Completed British 20th C, except portraits, South East England: Artists and Subjects 36 Can anyone identify the location for 'A Downland Park' and the building depicted?

Topic: Execution date

Where is the park? Wiston and the church? [Group Leader: Grant Waters]

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

1 attachment

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. Its aim was to try to identify the location and the building. The conclusion reached is that the title is generic and that this is a studio work, largely based on Arundel Park, with Hiorne Tower (in Arundel Park). However, the skyline is based on Chanctonbury Ring, which is about 10 miles away. The new information has been noted on Art UK.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


The Collection have commented: 'Having checked the work on our database we see Towner purchased the work from the 1936 Royal Academy exhibition however we have not identified the church or park in the painting and are happy for you to open a public discussion to discover the location.’ [The painting is mentioned in an attached review of the Royal Academy exhibition from the West Sussex Gazette]

Ann Sutton,

The two clumps of trees silhouetted in background look like Cissbury and Chanctonbury, landmarks on the South Downs near Worthing.
( Well known in the area. No need for arguments)

Louis Musgrove,

The Downland Park Estate near Worthing does look like this.The question was -which church.?
Are we looking east to sunrise or west to sunset.?
Looking at the churches in the vicinity of Chactonbury and Cissbury.The only one I have found so far- with the correct Tower ie-crenelated with no spire--is St Marys Washington-which is to the south west of Wiston district. (Where did Wiston in the headerquestion come from?)
So that would imply we are looking eastish towards sunrise. Ann Sutton -can you confirm???

Alex Buck,

I think Chanctonbury is taller than Cisbury, which makes me think we might be looking westwards?

I have now been able to undertake a site visit to the area around Chanctonbury Ring in West Sussex, which is located in the South Downs between Steyning to the east and Storrington to the west. The visit commenced at the eastern end of Wiston Park, then took in a journey to the public car park below the Ring, then Wiston village and church, and finally Washington village, to the west of the site. Photographs are attached below which in order are:
1. View of Chanctonbury from the edge of Wiston Park (near Steyning).
2. View eastwards from the car park immediately below the Ring.
3. View of the Ring from the car park below.
4. Wider view of the Ring from the car park.
5. View of the Ring from the A283 by Wiston.
6. Wiston Church.
7. View from Wiston Church towards the Ring.
8. St Mary's Parish Church in Washington Village.
9. View eastwards from Washington Village to the Ring.

The main points noted were (a) the skyline at Chanctonbury Ring and the woodland to the east, as seen in the images, is very similar to that in the Clarkson painting, (b) there is no church in the immediate vicinity which matches the structure in the painting, and (c) in the middle ground of the painting there is a significant ridge visible which does not fit with the landscape in that area. I took the opportunity to show the image of the painting to two people who have lived in that immediate area for many years and they did not recognise the church or the ridge. This may point to William H Clarkson using a lot of artistic licence or the view may be elsewhere on the South Downs.

It would help if someone with a lot more knowledge than I have could put a composite together perhaps using say my image 7 to compare against the Clarkson painting.

I will also make a site visit to the Hiorne Tower in Arundel Park, a place suggested by Humphrey Welfare, in order to undertake a similar exercise and I will report back with the results.

Jacinto Regalado,

It could, of course, be a matter of artistic license, but proving it is another matter. Is Clarkson known to have done that in other works?

Howard Jones,

There appears to be smoke rising from behind the horizon suggesting hidden cottages and chimneys next to the Church (?) Tower.

This looks like a sunrise scene. Was this artist an early riser? As the trees are in leaf the painting would have been made in the Summer or early Autumn perhaps.

From research I don't think that William Herbert Clarkson was a prolific exhibitor. For instance, he showed 13 works at the Royal Academy between 1924 and 1938 and 8 of these included the words 'evening', twilight' or 'dusk' in the title. I cannot find any with 'dawn' in the title so perhaps he wasn't an early riser. I have also reviewed works at past auctions, with images, and I think he painted what was before him in a rather traditional way.

Dealing with Chanctonbury for a moment, the view I had from Wiston Church was due south. The painting shows a low sun suggesting, as mentioned by Howard Jones, either sunrise or sunset. Given the artist's penchant for late afternoon or evening views I think we are looking west in the painting, which leads me back to the possibility of Arundel Park.

One feature of our painting we should bear in mind is the unmade road through the line of trees, which possibly indicates parkland. The image below is, I think, of the same park:

I have found a similar view of what I think is the same place. This is the link courtesy of the fine art auctioneers, Cheffins of Cambridge:,william-herbert-clarkson-british-18721944_82342.htm

There is also another painting of the same place, I think, sold at Christie's in 1992:

I'll make a site visit to Arundel Park with the next two or three days.

Here is the sale information from the Christie's catalogue of 14th May 1992 and an image is attached also (apologies for the quality of the image). It is worth noting that the artist lived for a good many years in Littlehampton, West Sussex, not far either from Chanctonbury or Arundel:


William H. Clarkson (Exh. 1893-1940)

A Downland Park

signed with initials lower left WHC, signed again and inscribed on two labels attached to the stretcher William H. Clarkson R.B.A. 43 Norfolk Road, Littlehampton Sussex A Downland Park #40, oil on canvas 28 x 36½in. (71 x 93cm.)

Viscountess Cobham

London, R.B.A. 1922
London, R.B.A. 1935
Birmingham Exhibition, 1936

Humphrey Welfare,

Ah, the same track in the foreground and similarly stylised trees. I get the feeling that C was reassembling items from his sketchbook or his memory. (And the titleof our painting is a generic one rather than specific.) It is the tower that appears to fix it in a particular landscape; that might be Hiorne, but it is not likely to be a church as pinnacles are comparatively rare in Sussex. Bolney has them, but not the right topography. For Hiorne I had felt that there was a chance that the view was from somewhere near Park Farm as the ground to the East is quite broken; however, nothing quite seems to fit. See the NLS Lidar:

It is interesting that the painting sold at Christie's in 1992 was first exhibited in 1922 and then again in 1935 and 1936. There are at least three works by Clarkson of this location perhaps more. The subject seems to be a recurring theme in his work. I am wondering now whether 'our' painting exhibited in 1936 may be from a date some years prior to the date of exhibition.

I carried out a site visit at Arundel Park, Arundel, West Sussex this morning. My walk began close to Arundel Cricket Ground from where public access to the park is available. Many areas of the park are off limits to the public, including much of the land to the west of Hiorne Tower which is private property. I was therefore unable to check the entire landscape shown in the Clarkson painting but I am confident that 'A Downland Park' is based in large measure on Arundel Park but possibly not exclusively so. I think the work will be a studio painting completed over quite a period of time, with the benefit of on site drawings and perhaps oil sketches.

The contours in the landscape as depicted in the painting are there within the park but not all features are identical when compared to present day photographs. For example there has been a lot of tree growth in the area over the intervening 80 or 90 years and the artist has made his own decision on what to include or omit. I also think that the artist may well have incorporated elements of the view one has at Chanctonbury Ring as the horizon there is a better fit with this painting than the view one has east at Arundel Park.

The then unmade road running through the lower centre of the painting is I think one of several within the Park. Subsequently most of these private roads have been upgraded. There are pathways and a private road from the Cricket Ground up to Hiorne Tower, and beyond.

When looking at the Clarkson painting my approach to the Tower was from the right hand side which leads down to Arundel. Beyond the tower the land falls away steeply into a valley part of which is the northern end of Swanbourne Lake. As shown in the painting there is woodland to each side of this downslope.

To the west of Hiorne Tower the land falls away somewhat before rising again where it adjoins the A284 heading north. I believe this painting is looking east so the sun is rising rather than setting.

Hiorne Tower is situated 5.8 miles from the artist's then home in Littlehampton if travelled by car and by foot within the Park.

I am attaching photographs with titles to assist identification. The images are as follows:

1. This shows the roadway leading from the Cricket Club towards Hiorne Tower.
2. Hiorne Tower taken from the west of the building. The site was very crowded this morning due to an event.
3. Hiorne Tower from the east of the building where the land drops away sharply.
4. Photo taken from the same place as (3) but looking north along the valley.
5. As for (4) but looking south towards Swanbourne Lake.
6. View east from below Hiorne Tower to the higher ground beyond.

I'll post a draft biography on William Herbert Clarkson this weekend which may assist Pieter when he comes to prepare the formal biography for use by Art UK. There are some biographical issues which need to be resolved which I'll set out when dealing with it. Naturally further thoughts on any of this will be much appreciated.

Many thanks to Humphrey Welfare for pointing us in the direction of Hiorne Tower and to Ann Sutton for flagging Chanctonbury Ring. As Humphrey has said, the artist favoured generic titles for his works. There are very few exhibited paintings I have found which are location specific. I think there is an element of imagination in his work.

Pieter (and others), this is the draft biography I have put together on William Herbert Clarkson. There are gaps in our knowledge, the main points being:

(a) where did he receive his art training (probably in London I would think, and

(b) can we fill in the detail to explain the apparent lack of any artistic activity between the years say 1911-1923?

William Herbert Clarkson, RBA (1872-1944) was a well-known landscape painter who spent most of his working life in West Sussex. He was born in Hornsey, North London on 14th December 1872 to Augustus Clarkson and his wife Addy Clarkson. At the time of the 1881 Census the Clarkson family were still living in Hornsey. By the time of the 1891 Census William Herbert Clarkson (WHC) was residing with an uncle in Westerham, Kent. WHC’s occupation was recorded at that time as ‘Art Student’. In Q2 1898 WHC married Dora Day Stockings (born in Norwich on 27th July 1872) in Barnet, north London. They were to have three children, Christopher Clarkson (1901-1994), Anthony Clarkson (1905-1996) and Stephen Clarkson (1912-2005). At the time of the 1901 Census WHC and his wife Dora were residing with his parents in North London (Hornsey/Highgate border). WHC was then 28 years of age and was described as ‘Artist/Sculptor’. By the time of their first son’s birth, on 2nd October 1901, the family were living at Dunsfold, near Godalming in Surrey, close to the North Downs. By the time of the 1911 Census WHC, his second son Anthony and a servant Lydia Joiner were recorded as residing at Clifton Ville, Glenville Road, Rustington, West Sussex. Subsequently the family moved to 43, Norfolk Road, Littlehampton and WHC died on 17th November 1944 at The Convent, East Street, Littlehampton, West Sussex. Probate was granted to his solicitor on 19th January 1945, the gross estate being £7,858. Mrs Dora Clarkson died on 6th November 1949.

WHC is known to have exhibited his work at the New English Art Club (from 1900-1910, a total of 11 works, generally paintings of country life, for example ‘Woodcutters’ and ‘Mushroom Gathering’). In those early years of his career he was listed in a directory of artists ‘The Year’s Art’ up until circa 1911 when his name was removed not reappearing again until the mid 1920s. He exhibited at the Royal Academy 1924-1938 (13 works, mainly Downland landscapes and views in North Wales and France) and with the Royal Society of British Artists, showing firstly in 1893 and being elected an Associate of the society in 1928 and a full member in 1930. WHC also showed extensively with the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and occasionally with the Royal Hibernian Academy. In 1924 he was a founder member of the Society of Sussex Painters who usually held annual exhibitions at the Art Gallery in Worthing. His work is represented in several UK public collections.


Marcie Doran,

That’s an excellent summary, Grant. Here’s some additional information:

William Herbert Clarkson’s father Augustus Clarkson, a manufacturer, was born on June 25, 1834, in London. William’s mother was Addy Clarkson (née Robinson)(April 10, 1845 – May 30, 1922). The couple were married on April 20, 1865, and, according to the “Wilson/Kitson/Tappin” family tree on Ancestry, they had eight known children.

According to the “AnnandDavid” family tree on Ancestry, Dora Day Stockings was the eldest daughter of George Stockings (abt. 1848 – June 29, 1924) and his wife Ellen Stockings (née Cross)(December 5, 1844 – September 29, 1935). The couple were married on May 17, 1870, and had ten known children.

Marcie Doran,

As shown on the 1891 Census and a newspaper ad from 1893, Dora was a teacher of calisthenics before her marriage. According to the ‘West Sussex Gazette’ of July 17, 1924, she exhibited the bronze bust ‘Night’.

I have very little experience with searching the 1921 Census on Findmypast but easily found the transcripts for William H. Clarkson and his wife. They were shown as married but he lived at 43 Norfolk Road in Littlehampton while she was a visitor in the home of Vednor and Mary Seraldina Weathered at 2 Kidderpore Gardens, Hampstead. I ordered the image of William’s record but it didn’t provide additional useful information (since we don’t need to check a signature, for example).

Marcie, your two posts are most helpful. It seems probable that WHC met his future wife, Dora Stockings, in or around the Hornsey are of north London during the early to mid 1890s. Dora was a PE teacher in Hackney / Stamford Hill, when aged 18 years, and the couple married in North London in 1898.

In regard to the 1921 Census it appears the handwriting on the form was not too clear. Dora was staying at the London home of the artist Vernon Wethered. The household included Maud Llewellyn Wethered, a sculptor. The Wethereds had strong associations with the village of Bury near to Arundel.

The West Sussex Gazette article of 17th July 1924 is interesting. I had not previously come across that particular Arts & Crafts Exhibition group showing in Littlehampton, West Sussex, although the members are well-known. I wonder whether the group subsequently amalgamated with the Society of Sussex Painters, formed in the same year, 1924?

As Marcie mentions, the WSG article refers to an exhibit, a bronze 'Night', listed as being by Mrs Dora Clarkson. We know from WHC's early Census returns that he was listed as an 'artist / sculptor' but there is no indication, as far as I am aware, that Dora Clarkson was a sculptor or that she had any art training. I cannot find any exhibition records for her. As with another unrelated discussion currently open on Art Detective, I wonder whether the artist details have been taken from a label attached to the work when submitted (e.g return to (Mrs) Dora Clarkson of 43 Norfolk Road, Littlehampton?). More research is likely to be needed on this but it may be more likely than not that the sculptor was WHC .

Marcie, are there any obituaries available for WHC post 17th November 1944 in the national or local press? As he was a member of the RBA I would have expected there would be something to mark his passing.

Thank you Marcie. The tribute from the artist Hesketh Hubbard is indeed revealing. I'll work it into the draft biography to be submitted to Pieter. From what I have seen of WHC's later work, he was focused on the spirit of a place and used his imagination effectively when creating his landscapes, which aren't strictly representational but are his interpretation of what he saw and felt when painting his subject.

Marcie Doran,

Here is an article that provides additional information about the 1893 exhibition that you mentioned, Grant.

And, here is a record that shows that Augustus Clarkson passed away in 1898.

Please see this link, whichs shows that the artist’s brother, Thomas Peter Clarkson (1867–1955), was willed part of the estate of a department store magnate related to Addy Clarkson (née Robinson).

Louis Musgrove,

As we can only see two turrets on the Tower-the view must be flat against one of the sides- so my guess would be looking slightly NE towards Herons Wood.

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to close this discussion, which was resolved some time ago and summed-up by Grant. ‘A Downland Park’ is an imaginative composition and not a topographically accurate view. It has a generic title and is a studio painting largely based on Arundel Park, with Hiorne Tower (also in Arundel Park). However, the skyline is based on Chanctonbury Ring, which is about 10 miles away. Thank you to all the contributors for their detailed analysis of the painting and research on the artist.