Completed British 19th C, except portraits, North West England: Artists and Subjects 135 Can anyone identify this Unidentified Mill Scene?

Unidentified Mill Scene
Topic: Subject or sitter

This painting was acquired by Manchester City Galleries in 1938 with the understanding that it was a view of Holt Town, Manchester (a group of mills etc built by David 'Quaker' Holt), from a member of the Holt family.

Research was undertaken at the Manchester Central Library to identify the buildings to no avail – nothing remotely like was found on maps or scenes of the 1830s or 1840s.

In 1943 the picture was reproduced in the 'Manchester Evening Chronicle' as 'Manchester's Puzzle Picture', and several local correspondents then claimed to have identified the scene without doubt. However, the curator was not satisfied!

A subsequent curator resumed the search in the 1980s, focussing on the Moorish architectural flourishes and exploring the possibility that it was a non-British scene, contacting curators in Port of Spain and New Orleans for assistance. With no clues emerging, our documentation has reverted to the original idea that it is a view in Manchester, but stopped short of the Holt Town identification.

Would anyone care to offer an opinion?

Hannah Williamson,
Curator, Collections Access, Manchester City Galleries

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. In the absence of concrete evidence, the consensus is that this is very probably a cotton mill, the main block in form very similar to British examples and the chimney hidden behind the main block (perhaps for aesthetic reasons); that the costume and entrance buildings suggest it is probably in the Americas; that the costume and architectural style suggest a date around the middle of the first half of the nineteenth century; and that it may well be an idealised view of a proposed or unbuilt mill.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion. These amendments will appear on Art UK in due course.


Martin Hopkinson,

Have you shown this to the Lancashire historian, Dr Philip Gooderson?

Al Brown,

One thing that's immediately strking is the clothes of some of the figures: the white hat on the man in the gig and the white trousers (and they are trousers rather than breeches) of the man man right centre. I can't imagine this was typical attire for Manchester in the early 19thc.

It's also not completely clear from the current image whether any of the figures are black, though a numebr seem to be.

Amanda Draper,

If you've not already done so, I'd recommend running it past Terry Wyke or Prof Alan Kidd at MMU

What an interesting painting! This is not my area at all but I think the Manchester curator from the 1980s was thinking along the right lines. Although it is hard to be sure from the image I think this painting is quite a lot later than 1820-25 and that the subject may well be the United States during the time of the 19th century industrialisation. From my observation of the carriage to the left of the painting I think it is similar to carriages in use in America in the second half of the 19th century. The clothing also appears to be post 1850 and more American than British.

Bendor Grosvenor,

I wonder too if this is not somewhere overseas. Can we have a higher res image? Thanks

I am not an expert on mill architecture (despite family connections with the industry in the NW) but this does not look British to me either. Cotton mills in the US were based mostly in New England until well after the Civil War so we could look there. I have forwarded the link to Gary Mock, the owner of the site which has lots of history and images of New England mills.

Alice Read,

I have requested a high res from the collection.

Louis Musgrove,

The Mill is seven stories high. Lots of British Mills were seven stories high. Most American Mills were lower. I have only found a Mill at Rhode Island that was seven stories high. The Americans had lots of space - so didn't need to build up.
The Holt Family operated Mills on the Haw river North Carolina, but they don't match. My bet is the Holt family had other mills elsewhere- because in the painting it does look like a hot climate.

Paul Kettlewell,

Attached is an article from the London Gazette dated 31 May 1833 concerning a commission of bankruptcy against David Holt - it describes his mills at Temple Street, Chorlton-upon-Medlock and they seem to match quite closely with the two in the picture.

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Greaeme Cameron,

For what they are worth, some observations on this very well rendered work. The key to its origins might lie in the nationality of the Soldier's uniform, talking to the man with the basket. Also, to my senses, it seems a hot climate location, with Mooorish architectural influences, and darker skinned people ( note each of the faces ), of both latino and/or hot climate native descent, rather than fair skinned English stock.

Instead of being a cotton mill it may alternatively be an official Government bond store, hence the ornate wrought Iron work on windows etc and sculpture evident, on the Superintendent's residence on the Right, with the plainer formal Office on the Left, and the Soldier's ( Guard's) presence. Perhaps Morocco, or a like French or Spanish colonial capital city could be considered, but his Uniform could hold the ultimate key. (Any military historians present, to advance the case in this regard?)

Irrespective, it's of quite a high standard, with accurate figure and general detailing, and in its perspectives, with an excellent sky. It would appear from the dress, etc. to derive from the very early 19thC. period, and well worth further research. Almost certainly it is the work of an accomplished visiting master of some rank, rather than a local, intended perhaps as a "painting of record", from the colonies.

Note that the style of architecture in the foreground buildings is Gothic rather than Moorish or Islamic.

Some information from an American contact:

Peter Metzke: A very interesting scene ! This actually shows the other side to the textile industry, most of us only identify with the male side of the industry, but here we see a seminary and dormitory next to the mill which was so common in large Cities such as Lowell. There are a few tell tale signs of that but the cross on the main entry tell us that much. As we both know female labor with the main within the textile mills, the male labor being employed within the many machine shops, except
the fixers.

The seminaries... These spang up in Fall River, Pawtucket and numerous other places so the chances of finding that exact mill are few and far between - looks like the early 1840's era by the dress, cart and also some of the architecture. As Lowell were so proud of their canal system I feel this was done in another City or Town as they nearly always featured the canals in the mill sketches, paintings and later photos.

There was only one textile mill within the United States that came close to the height of the one in [this] image, that being the Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham., as you are aware Francis Cabot Lowell was the main player in all of this along with two other shareholders Nathan Appleton and Patrick Jackson - who carried on with the business after Francis Lowell's death in 1817, much to their displeasure as Francis Lowell had come back from England with many ideas and never had long to put them into the business at hand. At least Lowell was named after him ! which grew to be the main City that many States looked too for all their textile requirements having agents for both the Eastern and Southern States plus an overseas market established by 1910 for both Japan and China.

Bendor Grosvenor,

The main building looks almost identical in height and design to Wellington Mill in Stockport (prior to the construction of the 200ft chimney in 1860. It seems there was a slightly smaller mill adjacent to this, since demolished. But I haven't been able to find an image of that yet.

Bendor Grosvenor,

From old maps of the area Adlington Square mills has a similar layout to that seen in the picture, but I can't find any images of the buildings.

Greaeme Cameron,

I perhaps needed to have have further clarified, when suggesting "Moorish influences" in a general rather than a purist sense, that 19thC Spanish etc. buildings used an amalgam of styles, including elements of the "Gothic", as seen in these Classified 19thC "Moorish Buildings" of Seville, (attached), where the central tower also uses "Gothic" arches. Another indicative point in addition to the earlier cited "Continental" Soldier's uniform, is the Wide Brim on some of the Hats, (see inset) which also suggests a hot climate location rather than that of England. The soldier's uniform I still believe holds the key to this work's location.

Greaeme Cameron,

Further to the "Soldier" point above, here he is more defined, which as can be evidenced from his casual discussion with the townsfolk, he forms a part of the daily life of this scene and is not an outsider. This is redolent of a Spanish/Portugese/Italian "National Guard" type uniform, than anything found in Britain. The clean look of the Building facility and the street, also appears more that of a Customs/Bond Store ( Barrels of Port?) or Warehouse, for storage, than being a a producing Cotton Mill.

Greaeme Cameron,

When lightened up this Continental National Guard or Policeman has a Uniform with "Red and White" Banding at the base of his Khaki Jacket, and a Light Blue Emblem on his Hussars style of headgear. His casually crossed legs in conversation are also garbed in Khaki trousers, with what seems a yellow spotted pattern. This distinctive type of early 19thC 'National' uniform would probably be identifiable to a researcher/enthusiast in the field of militaria, etc. Traditionally, the "colours" of some states within The Holy Roman Empire were of Red and White.

Greaeme Cameron,

Addendum to above. With further enlargement of the low resolution image of the above "National Guard", his Jacket appears more an Olive Green than Khaki with White striping at its base but no Red. However interestingly, the Trousers are actually a Dark Red or Burgundy colour, with a Light Blue Spot pattern, matching the colour of the Hat Emblem. The lady's dress is of the same burgundy colour without any pattern.

Greaeme Cameron,

This enigma may finally be able to be solved, but it’s extremely convoluted due to the vexed history of the proposed location and its alternating political fortunes and also its Architecture and inhabitants drawn from various nations of Spain, France, Africa, Haiti and the US. The key to its location as earlier suggested lies in a closer analysis of various features present, more especially the foreground figure group of a distinctively uniformed Soldier, and the Large Basket, and is further reflected in the style and purpose of the Buildings. There’s also the ethnicity of the figures, their dress, hats, and the flat terrain, etc. I would accordingly suggest it depicts the early Colonial Port town of New Orleans, either side of the year 1800, probably between the decade 1794 and 1804, when alternately under Spanish & French control, just before US acquisition in 1804 under the Treaty of Louisiana, by a visiting master artist.
France ruled the area of Louisiana, which comprised a huge area covering 15 present day US States and two Canadian Provinces from 1699 to 1762 whereupon it ceded it to its ally, Spain. It was then ruled by Spain from 1762 to 1800, when Napoleon took it back for a brief period from 1800 till 1804, when sold to the US under the “Treaty of Louisiana”. So if the scene is just before the year 1800, the Soldier is Spanish, or if between the years 1800 and 1804, it is a French Soldier. He is not a US Soldier, so if it is New Orleans, it appears to be within this period and rare situation, which seems quite plausible, as the town was still in its early development stage, and some large early Cotton warehouses can be seen in the distance, as also the few residents and buildings along on this promenade equally would indicate.
Identification of the Soldier’s uniform should define from which of the above brief periods it derives.
Some idea of New Orleans appearance can be gleaned from the Upper Left view of the attachment, with various later 19thC views thereunder. The bales of Cotton at the wharf in one of them are also of some significance, as it is proposed that in the subject work, the huge empty Basket with the pair talking to the Soldier, was used to bring this farmer’s load of raw cotton to the Cotton Warehouse behind the group, rather than being a producing Cotton Mill”. His cotton would there be weighed, then baled and stored either in the earlier Right 5 Floor, or later Rear 7 Floor Warehouses, for transport to the wharves, to be shipped as Cotton Bales to the processing Mills of Europe.
The beautifully designed foreground Houses and Wall appear of earlier 18thC Spanish occupancy date, especially when compared with the later stark red brick Rear 7 Floor Warehouse. The ornate wrought iron work of the entry and of the window design of that building with more of a Spanish influence, which is still referred to today in the city’s early history. The more Gothic themed wall and formal “Administration” building on the Right appear to have been added later, with finally a 5 Level and then a 7 Storey Warehouse, as Cotton production volumes increased. The varying brick colours and window styles would also suggest this type of site evolution. The varied ethnicity of the figures also accords with New Orleans diverse population of that era with “Free Men” Creoles of Spanish, French & Hatian origins, original Spanish and French Colonial settlers, and a likewise, enterprising US farmers and entrepreneurs.
Thus it is proposed by this research as quite likely to represent Circa 1800 Colonial New Orleans, by a visiting French or Spanish master artist. Due to the prevailing war situation, a British master is unlikely.

Louis Musgrove,

Smoke- Curiously there is smoke coming from the chimney of the white building on the left- and what appears to be smoke coming from a big chimney to the left of the belfry on the roof of the seven stories building.

Greaeme Cameron,

Kind thanks for the better image of the Soldier. It would assist if some militaria researcher/enthusiast might recognise from which nation it derives. As to the smoke, The smoke had been noted, but in the case of the "residence" to the Left it was considered domestic cooking and/or heating, and in the case of the larger ware house, it was likewise of minimal volume and probably either for heating purposes or to keep moisture levels low in the warehouse. It can be observed that the woman wears a heavy shawl and the Man with the dog a heavy Blue coat. The figures are therefore presumably in winter or cooler weather dress, as this location has quite high temperatures in the summer period.

Manchester Art Gallery,

Thank you everyone for all your thoughts so far on Manchester's mystery painting. Speaking as the ex-curator of hats from the hat museum based at Wellington Mill in Stockport, I can agree with Bendor about the similarity of the mill architecture to Wellington Mill. But it's not Wellington Mill - the lie of the land in Stockport is different. Also, it seems to me the hats are American in style - or, at any rate, not English. I would support Greaeme's well-presented theory that this is a scene from New Orleans, if it wasn't for the enquiries conducted by our curator in the 1980s, Julian Treuherz, to which I alluded in my initiation of this discussion. Julian wrote to several people about the painting, including Marilyn Brown, Associate Professor of Art History at Newcomb, Department of Art, Tulane University, New Orleans. She in turn showed the photograph to Professor Jessie Poesch, specialist in American art at that University, specifically art of the South. I quote from Prof. Brown's letter:
'She [Prof. Poesch] does not recognise the site, but she thinks that based on the Gothic details of the depicted architecture, the building (and perhaps the painting) comes from the 1840s. Her intuition is that the site is not American; she suggests Liverpool. In any event, she is certain it is not Southern American: there was only one cotton mill at that time in the South, at Natchez, Miss., mills at that time were in the Northeast. '
Julian Treuherz subsequently contacted Professor Jules Prown at Yale, who suggested a Caribbean location, saying that he had seen similar warm clothing on black figures in Caribbean scenes by Brunais.
This is where the 1980s trail goes cold. There is no reply in our file to Julian's letter to the curator of a gallery in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and no further correspondence.
I apologise for not including these details in my initial post - I wonder if they make you think differently Greaeme, or if your earlier dating of the buildings in the picture is the key to your argument?
Hannah Williamson
Curator, Collections Access, Manchester City Galleries

Al Brown,

Thete ate some strikingly English architectural elements in the scene - the building on the left is very much a Regency-style villa with its wrought iron porch and Gothick tracery windows - echoed by the entrabce screen (very Strawberry Hill). So a Caribbean location with a British connection?

Oddly, for the supposed climate, the "villa" does not have shutters.

Greaeme Cameron,

Thank you Hannah for providing details of the past research and views, which are very interesting to further consider, in solving this “enigmatic” work. I note Julian’s useful contributions, with whom I’m acquainted from earlier projects. I think past presumption(s) that this represents a working “Cotton Mill” rather than “Cotton Warehouses”, as here alternatively suggested, created understandable diversions in those past enquiries.

I still think the Hats on some of the men seem more of American “Ten Gallon” type, whilst others appeared to derive from British “Topper” models, suggesting “British Colonial”. On the other hand, the women’s hats and dresses appeared more of an early 19thC English/American type than Continental. That’s why the “Soldier”, who seemed of either Spanish or French origin provided perhaps a more definitive identifier of the scene’s probable "colonial" location. New Orleans had such a mix of most of these diverse nationality/dress elements in the one early Colonial town, but at which time and type was dependent on date, especially in the early 19thC.,as previously explained.

That said, the possibility of another Colonial town such as ”Spanish Town”/Kingston Jamaica cannot be ruled out either, which although having sugar as a primary export then, also had a reasonable “Sea Island Cotton” export trade, and a population of Spanish heritage, Slavery & “Freemen” and English colonials, of similar type and temperatures to New Orleans. Its buildings and flat topography also seems to accord. (See Illustration).

These incidentally are a continuous yearly 85F for Kingston, or earlier “Spanish Town”, and between 45 and 85F (Average60F- 80F for New Orleans, the latter probably not requiring “Shutters” on buildings.

Interestingly, as also kindly noted by Al, I had likewise noted the similarity of the Iron Entry Porch to those Regency examples still found in Cheltenham, Glos today, (where I spent many pleasant years), however, the windows seemed more hybrid Spanish influence than Gothic, further confusing matters. Another thought is that the soldier could instead be from a visiting ship ‘provisioning’ in “Spanish Town”.

A further clue to the “Cotton Warehouse” scenario is the Belfry at the apex of the main building, presumably for fire alarm purposes, which probably fits more with a “storage” facility than a factory. It may also have been a Co-Operative, with growers bringing their respective harvests for combining with others for export.

In either case a very early 19thC colonial New Orleans or ”Spanish Town” Jamaica location still seems the most plausible, and if the latter, the possibility of an accomplished visiting British master would then come into contention, as also the reason it eventually made its way to Manchester. Biographies of British landscape artists who travelled to Jamaica in the early 19thC might assist, as the work of the early colonial artists of the ilk of John Glover, come to mind with this type of work.

I trust these further observations may serve to further advance the case towards a more definitive resolution. With kind regards, Graeme

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Greaeme Cameron,

Addendum - Due to the above mentioned possibilities of alternative Colonial locations, of either New Orleans or "Spanish Town"(Kingston) Jamaica for this work, the dating factor could also be moved forward, especially if indeed Jamaica, to circa 1825, in the late Regency period.

A further thought then arises if that is the case, that perhaps the artist may have been commissioned to "record the facility" at this supply source, by a British Mill owner of the period, whose looms were being supplied with raw cotton bales from this location. The fact that just these "Warehouse" buildings are shown, might also strongly suggest that they could also have been owned by such a successful British Mill owner.

With the advent of steam power of the ""Industrial Revolution", the great beneficiaries were the Northern (Satanic) Mill owners, who quickly made immense fortunes, more than enough to have often owned considerable overseas assets. The only way to view these was in person or in paint.

Greaeme Cameron,

N.B. Also in keeping with the above hypothesis, the distinctive design of some of the buildings, especially the two large Warehouses, which were almost certainly the latest built at the site, appear to have been directly designed and built to a "Northern British Industrial" prototype of circa 1825-30 period, hence the confusion as to their actual Colonial location.

Mark Gray,

A few observations from me (all predicated on the assumption that this is in the UK) and a suggestion.

First, there does seem to be an awful lot of glass being used. Glass tax finally comes off in 1845, so if this IS in the UK, it's a wealthy factory/warehouse owner who is spending a lot on building fashionable counting houses and supervisors offices . Moreover there is an awful lot of outdoor gothic ironwork around - which in the UK was also hideously expensive when (in the late 1830s- late 1840s) it was the height of fashion. And if there is brickwork under the screen wall, there must be an awful lot of rendering on top; white rendered screen walls are again a very 1820s-1840s thing, and an expensive addition.

All of which suggests that this is something of a model warehouse/factory. I'd suggest the building on the RIGHT is the old factory and dates from much before 1820, the NEW factory and the adornments to the front is the subject of the painting: it's message is 'look how much we've spent/will spend modernising this industrial undertaking'.

For me, the painting may represent not so much a now lost building as an imaginative interpretation of what heavy investment and architectural innovation might turn an existing one into. It could, in short, be the 19thc. equivalent of a 3D CAD software interpretation of what your house might look like if you actually built that extension you've been planning - a realisation in paint for David Holt of what he might get for his largesse with the building trade.

Greaeme Cameron,

A reasonable and quite plausible alternative suggestion there James.

Interestingly that thought had also occurred to me that this work could have been for a "Prospective Cotton Warehouse Investment Project", proposed for the Colonies", being visualized/idealised by a British artist, perhaps for a Mill owners consortium, rather than being an actual situation. The perspectives of the two larger buildings do seem to be "modeled and surreal" rather than reality. Also the idyllically rendered scene, with its formally dressed figures, the passing carriage, and lack of usual 'rubbish' on the perfect street, are more reminiscent of a contrived "Sunday afternoon promenade", than an actual working environment.

Perhaps the next stage would be to attempt to identify the earlier 19thC, quite possibly "Northern British artist" concerned, as it is a well rendered 'formal' landscape with an excellent sky.

Martin Hopkinson,

The idea that the artist may have been an architect who practised painting, or a painter who dabbled in architecture, following Graeme's suggestions , has some merit, and might narrow the possible candidates for an attribution

Tamara Cartwright-Loebl,

The vehicle is a cab-fronted gig, inspired by the design of the Hackney Cab of 1834. I've seen examples as late as 1904 but, despite the cabriolet (2-wheeled carriage) existing in France from the mid C18th, the cab-fronted gig doesn't occur earlier than the Hackney cab. ("cab" being an abbreviation of cabriolet). Prior to that, upper-class vehicles were 4-wheeled and those lower class vehicles that were 2-wheeled offered no protection from kick backs, mud or worse from the horses.
The only one I know of with the stirrups, rather than steps for access is the Reid, aka Perth, but info is scanty online and my books are in storage so I can't be sure of the dates for it.
Although I would agree that this is not a UK scene, I would think it to be a British Empire one.

Tamara Cartwright-Loebl,

Addendum, Reid dates from 1889/90 on so unlikely, though I've never seen stirrups on another so perhaps they were an early concept, superseded by the steps. I don't think any gigs of this date survive.

Mark Gray,

A further thought from me. It is a longshot, but worth trying.

The perspective in the painting has been nagging away at me (it's nothing like, say, a Le Keux or Finden print of industrial buildings of the same period, that's for sure). Perspective in architectural painting hasn't quite become formulaic, but there is a preference for a perspective that emphasizes mass and size. Then I thought of Thomas Hulley. Hulley produced prints like this: . Hulley, a Bath artist, appears in trade directories until 1846, and may be the Thomas Hulley who was buried in the town in 1847. Assuming we are all correct in placing this in the 1830s, Hulley might be the painter.

Greaeme Cameron,

Seems QED Mark. He probably derived the Regency portico from Cheltenham, where he did many other works in the vicinity of the examples earlier mentioned. A visualised 'model project' for the colonies. Good work.

Mark Gray,

"Hulley produced prints" should read 'Hulley produced oils" - sorry.

Martin Hopkinson,

It should perhaps be remembered that there were large textile mills in Gloucestershire in the Stroud valley in particular, which would have not been far for a Bath artist to travel to

Martin Hopkinson,

a Hulley family history website records 2 Hulleys as artists in Bath - T junior first in Piggot's Directory in 1819 as teacher of perspective and landscape in pencil and watercolour
1826 17 Belvedere
1833 16 Belvedere
1841 and 1846 no longer an artist, but 'gent' at 16 Belvedere

Henry Hulley recorded in 1830 landscape artist at 3 Norfolk Buildings may have been a relarive

Greaeme Cameron,

Further to your further interesting observations Martin, I have found more on the Bath Hulleys and also a William Painter at Manchester, to assist as listed below. Whether Painter means artist or not, or if they are related is not clarified, but a Manchester Hulley artist could perhaps accord with an earlier hypothesis; particularly if a relative painting in a similar manner to Thomas Hulley, or was taught by him, as Thomas Hulley was not only an art teacher as noted, but also Professor of Drawing in Bath

The subject work seems to exhibit a less "formal" style than Thomas's, as seen in the Cheltenham example provided by Mark above. Otherwise it could be Thomas painting in a 'looser' manner, than the Cheltenham piece, which appears more styled for later reproduction as one of a future series prints of the area. Notwithstanding, it exhibits the "Hulley" style, and may otherwise possibly have been by Harry Hully or John Hulley of Bath, both of whom appear directly related to Thomas, and/or were probably taught by him, especially John, who shared the same address.

Regarding a Stroud possibility, the topography of Stroud follows the river in a valley with surrounding hills, seeming to differ from the flat terrain of the subject work. Given also the diverse characters within, it would still appear a 'visualisation'. Kindly refer attachment- Stroud c.1840-50.

1830 Piggots Directory
Bath Artists
Hulley Harry (Landscape) 3 Norfolk Buildings
Hulley John (Landscape) 16 Belvedere

1836 Manchester & Salford Directory
Hulley William Painter 15 Jenkinson Street, Chorlton on Medlock

1840 Manchester Directory
Hulley William Painter 3 Robert Street Liverpool Road
Hulley William Pianter 2 John Street Strangeways

I hope this may further assist in resolving the artist.

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Greaeme Cameron,


It may be worth adding the the "Junior" designation on Thomas's name is slightly confusing as he was in this scenario actually the "senior" artist of the group. Likewise in his listing below, the emphasis is on "perspective", which further occurs not only within his Professorship title, but continued as the dominant feature found within his various works, and probably those of his pupils/relative artist's productions; as also most evident in the subject work.

Herewith his earlier listing
1819 Bath Directory (4)

Artists Hulley T jun. teacher of perspective and landscape in pencil and water colours. 18 Walcot Place
Index Hulley T jun drawing master 18 Walcot Place

Martin Hopkinson,

I don't think that the possibility that the artist was a member of the Hulley family rules out the possibility that the mill buildings were in the West Indies or southern states of the United States or that they were simply projected buildings. But the identity of an artist in the West Country or Lancashire might suggest that the patron for both the artist and architecture came from either location
Although the bottom end of the Stroud valley where several very impressive mills were built in Stonehouse and King's Stanley is flat, I do not really believe that this is the location, but the designer of the buildings and Hulley, if based in Bath, would have been familiar with the mills there as possible sources for ideas.
Greame's reference to Cheltenham balconies seems to me to be apposite
None of this should rule out the Holt family as the patrons, as they had wide interests - and both Bristol and Liverpool were important transatlantic mercantile ports

Martin Hopkinson,

T Hulley's death at Belvedere, Bath on 18 July 1847 was reported in Bristol Mercury 24 July 1847.
He was son of the landscape artist Harry Hulley of Bath whose will of January 1832 is in the PRO
His own will also in the PRO proved in September 1847 [St Catherine's parish] reveals that his Christian name was Thomas refers to his collection of old painting, as well as books, prints and drawings and 'etches'

Mark Gray,

Can't stress enough that Hulley is only my guess - there is nothing to suggest Thomas Hulley was the artist beyond a similarity in perspective and style, and the lack of any other obvious candidate. I wouldn't get too hung up on finding Hulleys.

Patty Macsisak,

Although I acknowledge that the Stanley Mills on the River Tay does not exactly mirror the image you are searching for, I wonder if it was the model for a proposed project in the Americas?

Andrea Kollmann,

Further to the discussion above, that this painting might be an imagined mill scene, two observations:

John Wilson Carmichael produced architectural paintings in the 1830s when working with Richard Grainger and John Dobson. This is not to so say that this painting is by him (could it be?), but a comparison with his "Proposed new street for Newcastle" painted in 1831shows how detailed and lively these early architectural impressions were. It also shows the similar attire of the people in the street to those in the mill scene and – in my opinion – supports dating it in the 1830s.
The attached pictures were taken from this website:

David Holt by the way had to sell Holt Town in 1794. The layout of Holt Town at that time was described in some detail in the newspapers; the descriptions of the buildings do not match the ones shown in the mill scene.
(attached is an article from the, Manchester Mercury , 29 September 1795)

Mark Gray,

I wonder whether it is worth asking how far the City Art Gallery is certain that these are indeed industrial buildings?

I suspect they might alternatively be model workhouses of some scale (akin to those at or those built on an equally industrial scale in Liverpool or Rochdale). If that is the case it would fit with the fact that across industrial Lancashire in the 1840s new workhouses were being built in grand style and with substantial contributions above and beyond the Poor Law Union's own funds. Someone with more knowledge of workhouse architecture designs than me might be able to suggest the architect or indeed the competition for which this painting might have played the role of CAD illustration.

Martin Hopkinson,

Louis Nelson's Architecture and Empire in Jamaica, Yale University Press, 2016 might be helpful

Martin Hopkinson,

Clearly James Nasmyth's autobiography should be looked at [ see Samuel Smiles' edition]. Has anything been published on his architecture? Is it known if he was involved with factory buildings outside Britain?

Philip Cakebread,

Just exploring for the first time on this site. My first reaction was some sort of prison or barracks.

Oliver Perry,

The lack of anything resembling the archetypal factory chimney is certainly puzzling, if it is some kind of mill.

Prisons of the period would have had much stronger perimeter walls, and their architectural features would have been designed to intimidate and impress, rather than be consciously decorative, as here. Barracks were seldom so tall - two to four storeys seems to be usual. Although utilitarian, they generally were more formally conceived and more obviously residential, and often set alongside parade grounds etc.

The absence of a chimney is indeed an interesting point, unless the mill or other factory was water-powered.

Martin Hopkinson,

Is the building not a mill, but a warehouse for storing cotton before its transportation to cotton mills across the Atlantic? Did the Holt family regularly acquire the cotton for their mills from a particular town in the southern states of the USA? Or did they own warehouses in the southern states?

Indeed. It may not be a mill; it may not have even have been built; or may just be proposal for decorative perimeter buildings and entrance.

However, there is smoke coming from behind the roof of the seven-storey building suggesting there is in fact a chimney hidden behind.

I fear however this will be very hard to identify.

Martin Hopkinson,

1. We need to have an input from a costume historian who might be able to suggest a date range for this picture. The curator of Manchester's Platt Hall might at least be able to suggest as whom she be approached

2. We need also know about the Holt family's business interests beyond Britain

Manchester Art Gallery,

The Costume curator believes that the dress style suggests a warm climate in the mid-1820s.

Martin Hopkinson,

Does the costume curator have any thoughts of which warm climate, Caribbean, Southern United States , Northern South American or even Indian sub-continent? Some inhabitants of the latter are very dark.

Manchester Art Gallery,

Some additional information from the Costume curator - The mill doesn't look British - the enclosure-yard is far too ornate and pedimented, rather like a corral in the southern States, West Indies or Mexico. At the same time, several of the men are wearing white jackets or trousers, something which suggests a 'colonial' look as British men might have worn in the West Indies or India. The open carriages also suggested a warmer climate and would not have been typical in England.
There are a couple of female figures, both of whom are wearing dresses which strongly suggest the mid to late 1820s - the waist (highered till 1820) is at a natural level, and the sleeves look to be cut fairly full and large (something that started in the mid 1820s and grew to a vast size by the mid 1830s).
The figures are of course very small and so somewhat difficult to see with clarity.

Martin Hopkinson,

There is nothing to guide us in Louis P Nelson's Architecture and Empire in Jamaica, Yale, 2016 mentioned above - but the dress is similar to early 19th century Jamaican dress
see also Falmouth Jamaica Architecture as History ed. Louis P Nelson et al, Kingston , 2004
The footnotes in these 2 volumes may lead to more on commercial architecture.

Deborah Mason,

Having done a brief search on Italianate Mills I found this - Hungarian Flour Mills in Belfast, although the image isn't reproed well on the site I found it on it does appear to show both the same distinctive 'cupola' on the main building and the side building in Italian style - it does show a chimney but with this perspective and the respective position of the chimney and main building it could be hidden. the date however doesn't seem to fit with the clothes so it may be that this mill was built to a pattern of an actual Hungarian one that is the model for the one in the picture.

1 attachment

The architectural features of the side-buildings look very "Sicilian Gothic" to me. Would it have been possible for the Whittackers or Sandersons to have built English-style warehouses in Sicily in the early 19th century?

Wayne Langsdale Pickering,

I would urge caution in trying to identify the scene based on the uniform of the soldier. In the early 19th century many cities and towns in the United States, particularly in the Southern U.S., had volunteer militia companies. Each volunteer company wore a distinctive uniform that rarely looked similar to the uniform worn by the regular U.S. Army. Therefore, if you think that the scene is from a Southern U.S. city such as New Orleans, it would be wise not to rule the city out because the uniform bears no resemblance to the uniform worn by the regular U.S. Army of the period. Rather it would be wise to consult with local military historians.
WJL Pickering

Peter Farrell-Vinay,

There is only one foreground tree and no black people in the picture, but I suggest it might be a Caribbean scene to judge from the hats. The heat implicit in the sky, clothes and wall is not Mancunian.

Julian Treuherz,

Having started all this off in th 1980s I have now moved on to writing a book about the history of art and architecture in Sicily; this is definitely not a scene in Sicily. The British who were involved in the wine trade in Sicily, the Whitakers and Inghams built their warehouses in a very different style - I was in Marsala only yesterday looking at one of them.

Malcolm Fowles,

I wonder if the tower on the roof is any help with identification. Consider this 1813-1816 drawing of the Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham MA.

I am not suggesting that the building or indeed its tower resembles ours much, rather that the domed-tower-on-industrial-building may be an archetype for America of that period; ours is estimated to be 1820-1825. If the same archetype was not widespread in Europe or the Caribbean, this may narrow the search.

Is it a bell tower, belvedere, ventilator, or what?

Malcolm Fowles,

In summary, there are more images of cupola bell towers online which I won't bore you with. Most are in New England, which seems like a good place to start. Hard to find in the UK: one in Dundee. Manchester might look in local archives.

That said, the scene does seem more southerly, and I'd expect New England mill entrances to be paved by 1820. The bell-tower seems more functional (and thus derivative?) than architectural.

Perhaps a similar approach with the gothic wall coping might triangulate a region.

Howard Jones,

Not quite my subject and clearly this is a puzzling picture but is there any suggestion that the architecture of the house on the right coukld have been influenced by the Window Tax,

Kieran Owens,

The carriage depicted in this painting appears to be a Stanhope Gig, to a design by the Honourable Fitzroy Stanhope. They were first advertised for sale in London's Morning Post from 1813 onwards and were continually made until they fell out of popularity in the 1850s. They were manufactured by, amongst others, J. Tilbury carriage builders of the Edgeware Road, London. The 'stirrups' that can be seen as actually cast metal mounting plates (see attached image). If this suggestion is accepted by the contributors to this discussion, it dates the painting from no earlier that 1813. It also suggests that, if the scene is a foreign one, the carriage (or at least its design) was exported to its depicted location. Perhaps, in the post-Napolionic era, it was sent to the Iberian peninsula along with other English manufactured goods that followed Bonaparte's demise.

Kieran Owens,

Howard Jones' suggestion above, that the influence of the Window Tax might be considered when contemplating this painting, is an important one. Simplistically, the tax was levied at different rates depending on the number of windows in a building. The fact that the gable ends of both the main industrial buildings and the small officials' building on the right of the painting have a number of windows blocked out might suggest that some proportion of windows was affordable, but beyond that it was not so.

In England and Scotland the tax was introduced in 1696 and was repealed in 1851. A similar tax was introduced in France in 1798 and was not repealed until 1926. Given the generally accepted idea that the painting depicts a hot foreign location, might this be a French colonial outpost that was subject to this tax? Economic and taxation history experts might be able to cite additional examples of this tax in more hot countries, which might also narrow down the search parameters.

Also, there is one other possibility. Given that the industrial buildings are separated from the street by a high, one-storey wall, and are flanked by two obviously well-appointed officials houses or offices, could these buildings actually be a workhouse? See the attached for a description of one such place, where cotton is spun, as a reason for this suggestion.;="window+tax"+spain&source=bl&ots=R6ESZ9bWS0&sig=tmTdcnAcDjzAYS2J-aeOu9A9VfQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwji1-HzlbDYAhXrAMAKHQAkD9cQ6AEIUTAI#v=onepage&q="window tax" spain&f=false

Malcolm Fowles,

The blocked windows are also interesting for telling us that this is unlikely to have been a model painting of a proposed mill building (Mark Gray, above). A new building with blocked windows?

That said, there is a discrepancy between building styles in this image. The gateway and wall are obviously later than the other structures, being scalloped and pinnacled in the Gothic revival style. Given the enthusiasm for this revival, we'd surely see some evidence of it on the other buildings if they were contemporaneous.

Although Gothic revival began in the mid 1700s (e.g. Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill), general use of Gothic elements only became popular in the early 1800s (Wikipedia) - about right for our date. So a building proposal for the gateway alone is a possibility. On the other hand, the work is just as likely to be proudly displaying a new gateway.

Malcolm Fowles,

Do we know an expert in early 1800s oil lamps? (!) Those on the gateway are quite striking.

Malcolm Fowles,

Is there a reason why no more serious attention has been paid to Bendor's suggestions of Wellington Mill and Adlington Square Mill in Stockport?

The discrepancies in the modern photo of W.M. (Andrew Greg, above) is no reason to dismiss it. The Stockport Image Archive has 18 images of the mill before its conversion. Two clearly show the half-moon gable window, above a blank wall with one doorway and fire escape. Another shows an odd structure completely blocking the other end of the building. Most of the rest show the fighting and aftermath of a major fire in 1947. Therefore almost all of the modern image, including the layout of the end windows, is recent restoration and cannot be compared.

The half-moon window is a key piece of evidence that has lasted to the present day. Who was designing such windows at the time of the painting and how widespread are they?

Martin Hopkinson,

The style of the screen at the entrance to the complex and the figures in the foreground suggest that it is unlikely to be a representation of buildings in the North West of England. However, as Bendor and Malcolm have remarked the style of the largest building does suggest that it was designed by a builder or architect familiar with British mills . This would suggest that unsurprisingly the business operating here was a British one.
Louis Musgrove's points about Holts mills outside Britain needs to be pursued

Malcolm Fowles,

I caution against dismissing the style of the screen as "not NW England".

See Wikipedia "Gothic Revival architecture" which reveals that, from the early 1800s, first in Britain and then many other countries, elements of Gothic style become ubiquitous. They were sometimes used in a "pick-and-mix" way rather than an integrated style, as you can tell from surviving buildings.

The three elements in our painting are the obvious pointed arches, the arched scalloping below the wall coping, and the slim, decorated pinnacles aside the gateway. The scalloping seems "foreign", I think because one's immediate reaction is that it is Moorish, as the arches appear in a context we aren't accustomed to. The pinnacles seem French flamboyant in style to me. My point is that to Revival architects worldwide both had become merely elements in the Gothic pattern book.

Hence only the clothing suggests "not NW England" to my mind. But is it explicable as the artist's fancy? Arguably the exotic screen is the main subject of the painting, possibly even its motivation (as a novelty of the time), and the figures are present only to populate the foreground.

Malcolm Fowles,

@Manchester Art Gallery, are you absolutely sure that "the lie of the land in Stockport is different" around Wellington Mill? We've seen from the archive pictures just how much things can change over time.

In three happy years at Manchester University I only once visited Stockport, and now remember nothing of it. But now I have Google Street View! I agree about the land at the Dow Bank end of the mill. However, if I park metaphorically at the traffic lights in Mersey Square, everything between me and the mill is either obviously more modern or probably not Georgian. Mentally removing them, I am left in a flat open space, requiring some few paces to the left to get our view of the gable end.

This might be sorted out by (very, pre-railway) old maps of Stockport.

Kieran Owens,

It is worth remembering that David Holt was an eminent Quaker. If this painting depicts one of his or another member of the Society of Friends' mills in either the American or Caribbean colonies, then it might be worth consulting with Jordan Landes, of the Institute of Historical Research at the School of Advanced Studies of the University of London, whose "London Quakers in the Trans-Atlantic World" was published in 2015 by Palgrave Macmillan. ( ).

Malcolm Fowles,

Count a row of windows along the side of the mill in the painting. I make it 18. The final one is made a bit less apparent in places by painterly lost edges.

Along the side of Wellington Mill in there are also 18 windows.

The one difference I see is that the painting shows a slight step in the line of wall beyond window 2. Just enough to cast doubt. These painters really know how to irritate.

Martin Hopkinson,

There were Holt Mills in Fayetteville, North Carolina - but there is no evidence that this Holt family was in any way connected with the Manchester family. Edwin Michael Holt [1807-84] had emigrated from England, having earlier come from Germany.His father, Michael, had a grist mill on Alamance Creek. E M Hill built and opened Holt and Carrigan Cotton Mill in 1837 - this information and more in the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. It has a long bibliography referring to his diary 1844-54 [typescript] in the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as well as a book by Eugene Michael Holt and his descendants, 1807-1948 published in 1949. This Holt was a Lutheran and politically a Whig.
Several other members of his family have entries in the North Carolina Dictionary
As they came from Germany it is possible that they anglicised their name on arrival in England. There was a sizeable German community in Manchester in the first half of the 19th century - many of them Jewish families - and clearly Bill Williams, The making of Manchester Jewry 1740 -1875, 1976 and his articles need to be consulted. Also any other publications on the German community in Manchester in the 19th century.

Martin Hopkinson,

Melvin Thomas Copeland , The cotton manufacturing industry of the United States, Cambridge, Harvard, 1912, pp.3-16 covers the period up to 1860. It does not seem to mention connections with Manchester during this period - the index does not records individuals involved either

Martin Hopkinson,

There were 19 textile mills in Georgia by 1840.

A block very comparable to the main one in our picture can be found in a wood engraving at
Wren and Bennett were the landlords of this mill - but no date or information of the source of this illustration is given. - but it seems likely to be a British mill

Martin Hopkinson,

Wren & Bennett were Manchester based Millwrights, machine makers and engineers of 31 Dale Street and 6 Newton Street in 1841 [Pigott's Directory]. Bennett married James Nasmyth's sister - so there should be information in the extensive literature on Nasmyth. This from Grace's Guide to British Industrial History.
My ancestor and great great grandfather John Hopkinson [1824- 1902] turns out to have been an engineer with them by 1850! [Slater's Directory] - The firm became Wren and Hopkinson in 1851, and he continued with the firm until c. 1880

Martin Hopkinson,

The principal architectural firm in Manchester designing mill buildings in the 19th century were Stott and Sons practicing between 1847 and 1931 , starting as A H Stott [Abraham Henthorn 1822-1904] - too late for our mill , but was his father James a builder?
There is a 1998 monograph by Roger N Holden , Stott & Sons, architects of the Lancashire cotton mill , Carnegie , Lancaster

Martin Hopkinson,

The design of the main block can also be compares with that Kershaw Leese's India Mills, Heaton Mersey , Stockport - see the advert of 1920 for the firm illustrated on Grace's Guide. The mill complex was large then, beside the river Mersey, and close to the spectacular railway viaduct of the Manchester to London line [thanks to my brother Jonathan Hopkinson for this]
The company was established in 1813

Martin Hopkinson,

Wren and Hopkinson designed John Dewhurst's cotton mill at Skipton - John Hopkinson married Alice Dewhurst, John Dewhurst's daughter in 1848 He had joined Wren and Bennett as an apprentice in 1840 and he was put in sole charge of the India Mills before his 5 year apprenticesip was finished. It was constructed to house 1000 looms and 70, OOO spindles - so large
He 'was the designer of many large mills and work throughout the country' including the mills at Skipton and the reconstruction of York Street Spinning Company's premises in Belfast
For all this see Mary Hopkinson and Lady Ewing, John and Alice Hopkinson 1824-1910, London, nd, pp. xvii - xxii, 113.
The possibility that he was the designer of the central block in the Manchester City Art Gallery painting should be considered.

Malcolm Fowles,

For John Hopkinson to be our designer, the mill would have to be much later than suggested by the carriage and the dress of the figures. Sorry.

Malcolm Fowles,

An interesting quote from Wikipedia (Cotton Mill#United Kingdom).

Mills from 1825 to 1865 ... were of red brick or sometimes local stone with a greater attention to decoration and **the main gate was often highlighted with stone decoration.**

The source is given as Williams, Mike; Farnie (1992), Cotton Mills of Greater Manchester, Carnegie Publishing, ISBN 0-948789-89-1
I hope the collection has ready access to this.

Martin Hopkinson,

The India Mills can be glimpsed in EE Smith's Stockport from Brinksway, Cheshire of 1906 [Stockport Heritage Services] by which time much had been altered

Answers to two questions raised in recent postings: the window in the gable is a 'Diocletian' window, named after its use in the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. These are a feature of Palladian and neoclassical architecture from the 16th century onwards, such as Chiswick House , London, (1725) and Pennsylvania Station, NY, (1906-10) so no help with dating our mill. The cupola on the roof must be a bell tower, used of course to mark the beginning and end of shifts.

Martin Hopkinson,

The architecture of the two buildings adjoining the screen is more likely to provide a more accurate date to the complex - as well as the screen itself

Malcolm Fowles,

Bendor mentioned a "slightly smaller" mill next to Wellington Mill. You'll find it on the 1872 OS 25 inch (i.e. amazing detail) map of Stockport, sheet Cheshire X.15 at (Find Wellington Bridge on the Mersey and go south a bit.)

The mill is Daw Bank Mill, much the same length and width as Wellington. They could be sisters. More interesting is its orientation relative to the adjacent road. The angle is perfect; a junction forms a space wider than the road; and a receding corner offers the painting spot.

Added to Wellington Mill's matching number of bays and storeys, and the Diocletian window, together with photo of a mill in Blackburn with later ornate styles of gateway and lamps ( Cotton Industry/Cotton Industry 18th to 20th Century/PublishingImages/jb09507.jpg), there are in my view too many coincidental memes, tropes or what you will, to ignore. There's a case to answer.

Can we ask one of our dress experts to comment on the figures? I wonder if they are of a real place and time?

Malcolm Fowles,

Martin, re the date, to quote from the V&A "Style Guide: Gothic Revival":

Medieval Revivals 1780 - 1830

The Gothic Revival developed from the Medieval Revivals style. The earlier style had been the concern primarily of a small group of scholars and lacked the serious moral concerns that characterised the Gothic Revival Style. Objects tended to be more delicate and fanciful and lacked the bold forms and bright colours of the later style.

I think that's what we see here, a dilettante collection of Gothic bits. The full blown Gothic Revival style leads to the Houses of Parliament and the Albert Memorial, and by different paths to the gateway whose photo I referenced above.

I should confess here that I have a big dilettante collection of images of medieval Gothic architecture, including all the postcards of all our cathedrals, abbeys, Beverley, and St Mary Redcliffe. :-) To me this wall is just so kitsch! Love it!

Malcolm Fowles,

In the high res image (@Manchester Art Gallery above) what do you see through the gateway?

It could be just abstract forms to hold the viewer's eye. If so, other puzzling elements in the painting come into question too, and we may as well give up.

If the triangle is a church spire (a) what price now on this being somewhere other than England? and (b) if the artist saw such a spire, this isn't Daw Bank Mill unless a church was demolished between the painting and the 1872 map.

Otherwise, the 1872 map has more than one mill and manufactory in suitable lines of sight.

Mark Gray,

I've just returned to this discussion after some time away from it and want to make some points of observation.

1. If these are mill buildings, why is there such a narrow entrance/exit point to allow processed cloth to leave the mill and raw cotton to arrive by waggon?

2. if these are mill buildings, where is the power source for the looms?

3. if these are mill buildings why are the windows above wall height to what I take to be the NNW (if evening) or else SSW (if early morning) end of the 'new' building bricked up, reducing the time available for work in daylight considerably for no reason?

4. If these are mill buildings why is the space so sparsely used to the left of the main building as we view it? Mills were notoriously crowded spaces.

I still stick with the proposition that this is *not* a mill or factory at all but a workhouse. Workhouse buildings to a design that looked remarkably like this - and very similar in design to industrial buildings like cotton factories and mills - were around in Victorian England, and I have given some examples in earlier contributions. Peter Higginbotham, the presiding genius of the brilliant webpages (see might be able to suggest a location? In my view the building at the front to the LEFT is the overseers house, and that to the right the doctor's (with herb garden) - hence the narrow entrances and private gate to the rightmost building.

I hasten to add I still stick with the view that, since lots of people have been asked if they recognized this building since 1943 and all have drawn a blank that this is a depiction of a planned building which probably didn't get built - a sort of oil painting version of an architects CAD drawing today. (I also think it far fetched that David Holt happened to have a picture of a building of what might or might not be a mill/factory in the tropics in Manchester, but one can't be conclusive on that; his letters and papers may disclose business interests there, but if not that must reduce, in my view, the likelihood that the picture shows a building from those parts).

Martin Hopkinson,

One question not yet raised is whether the Holt family in Manchester is connected with the Holt family in Liverpool whose business interests extended beyond Britain . There is a substantial archive for that Holt family in Liverpool Record Office
Certainly the possibility that this complex of buildings was never erected must be kept in mind. Indeed the space if extra may be there to increase clarity
As for workhouses, were any as tall and as similar to mill buildings as the central building in this painting? This building certainly bears a very strong resemblance to the standard model for mill buildings of the first half of the nineteenth century.
Obviously Peter Higginbotham's webpages and other publications on workhouses need to be scrutinised

Martin Hopkinson,

There is a 1999 book by Susan Hill on the Workhouses of Northern Manchester

Martin Hopkinson,

Peter Higginbothom' s 2006 book on the subject Workhouses of the North can be consulted at Chetham's Library in Manchester and at Durham University

Howard Jones,

On top of the bell tower at the top of the 'Mill' is something which looks like an aerial. This looks over complicated for just a lightning conductor. What did lightening conductors usually look like?

The gas lights look large and very fine but they might indicate a large town site with a reliable gas supply. Could mills generate their own independent supply of gas from coal?

Malcolm Fowles,

Mark, if this is Daw Bank Mill, the map shows it surrounded by a back road, which serves a huge print works directly opposite, and looks like it also serves the mill. We'd be looking at the public/admin entrance, which makes more sense of the decorated wall.

If you think this is a workhouse, I suggest you look for evidence of a 7 storey one. It should be (in)famous. The most I can find is 4 at Rochdale, which was huge.

Your point about the power source is a good one. Trouble is, we only see half of the building. According to Wikipedia, some combined the stair column and chimney (!) which might explain the odd structure at one end of Wellington Mill.

Why do you say people have drawn a blank when we have photos of Wellington Mill with 18 bays, 7 storeys and a Diocletian window? OK, it doesn't match the street layout well, but right next to it there used to be one of a very similar ground size that does.

Manchester Art Gallery,

I have asked my colleague who made the comment about Wellington Mill to add further comment when she returns from leave. In the meantime I had been puzzling about what can be seen through the gateway and as someone mentioned it here I thought I would include a closeup.

Andrea Kollmann,

Would it be possible to have a close up of the wall to the right of the lady in the white dress? I might be seeing things, but that looks like an inscription to me. Thanks!

Martin Hopkinson,

Wellington Mill was built for Thomas Marsland c. 1830 [ presumably named after the Duke, who was Prime Minister from 1828 to 1830]
There is a good photograph of one end in Roger N Holden, Stott & Sons. Architects of the Lancashire Cotton Mills, Lancaster, 1998 p. 10 fig - who state that it was typical of mill architecture of the second quarter of the 19th century.
It was fireproof see Mike Williams & D.A. Farnie, Cotton mills in Greater Manchester, Manchester, 1992, p. 83
This book has a gazetteer of cotton mills - possibly of those still standing as it seems to be rather incomplete

For John Dewhurst's Belle Vue Mills in Skipton rebuilt 1832 see R Geoffrey Rowley, The Book of Skipton, Buckingham 1983, p. 79

India Mills, Stockport are partly visible in a postcard [Cliff Hayes, Stockport, Stroud, 1997, p. 39]

Hanover Chapel, Lancashire Hill , Stockport, opened in 1821, was in a 'stripped ' non- archaeological Gothic see Morris Garratt and Shirley McKenna, Stockport, 1999, p.92

The type of Gothic screen is not without parallel in the North West see the ruined Gwrych Castle , near Abergele, begun in 1819 by Lloyd Hesketh http://www.castlewales/gwrych.html - not far from Lancashire [Alexandrina Buchanan has pointed this out to me]
He was presumably a relation to the Heskeths of Rufford near Ormskirk
The two buildings at the front seem to include cast iron. L N Cottingham , the architect, published books on cast iron in the 182Os. There must also be quite a literature on the architect Thomas Rickman and the Liverpool iron founder John Cragg, pioneers in its architectural use in the second decade of the 19th century

Andrea Kollmann,

To be a bit more precise about which lady in white I meant in my previous post, I attach the detail.

Malcolm Fowles,

The puzzle of the mill's energy source is solved if you look at the painting from a distance. A plume of smoke is rising from roughly the centre of the building. Close examination obscures 'the wood for the trees'.

Perhaps the painting is glossing over reality, also hinted at by the dress of the figures and the general cleanliness.

Malcolm Fowles,

@Manchester Art Gallery. Thanks for the image.

I wonder if it is time for us to take a back seat while you and your contacts reconsider records that aren't online. I'm thinking specifically about the Central Library's cotton industry records and the provenance of the painting, but no doubt there are others.

Taking all together, it seems worthwhile finding out what is known about Daw Bank Mill, Stockport. Date, design, builder / architect, first owner, etc. Wellington Mill greatly resembles the painting but seems to be wrongly positioned, so was Daw Bank a sister building right next door?

If I could, I'd also be looking for comment on the arrival of a new style of architecture in mills, with pointed arches. I can't escape a nagging feeling that this wall is why the picture was painted. The more I stand back, the more it looks like the subject. Either that or it is a dreadful example to young painters of putting a barrier in the composition.

Mark Gray,

Some further observations:

1. The shadow nearest the viewer suggests this is a thoroughfare between buildings, and that the building nearest our pov is reasonably substantial.

2. Shadows suggest (all other things being equal) if this is morning scene, 'our' buildings are to the north of that thoroughfare (possibly NNW); if an evening one, to the south (possibly SSE) - but that in any case the thoroughfare is on a very broadly east-west alignment and the site on a very broadly north-south one.

3. Given the vanishing point is likely to be parallel with the structure glimpsed through the doorway, and given the image of the building site itself suggests some (rather inventive) foreshortening, the distance from front to back of the site is likely to be at least 2x that of the street frontage.

None of this may help - or it may help to winnow down the list of candidate mills, infirmaries, workhouses etc. from maps.

Malcolm Fowles,

The shadows of the foreground figures suggest a solar azimuth of about 40°. At Manchester, in 2018, the sun only reaches this height between 29th March and 14th September. On those end dates it does so around noon, whereas on 21st June it does so at 08:32 GMT (104° ESE) and 15:47 GMT (255° WSW). These represent the theoretical boundaries of the sun's direction. A summer afternoon thus fits Daw Bank Mill and the row of houses on this side of Daw Bank rather well.

Source: and useful to photographers.

However, I would never use it as evidence for a painting. Artists are not cameras, not even before photography. We choose shading for compositional reasons. The foreground shadow is a classic example, obscuring detail that might distract the viewer's eye and cause it to exit the painting.

Martin Hopkinson,

Quite a number of 'model'books were published by architects for less skilled architects in the early 19th century . One might well find that the two buildings at the front have sources in one of these.
Surely the mill buildings themselves have no Gothic elements and are purely practical in their design

Malcolm Fowles,

Martin, maybe some High Victorian mills had Gothic Revival elements, but you are right about these earlier ones. Wikipedia's source says only that gateways had stone decoration.

Malcolm Fowles,

Mark, the vanishing point of the left-hand building is not the same as the others. If the artist was being faithful rather than interpreting for effect then the side of that building is not aligned with the general direction. Potentially a clue, but also quite an IF and dependent on the layout being stable between the painting and the evidence.

Manchester Art Gallery,

I agree that from the full image of the painting the wall behind the lady does look like it has some letters "Pai??t"

I have been down to the store to take some better images of that section and unfortunately, bringing that area into greater focus causes whatever that mark may be to merge into something less decipherable.

Andrea Kollmann,

Thank you for the images! It looked promising, too bad.
One more question that hasn’t been asked yet: is there anything on the back of the painting or the frame that may provide a lead?

Martin Hopkinson,

British workhouses of the early 19th were almost always only 3 storeys high - very occasionally 4 see Kathryn A Morrison , The workhouse, 1999

Howard Jones,

If we are looking for writing or letters are there large printed letters running down the left hand side of the doorway to the house to the right of the painting. If these are letters their size would indicate that this is a business premises. If they are letters they are partially obscured so only half of each letter can be seen clearly.

Is pollen analysis of an use with a painting like this? If there are pollen traces they might confirm whether or not it was painted in the UK near to Manchester.

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, inasmuch as the patterns to the left of the door look like lettering at all, the apparent font used would be much too modern. And even if a C19th business were to have had its name writ large and rotated through 90 degrees in such a wholly anachronistic way, surely it would have been placed somewhere more prominent and visible from the street? I'm pretty sure that it is just the trellis-work, perhaps a little decrepit, round the door; and that your brain (like mine, often) is trying to do what human brains evolved to do - to seek order and logic in random marks and shapes. See attachment.

I am baffled by the pollen suggestion: I can't see where any free, analysable, undeteriorated pollen might be. As far as I know, palynology is a science limited to analysis of pollen found trapped in environmental layers, especially anaerobic ones like lake bottoms and peat bogs. Even if there were theoretically some grains trapped in the paint layer, and they could somehow be extracted undamaged, examined and identified, it is a bit bonkers to think that in a world where collections are struggling to maintain minimal curatorial staff levels they could commit many thousands of pounds to advanced scientific testing. This would apply equally to some tests that *might* perhaps yield useful results - of the canvas and stretcher, for instance (if original).

Manchester Art Gallery,

I can confirm we definitely don't have the resources for a pollen test. We value Art Detective for the level of additional research that it provides.

Manchester Art Gallery,

I don't feel we have been able to reach a satisfactory conclusion on this discussion and I propose that we look to close it. Thank you to all who contributed, it was certainly an interesting discussion.

Andrea Kollmann,

Is there a change to see an image of the back of the painting? Such images were of great help in other discussions lately.

Manchester Art Gallery,

Unfortunately not. This work has a modern backboard fitted and unless it is unframed this feature remains hidden.

Before the discussion is quite closed, I think it worth comparing this painting with another mill subject at Manchester Art Gallery -- Eyre Crowe's 'The Dinner Hour, Wigan' of 1874:

Crowe's picture provides, as a background to the lively group of workers taking their break, a comparable complex of mill buildings. The principal one, to the right in Crowe's painting, is similar to the dominant central building in the work under discussion and it would not be unreasonable to assume that this is a common, generic type of mill building -- rather than one that can be specifically identified -- in both scenes. Both buildings seem to have plenty of bricked-up windows, suggesting that there was nothing unusual about this.

The essential difference between the two works (if we ignore Crowe's figures) is that there is an eerie stillness and tidiness to the work under discussion -- in fact a high degree of idealism -- compared with the background to 'The Dinner Hour', which is very much a site of human activity, not least with its chimneys belching dark smoke.

I suggest the 'Unidentified mill scene' in unlikely to be identified because it probably never existed in reality. It could be a prospect of a planned mill complex intended for construction in this country or (more probably) overseas, but never realised, or it could simply be an idealised view of such a complex, perhaps painted for a mill owner.

Manchester is right that this discussion, though very interesting, has gone on for some years without substantially adding to the knowledge the collection had at the beginning. There is a consensus: that it is very probably a cotton mill, the main block in form very similar to British examples and the chimney hidden behind the main block (perhaps for aesthetic reasons): that the costume and entrance buildings suggest it is probably in the Americas; that the costume and architectural style suggest a date around the middle of the first half of the 19th century; and that it may well be an idealised view of a proposed or unbuilt mill.

If further concrete evidence is found in the future a new discussion could be opened.

Christopher Cummings,

I believe by viewing the architecture it must be of a Spanish style view in the either drawing or painting by the way the gentlemen and the horse attendant are wearing those type of hats.
Good luck with your endeavours.