Arts and Literature
Countryside and Nature
New Fiction and Bestselling Fiction
New UK Titles
Pre - Publication Orders
Top Children's UK
Top Biography and History UK
Top Non Fiction UK
View All Titles
Roman and Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall: Paintings by the Richardson Family
Hadrian's Wall: Paintings by the Richardson Family
David J. Breeze
Brothers Henry, Charles and Thomas Richardson painted nearly 80 views of Hadrian's Wall between 1838 and the 1880s. Most were created by Henry Burdon Richardson, who accompanied author John Collingwood Bruce on his tour of Hadrian's Wall in 1848. Only 17 were reproduced as engravings in Bruce's books; very few have ever been published as paintings. They form a valuable record of the Roman frontier as it was during an important stage in its history, before the advent of the modern world.
New theories and interpretations were coming to light, as described in Bruce's first book The Roman Wall, published in 1851. John Clayton, town clerk of Newcastle upon Tyne, had begun buying land along the Wall, aiming to preserve the remains, creating in effect an archaeological park. The production of the Richardson paintings, Bruce's contribution to Wall studies and the achievement of John Clayton in conserving the Wall, are all explored, providing a fascinating background story. Over 70 of the Richardsons' paintings are published in the book, most with Bruce's original description and a commentary by the author.
Hardback; 210 x 280mm
Colour illustrations throughout
Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Hadrian's Wall - paintings by the Richardson Family by David J. Breeze. John Donald. £25
The Earl of Carlisle thought that the view of Troy "wonderfully resembles the view from the point just outside the Roman camp at Birdoswald. Both have that series of steep conical hills, with rock enough for wildness, and verdure enough for softness. Both have that bright trail of a river, creeping in and out with the most continuous
indentations’. It was a view which Henry Burdon Richardson painted in 1848. His watercolour shows the great sweep of the river cutting into the steep, tree-clad banks. A soft green meadow is held in the bow of the river and beyond are the distant blue hills north of the Roman Wall.
Richardson, one of the sons of Newcastle's Thomas Miles Richardson, spent ten days with John Collingwood Bruce walking the length of the Wall as Bruce prepared his Handbook to the Roman Wall. Together his 59 pictures offer "a snapshot in time and a record of the state of the surviving remains" in the years when interest in the Wall was developing rapidly. John Clayton, a Newcastle solicitor, owned five forts and miles of the Wall and he was busy excavating and restoring, placing fallen stones back and recreating the Wall as we now know it.
Tyneside spread from Wallsend to Heddon-on-the-Wall and the Roman stones "disappeared under houses and factories, roads and railways, and even a reservoir at Benwell". Richardson's pictures show a scene near Wallsend as it had been for centuries, with the ducks waddling along a path by the rubbled mounds of the Wall's remains.
Over in Cumberland, at Drumburgh, there was only a grassy mound - the proprietor remembered the stones being removed. At Burgh the village had been built over the Wall and Richardson depicted the endless flat view to the north across the Solway Marsh and the solitary monument to Edward I.
The painting of the end of the Wall at Bowness has been lost, but the engraving by John Storey from Collingwood Bruce's Handbook shows two men sitting on the bank that was the northern rampart of what was once the fort on its "slightly elevated site". They are looking out across the tranquil waters of the Solway. Bruce noted that the Solway was easily fordable at low water to the east of the site, "but that no-one, in the memory of the inhabitants of these parts, has forded the estuary to the west of the town." Bowness, at the extreme north-west of the Roman Empire, was the place for the Wall to end. Along the coast to the west were forts, mileforts and towers.
No trace of the Wall is visible today on the land about Beaumont. Bruce believed the line of the Wall was indicated by the colour of the ground. Richardson's picture, shows the sweep of the line of the Wall as it follows a broad swelling of the ground towards a farmhouse. In 1934 an inscription was found in the wall of a cottage which was being demolished. It recorded the name of the regiment, a unit of Moors from North Africa, which was stationed at Burgh by Sands.
As the later engravings or as paintings with their evanescent blues - they hung for many years in Bruce's home before being left to the Laing Gallery - these are evocative images of the Wall before it arrived at its present condition of preservation.
David Breeze has provided the scholarly support for what is an invaluable and attractive record of the northern landscape. The paintings, which have been finely reproduced, give a picture of the northern landscape of a century and a half ago. They also show how magnificent the Roman ruins looked among the bare hills of the Pennines.
DVDs & CDs