Completed British 18th C, except portraits, London: Artists and Subjects 19 Could William Tomkins be the artist of this view of Arnos Grove?

Arnos Grove, Southgate
Topic: Artist

Has William Tomkins been considered as the artist? He showed a view of Arnos Grove at the Royal Academy at the Royal Academy in 1774, as number 299 in the catalogue: 'Arno's Grove, the Villa of Sir William Mayne, Bart., in the county of Middlesex' along with what seems to have been a pendant (No 300: 'Ditto, looking towards Finchley Common') The style seems at least compatible with Tomkins, notably in the striking use of white objects in the green landscape, also seen in his views of Audley End.

Oliver Perry, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. Art UK has amended the artist record from ‘unknown’ to ‘William Tomkins (c.1732–1792) (attributed to)’. The discussion clarified that the donor, ‘Mrs Sale’, was Katherine Sophia Sale (née Bradshaw) (1867–1952) and that she probably donated the picture between 1939 and 1952.

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


The Collection has commented: 'We don't believe William Tomkins has been considered as the possible artist. We will carry out some additional research when we are next at our object store. In the meantime, if this work could be opened up for public discussion that would be helpful.'

Jacinto Regalado,

However, given that Tomkins is known to have painted Arnos Grove c. 1774, an attribution to him seems reasonable.

Oliver Perry,

An engraving of Arnos Grove in William Watts' Seats of the Nobility & Gentry, dated 1784, uses the same composition of bridge and water in the foreground. However the details of the bridge are different, and the house is shown much more prominently. Signed "W. Watts del et sculp".

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Jacinto Regalado,

The inscription on the Watts print, of course, indicates he was both draughtsman and engraver, and presumably drew the image on site initially. If he had made the drawing after a painting, the painter's name would normally appear at lower left just below the image.

Oliver Perry,

Perhaps its worth reproducing the text to Watts' print, actually first published in 1779.


ARN?’S GROVE is situated at Southgate, a Village about ten Miles North of London. It was built by James Colebrooke, Esquire, and, at his Death, became the property of Sir George Colebrooke, Baronet, who greatly improved and modernized the Grounds.

About the Year 1777 it was purchased by the present possesor, who has likewise made considerable Improvements, and additional Walks in the Pleasure Grounds, which are now nearly three Miles in Circuit. The New River winds for upwards of a Mile through the Valleys, and having been, by Permisson of the New-River Company, increased in Breadth, has a very pleasing Effect.

The House was materially altered by Sir George Colebrooke, who built a Library and Eating Room in one of the Wings, under the Direction of Sir Robert Taylor, from Designs nearly refembling the new Offices in the Bank of England.—The Library is twenty-five Feet by twenty, and twenty in Heighth; the Eating Room thirty-five Feet by Twenty-four, and twenty in Heighth.

The opposite Wing was finished by Lord Newhaven, who had the Estate a short Time before the present Owner.—It contains, likewise, an Eating Room, twenty-five Feet by twenty, and twenty high.—A hall, in the Center of the House, leads to the Drawing Room, which is thirty-six Feet by twenty-seven. The Staircase and Hall were painted by Lanscroon.

The Situation of the House is remarkably pleasant, commanding a View of several rich Valleys, with the Hills toward Finchly, Muswell Hill, &c."

The painting seems to how the relationship between the house and the New River much more accurately than the print. The New River (constructed in the 17th Century to bring clean water into London) was dug along the 100ft contour: I can't find a contemporary map online at a legible scale, but from descriptions the course through the Arnos estate ran along the south side of the property, along the north side of the valley of Pymmes Brook, crossing the brook via an aqueduct then doubling back along the south side of the valley. The river has since been straightened and the whole stretch obliterated. The house stood on the eastern side of the property, getting on for half a mile away from the course of the brook, at something of an angle to it.

Attached is an extract from a later map, with the house marked in red and the 100ft contour, and thus the old course of the New River, in green.

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Marcie Doran,

Oliver mentioned views of Arno's Grove by Tomkins at the Royal Academy in 1774. A snippet (attached) from 'James Beattie's London Diary, 1773' shows that "Mr. Tomkins" was hired by "Sir. William [Mayne]" to paint "views of Arno's Grove".

And, in a letter dated [Saturday] July 31, 1773, James Beattie (1735–1803) wrote that "on the Wednesday there was no company but a Mr. Tomkins, a painter, who came to take a view of Arno's Grove".

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Marcie Doran,

A print showing Arno's Grove on the British Museum website that was drawn and engraved by Samuel Rawle (1875,0710.5338) is dated 1804. It has an incorrect title ("Arnois Grove, Southgate, the seat of Isaac Walker Esqr."). Note that the trees have grown larger since the Art UK work was created and there is a pagoda near the small bridge on the right-hand side of the print.

The Wikipedia page for "Arnos Grove" includes an image of the house, by J.P. Neale, dated 1816.

A guide to London and Middlesex by J. Norris Brewer, published in 1816, includes that same image of Arno's Grove by J.P. Neale on the first plate after page 706 (page 813 of 943 of the pdf).

Richard Garnier's 1998 study 'Arno's Grove, Southgate', mentions the Watts print in footnote 6 and the Neale print in footnote 7 with an incorrect plate reference.

Marcie Doran,

Can the museum tell us when this work was acquired? The previous owner of this painting, "Mrs. Sale", would have been related to the Walker family of Arno's Grove.

According to the BNA and records on Ancestry, including the excellent "Sale_One" family tree, John Walker (1767–1824), who was the only son of Isaac Walker (1725–1804), married Sarah Walker (née Chorley)(1774–1852) on May 7, 1793. Their youngest daughter Lydia Rawlinson Sale (née Walker)(1803–1843) married Reverend Thomas Sale, DD (1804–1873) on August 7, 1834.

The owner of the Sale_One" family tree has authorized me to include a screenshot of the "facts" page for Lydia.

Marcie Doran,

A "Mrs. Sale" donated this view of Broomfield Park dated 1903. Broomfield Park was next door to Arno's Grove.


If the donation of the work we are discussing was made in the late 19th/early 20th century, the donor was most likely Frances Fleming Sale (née St. John)(bapt. 1843–1905), who was the widow of John Edward Sale (1838–1897)(son of Lydia and Thomas). The couple were childless whereas John's brother Thomas Walker Sale (1835–1900) and his wife had 12 children. Her will doesn't mention specific paintings.

Frances lived in Swainswick (Bath) at the time of the 1901 Census and passed away there. She had become a member of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1903.

The collection does not have a database. The object file will be checked next week and I've asked for photographs of the back and the frame, if the painting is at the same location.

Sarah (Enfield Museums Service), thank you again for the attached photographs and for your message, copied below:

‘Please find attached a few images I was able to take of the painting, including plaque on the front. Apologies that these are not great quality. Due to the painting’s current storage, I am unable to fully access the entire object at this time.

I have been unable to locate the object index card. However, a note in the written accession register states February 1983 as the ‘Received Date’. This may only refer to the date the object was recorded in the register instead of its actual acquisition date. If the painting was originally on display at Broomfield House Museum, there is a chance the object card may have been destroyed in the first fire of 1984. The donation year may come to light when we start to fully catalogue the collection as part of our NHLF funded Dynamic Collection project over the next 15 months.

Apologies that I am not able to offer as much information at this time, however I hope the attached can be useful.’

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Marcie Doran,

The donor would have been Katherine Sophia Sale (née Bradshaw)(1867-1952). Her husband Rev. Thomas Rawlinson Sale (1865-1939) was the eldest of the 12 children of Thomas Walker Sale (1835-1900) and Emma Grace Sale (née Little)(1844-1910) (07/01/2023 22:31).

Katherine’s brother John Bradshaw (1863-1939) was living at ‘The Grange’, Southgate, in 1901. Since John Bradshaw passed away in 1939, for him to be named on the plaque and object card as “the late Mr. John Bradshaw”, suggests that the donation was made between 1939 and 1952. Katherine’s own husband had passed away in 1939 as well. The dates are from the “Sale_One” family tree on Ancestry.

Looking at the similarly feathery trees and general prospects of other Tomkins paintings online, the fact that he exhibited an Arno's Grove at the RA in 1774, and the gallery scale of the canvas (4ft 10in x 6ft 3in), I am wondering why this has not already resolved as at least 'attributed to William Tomkins c. 1732-1792. He was elected ARA in 1771 (and has an ODNB entry) and no-one has suggested an alternative: it is just the sort of commission he clearly did and would have had a right as ARA to hang in the annual show there if he chose.

That its does not seem to have moved very far from where is was painted for by the time it was given to Enfield also supports the case.

Marcie Doran,

My contact on Ancestry wrote to tell me that Katherine Sophia Sale (née Bradshaw)(1867-1952) “has the Arnos Grove connection on two sides. She married the eldest son of the eldest son of Rev Thomas Sale (Thomas Rawlinson Sale known as Rolly). But she was also directly descended from the eldest son of Isaac Walker, her mother being his daughter Emma Loveday Walker (married Richard Bradshaw).”

Enfield Museum Service,

Thank you all for your comments and research notes! I have added all comments to a file ready to upload to our new database next year.

Best wishes,