British 19th C, except portraits, East of England and The Midlands: Artists and Subjects, Maritime Subjects 35 Can we identify this pier from the building halfway down it? Could it be Lowestoft South Pier?

Topic: Subject or sitter

The impressive building halfway down the pier should make the location identifiable. Could this be Lowestoft South Pier, much of which was destroyed by fire in 1885? The Norfolk born William Cubitt (1785-1861), later Sir William Cubitt, was its original engineer in 1831.

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK


This discussion is now closed. The location depicted has been identified as Ostend Pier, Belgium. The title of the work has been amended to ‘Paddle Steamer Departing in a Rough Sea, Ostend Pier, Belgium’ and a note added to the artwork description field.

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.


Louis Musgrove,

Is that a Helter Skelter sticking up behind the building?? They only go back to about 1900.

The tall skeletal tower is fairly clearly a harbour entrance light.
The structure to the right, linked to the main pier, seems to be set at a right angle to it with the 'hut' being used as a signal station of some sort. That as distinctive arrangement for which one explanation might be that the much larger building is in part a life-boat house, perhaps with a launching ramp on the seaward end -though I have no idea how far back those go. It all looks distinctive and the 'staffage' more English than French (no red Normandy caps etc as in 'Calais Pier' etc). There are also a lot of people on the outgoing steamer and on the also outgoing and two masted sailing vessel to the right, of which the round stern has a beamy Dutch look but is otherwise hard to put an immediate name to. There's nothing else suggesting 'cross-Channel' so beyond that (and there were a lot of Dutch vessels on the east coast) its probably just a question of finding parallel images.

What we do know is that Edwin Hayes painted views of several piers in his lifetime and in 1860 he exhibited a painting at the Royal Academy titled 'Yarmouth Beach, Galston (sic) Pier' - this should have read Gorleston, which is just to the south of Great Yarmouth. Gorleston isn't the pier in the Sheffield painting but it demonstrates that the artist worked in that area. Other known paintings include views of piers at Ryde, Calais and Ostend. The artist was back in Great Yarmouth before 1876 (see his RA exhibit that year) and before 1890 (another RA exhibit of Gorleston). Although I have read the comments made by Louis, and have seen the images referred to, I think it possible that the Museums Sheffield painting pre-dates most of those images by some decades. The Lowestoft South Pier has suffered various misfortunes in the second half of the 19th century and I think it possible that the Sheffield painting is circa 1860 and depicts the pier as it then was. I think further investigation is needed as I am not certain that we can rule out Lowestoft yet.

The NMM's many sketches by E.W. Cooke include the piers at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, 1856 (and circa). Yarmouth had openwork lookout/beacon towers ashore but no buildings of any size on the piers. Lowestoft also does not seem to fit (see below). There was a 'hut'/ signal station a little similar to that shown by Hayes on the pier at Gorleston, but the pier structure extends further than Hayes shows and the rest (inc that EWC only shows the end of the pier) does not seem to fit.

The end of the north pier at Calais (drawn bt EWC in 1875) also looks different and not enough is shown.




The steamer is sufficiently large and crowded to suggest it might be a cross-Channel European location but if so the absence of any sort of 'national' identifier in terms of flags or dress is odd. If another identifying image cannot be found it will remain a mystery but even if so the title the title ought to change to 'Shipping leaving harbour in a rough sea': neither of the main vessels at centre area arriving.

Louis, well spotted. As you suggest, I think we need a little more evidence before confirming Calais as the location. I found the website which includes information on the port and the pier. I hope this link works. It seems that a lot of work was undertaken in 1848 or shortly thereafter in order to improve the cross channel experience for passengers. From reviewing other sites it appears that Calais may have had two piers in the mid to late 19th century. I think the pier in the Sheffield painting must have been the larger of the two. In regard to Edwin Hayes' exhibits at the Royal Academy I found two with Calais in the title, namely 'Spring Tide, Calais Pier' exhibited 1873 and 'Entrance to Calais Harbour: fishing boats returning from sea' shown in 1874. It appears that the Alamy stock photo shows a painting from 1879 signed Mason (?). I suppose the question is was that pier in place in the early 1870s which would make it possible that one of the RA exhibits is the Sheffield painting?

The 'Calais' picture produced by Louis dated 1879 appears to be by the Belgian marine artist, Francois Etienne Musin (1820-88). The ship shown is Dutch however and the 'Calais' identification apparently misleading.

Here is the same location by Musin as 'Tempête-près-du-Pier', closer identity not given, and dated 1865 (you may need to cut and paste the link)çois-étienne-musin/tempête-près-du-pier-lgKyvqjtE6KNN2XvRsdcKg2

and another by him:

and the same pier buildings identified as at Ostend, this time by by Andreas Achenbach:

There are also other online images of the same pier as that at Ostend by Achenbach, for example this one dated 1879:

And here is David Horatio Winder, copying the 1879 'Calais' by Musin - but also as Ostend - in 1926:

And here are both the Ostend piers, shown by Louis Verboekhoeven:

Going back to the 1865 Musin which is first on this list, the clincher would be identifying the imposing buildings with a light tower (?) on the left.

If you also just do a general search for images of 'paintings of Ostend pier' some of these and others come up readily enough.

In the light of the above I think a more accurate descriptive title would be 'Shipping [or' A cross-Channel passenger paddle steamer'] leaving Ostend harbour in a rough sea'.

It might, however, just be the 'Ostend Pier' that Hayes exhibited as no. 134 at the RA in 1858 along with a 'Wind on shore - Ostend' (no.1011). These were the only Ostends he showed at the RA (I've not checked SBA etc).

I dont see a problem with 1858 as regards the shipping or the open-structure light beacon, but this can only be a suggestion at present.

Perhaps the collection has comments: any clues like labels/ numbers on the back for example?

Art UK also includes this one by Theodore Weber at Gateshead: though from further back in the harbour and a different angle the structures are clearly enough the same:

The end of the main pier may also be on the extreme right in this 'Off Ostend' by Hayes in Nottingham said to be dated 1875, so despite only featuring at the RA in 1858 it was a subject he also did later.

We can leave this one open a while to see if the Sheffield picture can either be confirmed as the one at the RA in 1858 or perhaps some other exhibited variant. At just shy of 24 x 46 inches it's 'gallery' size.

Edwin Hayes was a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and he exhibited there far more frequently than at the Royal Academy (there are more than 250 exhibited pictures at the RHA from 1842-1904). A check on his RHA exhibits reveals three of Ostend (in the title), all in 1859, namely 44 'Ostend Pier' price 7 gns, 135 'Wind On Shore, Ostend' price £35, and 200 'On the Beach, Ostend' price £10. On the face of it, the first two titles are likely to be the two paintings with identical titles exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1858. My RA record doesn't show prices. I think this may be significant and from Pieter's comments above about the size of the Sheffield painting, it is unlikely to be 'Ostend Pier' which was just 7 gns, a small price for a significant work by a popular artist (possibly it was a watercolour). Also our painting doesn't fit with the title of the third Ostend exhibit at the RHA. Thus, if the Sheffield painting is one of those exhibited at the RA and RHA in the late 1850s, by process of elimination it is likely to be 'Wind On Shore, Ostend'.

I agree that 7 guineas for the 'Ostend Pier' of 1858/9 suggests it was a fairly small picture compared to the presumably larger 'Wind on shore - Ostend' at 35 gns, but don't think that reasonably leads to concluding the present canvas is the latter. There are many paintings of the beaches either side of Ostend harbour (by various artists) which that sort of title would fit better: this one is definitely a 'pier/harbour' subject.

Comparison of the Musin 'Tempete pres du Pier' of 1865 and the undated but -from the steam shipping - certainly later Verboeckhoven (both included above), suggests the Sheffield Hayes is likely to be later.

Musin in 1865 shows only the main (north/east) pier and what looks like the debris of an older south/west one below the light-tower and buildings - which, incidentally, may be those also shown by Hayes here:

Verboeckhoven -as in the Sheffield Hayes - appears to show a reconstructed south/west pier with surviving pilings from an older one (as in Musin) in the shallows to its left.

If there was no intact south/west jetty at Ostend in or about 1865, then Hayes in 1858 could not have painted what at least looks like the same very solid one painted later by Verboeckhoeven.

In other words, given the Sheffield Hayes is a large picture apparently not of '7-guinea' size and that he was certainly painting occasional Ostend subjects into the 1870s (as the one at Nottingham shows), the Sheffield canvas is probably of 1870-plus date and - whether exhibited or not - likely to have been in the '35-guinea' category.

Let's see if any other candidates turn up and/or comments from Sheffield before perhaps concluding on those lines.

Louis Musgrove,

Yes-I was very doubtful about Musin's painting being Calais ,as it was labelled-as it didn't match any photos of the place I could find-but that painting clearly needs to be re-named as Ostende,as does our seascape So ,identification nearly finished.
As the Paddle Steam boat has only one funnell it may be the Chemin de Fer that started service in 1846.Would an enlargement aid us- or is the painting too impresionistic?

The two attached details right at the top enlarge well on screen, but don't help a specific identification. The other point to remember is that if Hayes was painting Ostend in the 1850s (as his RA pieces show) he already had sketches and recollection for returning to the subject later, whatever the other reasons he may have done so: i.e. the steamer may well be based on a sketch/ memory of the 1850s even if the picture was done in the 1870s and after he had perhaps passed through the place again. What we need is an original (non-RA) exhibition title that might fit, or other clues from labels on the back etc: otherwise I think we'll just have to conclude that its probably a 'mid-life' Ostend piece by him and leave it at that.

We know from the RHA records that Hayes continued to exhibit paintings of Belgian and Dutch subjects in the 1860s and up until 1902. His favoured places were Antwerp, Katwijk and Dordrecht. Presumably some works were painted some time prior to exhibition but it would appear that he probably continued to make the cross Channel crossing from time to time. Ostend may have been his favoured port of arrival but as far as I can tell there are no other paintings later than the late 1850s which include Ostend in the title. I have also checked his exhibits at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Glasgow Institute where Ostend does not feature either.

Thanks Grant: he also featured at the SBA from 1855 to 1890 (and was elected a member in 1865) but 'On the beach at Ostend, squally weather' priced at 15 guineas and shown (as with his RA 'Ostends') in 1858 was his only such example there too.

Unless the collection can provide any other clue I suggest the title might be changed to 'A cross-Channel passenger paddle-steamer leaving Ostend harbour in a rough sea', perhaps with a tentative c. 1870 date and noting that while his only exhibited Ostends date to the 1850s, he did do others into the 1870s as the 1875 one at Nottingham shows. Also that while he showed an 'Ostend Pier' at the RA in 1858, the 7-guinea price suggests it was a smaller one than this near '4-footer'.

Perhaps Art UK could prompt if there isn't an collection response by end of July and nothing else to the contrary appears in the meantime.

Louis Musgrove,

I have looked at paddle steamers.There is a commemorative stamp( 1847-1947) that Features the Chemin de Fer -later Diamant.
However | dont think it is the same as the one here.Our Steamer has more in common with an image of a paddle steamer of 1830's_Isle_{LPARENTHESES} 1830)
By 1860ish paddle steamers were bigger and had two funnels.
It appears there were quite a lot of paddle steamers going across the channel from about 1833 ish - the mail packets.
So my guess would be that this painting depicts a scene between 1835 and 1860.But as Hayes was born 1819-earliest possible 1840 ish -and pssibly, as he didn't move to London till 1852- around 1852 ish.

Here is a good woodcut showing the pier from 'Sea Pictures by James Macaulay' (Religious Tract Society), c 1880.

By this time it appears to have had a further 'leading light' at its far outer end (replacing the signal hut in the Webb painting) and a matching one added to the western breakwater shown at left in both images.

I don't think Webb's steamer allows us to be too prescriptive on painting date, though agree that the height of its funnel suggests earlier than later -at least for the time he made the sketches on which it is based.

Here is another image of the pier by Achenbach, also with a single-funnel paddler, dated 1879. It may show the steamer just driven against the pier by the weather: the more interesting possibility is that they docked alongside the main building Webb also shows and that it was an early form of 'passenger terminal'. That would certainly have allowed the greatest flexibility of scheduled operation at most if not all states of tide.

Things appear to have been simplified and generally upgraded by 1900:,_Ostend,_Belgium,_1890s.jpg

Louis Musgrove,

The Achenbach is rather weird. It doesn't resemble -apart from the harbour light tower-- any of the other Ostend images. That structure with piles and stairway behind the paddle steamer isn't familiar- unless of course it is taken some way away with a telephoto lens from a different direction-perhaps of the other arm of the harbour?--perhaps from a postcard?
I have enlarged the signature ,and does it really say 79?? I.To me it possibly says 1849 ????Achenbach was born four years before Hayes.-1815--- Achenbacks paddle steamer does look like a small early model.--- Just a few thoughts .

I think we can probably move towards closing this discussion. Martin Hopkinson's original question was whether the painting showed Lowestoft Pier. Having demonstrated that it probably did not and cast around a bit, Louis provided the breakthrough on 28 June by producing a good parallel image purporting to be Calais Pier. It was subsequently easy to show that it was in fact one by Musin and one of many of the north/east pier at Ostend at various dates from 1865 to about 1880. While we have not yet found a dated earlier parallel image by anyone, Hayes exhibited an 'Ostend Pier' at the RA in 1858, albeit probably not this one given that its 7 guinea price seems too low for its large size. An Ostend beach view at Nottingham dated 1875, and his later focus on Dutch subjects suggest he probably used Ostend as a transit port in later yearsas well so perhaps a broad date for this painting, at least for the moment, might be c. 1860-75 or c.1870 for a single one (albeit a bit of a guess). I've already suggested a possible better descriptive title ('A cross-Channel passenger paddle-steamer leaving Ostend harbour in a rough sea') but it would now be useful to have the collection's view and to hear if they could add anything else, either from file or by checking the work itself including the back for any other dating clues.

I recommend this discussion now closes on the basis of my comments and suggested dating immediately above. On second thoughts and since we have now so firmly identified the place, a better title than already suggested would be 'Ostend Pier, with a [cross-Channel] passenger paddle steamer departing in a rough sea' ('cross-Channel' as optional though it's a reasonable inference). Final decisions of course rest with the collection but it was a good 'location' question and thanks for all the inputs that have resolved it.

Sorry that this has got held up. We're still waiting for the new curator to start. It would most likely be possible to update the existing title with a subtitle (Ostend Pier), but the other details are a bigger amendment. I've emailed the contact in the automatic reply, so will try to move on this soon.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, could a close up hi-res be posted of 1) the boat being pulled in towards the pier and 2) the flags to the right of the painting? The specific areas are highlighted in red on the attached image.

1 attachment
Marcie Doran,

I thought you might like to see this 19th century work that shows the back of the main building, including detail of the harbour entrance light. This work was attributed to Herman Ottomar Herzog (1832-1932).

“Port at Ostend (Germany), o/c, 24-13-16" x 31-7/8"; not signed, but sold as by Herzog by Dorotheum in Vienna”
The description states: “Presumably, therefore, this painting dates from a time before Herzog emigrated to the United States. That year is said to have been 1869.”

I researched the black, yellow and red flag and I believe it is the “national ensign” of Belgium. The Flags of the World website ( states: “The Belgian tricolour flag, in proportions 2:3. was the ensign and the jack of the Belgian Navy and the ensign of the merchant fleet. It may also be used by the King at the main mast. Hoisted on the mainmast surmounted by the national pennant, it was used by the Minister of the Navy, by other Ministers and Heads of Departments, and by Embassadors. The flag was also hoisted by merchant ship on mizzenmast to request a pilot in Belgian waters.”

Thanks Marcie: if you look back through the discussion you'll see there are quite a lot of paintings of Ostend pier: it seems to have been sufficiently dramatic or unusual to attract artists, both of itself and in stormy weather. The matter still unclear (though not relevant to identifying it) is the exact purpose(s) of the large building that distinguished it. My guess (also above) is that it may have been a passenger 'terminal'/ waiting area probably built shortly after paddle-steamer traffic began. They were vsusceptible to mechanical paddle damage by grounding in shallow or narrow channels and Ostend is a port on a shallow tidal coast. A long pier in such circumstances maximises the tide-time windows in which vessels running to schedules (as only steamers reliably can) are able to dock, as well as minimising grounding risks. Only local knowledge is likely to confirm that, however, or otherwise. Screw-steamers and efficient mechanical dredging of the entry channel to the port would have made such things unnecessary, which is probably why it disappears in later images.

You correctly identify the (still-current) Belgian flag: it also acts as an aide-memoire for the current German one (and vice-versa) since the colours are the same but the latter has horizontal stripes with black at at the top, rather than at the hoist, and red in the middle.

Can we prompt closure on this? See my recommendation of 20/7/21 when we were waiting for a new Sheffield curator to take up post to progress.

The Collection have replied: 'Our suggestion for the title would perhaps be: Paddle Steamer Departing in a Rough Sea, Ostend Pier, Belgium - just to keep it slightly more concise.

Then we could add something to the effect of: ‘This painting is believed to show a cross-Channel passenger paddle steamer departing Ostend Pier, Belgium, in a rough sea.’ as a description.

Jacinto Regalado,

David, the discussion does not appear as actually closed yet, meaning the check mark indicating closure is not in evidence.

We have a bug here. David closed this discussion in 2022 using the usual procedure, but it is still showing open. An IT ticket has been submitted.

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