in October 1867 to Mr. Moseley[?], apparently an art dealer, asking after the sale of his own works: "May I enquire if you have had any luck with my drawings and if you are disposed to be tempted again. I know you will not mind my asking the question.... In the course of a few days I could offer you something that would be attractive to travelers in your district...." Then introducing the work of his son Richard, thus: "From some of the very clever drawings my Son has made during the last summer I have selected eight, and have advised him to place them at low prices and submit them for your inspection.... I am desirous that his talent may be known to you -- that you may have an opportunity of introducing his works to the notice of others who might feel an interest in putting out a helping hand to a young artist of great promise...."

In late years Samuel did several paintings of similar battle scenes - with similar titles, making them difficult to distinguish. These are both titled Battling on the Bridge, though only a herald of some kind is visible on the larger 1868 one, which was auctioned in 2013. Our paintings list has a third: Battle Scene on the Bridge Beside a Castle. While it's believed that the scenes were largely imaginary, the castle features are sometimes suggestive of real castles. So it's possible they were commissioned by the castle owners - or that Samuel, growing old, looked through his sketchbook for castles he'd visited earlier in his life and borrowed the features to gain conviction. Battling on the bridge A finished painting might also have then attracted the castle owners to buy them.

This smaller image (date unknown) does indeed have a battle - and it is almost certainly an imaginary one.

Battling on the bridge
Sam and Ernest    Sam Rayner's death came at the end of the 1870s. For some reason, the date wasn't widely known and Benizet (the French guide to art and artists) is among those reporting that he died in 1874 at Brighton ("so it is believed") - a date dutifully picked up by most other sources. In fact, he died at the family home in Windsor in 1879. (This will be a reassurance to those with paintings dated 1875 or later!)

Another carte de visite (left) shows Sam at the end of his life, with his grandson Ernest Copinger (Frances's son), in 1876.

SAMUEL RAYNER (1812-1874) THE ABBOT'S VISIT Signed with initials and dated 1874, watercolour and bodycolour on pulped paper 49.5 x 62.5cm. Characteristic rich colours, good. Auctioned by Lawrences, and described thus. The target price was £200 - £300, and it sold for £200. No image of the painting was provided and the birth and death dates quoted were both wrong - but given the dearth of public information about him until recently, that was hardly surprising.

THE CRYPT, WELLS CATHEDRAL, Inscribed on two artist's labels on backboard, bodycolour, 82cm by 116cm
This undated Samuel Rayner painting was sold by Tennants Auctions in April 2001. The anticipated price was £600 - £700 but it actually went for £550. No image was provided.

Though prices do vary from sale to sale and picture to picture, the two above give the range that most seem to fall into.

Examples of his works apparently may be seen at the Williamson Art Gallery - Birkenhead, Coventry Art Gallery, Derby Art Gallery, the Ulster Museum and the British Museum in London. He was also published in Sketches of Derbyshire Scenery, 1830, History and antiquities of Haddon Hall, 1836, and History [and antiquities?] of Derby, 1838.

                Harry Drummond, July 2014.

Please take 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 paintings by the Rayner family, but is based on sometimes very fragmentary evidence. As such, it is inevitable that there will be errors, though we naturally hope to reduce these over time.

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!

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