Completed British 19th C, except portraits, North West England: Artists and Subjects 24 Is this painting of Heaton Mersey by Alexander George Fraser (1786–1865)?

Heaton Mersey
Topic: Artist

Could anyone help me please find out more about the artist of this 'Heaton Mersey' painting? It says it was painted by A. Fraser in 1831. Could this be Alexander George Fraser (1786–1865)?

I have been in contact with Lancaster City Musuem where the painting is held to find out more about it. They kindly informed me that it was transferred to them in 1923 from the Storey Institute which is also in Lancaster but they have no information on when it arrived at the Storey or from where it came.

In the background is the Heaton Mersey bleachworks which was built by Samuel Oldknow c.1785–1786. The family that owned the bleachworks around 1830 were the Parkers who were from Cumbria and at one time owned Warwick Hall – pure speculation but maybe this is how it found its way to the Storey Institute.

The collection comments: 'I have now double-checked our paper records and they all refer to "A. Fraser" rather than Alexander George Fraser. I am not familiar with the latter's work so could not comment on our painting having been done by him. It would be incredibly interesting to know if it is though, as we have no information about A. Fraser.'

K Reese, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. Unfortunately, we have not been able to shed light on ‘A. Fraser’, but the balance of opinion is that this painting is not by Alexander George Fraser (1786–1865).

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


Martin Hopkinson,

The style is not like that of the other pictures under the name of Alexander George Fraser on BBC Your Paintings, but Mungo Campbell of the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, and Helen Smailes of the National Gallery of Scotland could probably give more authorative opinions as to the identity of this Fraser

Cliff Thornton,

Here is a link to a 6inch O.S. map of 1845, not long after the scene was painted
You can enlarge the map to see more detail.
The scene was painted from the elevated land to the north of the works.
I am puzzled by the church tower which rises from the woods to the right of the scene. It is where the village of Gatley lies, but it did not have a church with a tower until the 1880s.

Cliff Thornton,

Please can the collection advise whether or not this work is signed and dated? If not, what is the basis for the atribution to the date 1831?

Cliff Thornton,

Paintings attributed to the artist Alexander George Fraser on the "Your Paintings" website, are elsewhere attributed to the artist Alexander Fraser.
There were no paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy by A.G.F. but there were by A.F. The latter can be found working as an artist in London in the Census returns for 1841, 1851 and 1861.

K Reese,

Thanks for the map link. My thought is that the church tower is St Mary's Church, Cheadle which would fit timewise I think. The painting brings to life the 1845 map by showing Heaton House - with it's large arched window - on the right of the access track to the mill. Many of the bleachwork owners lived here up to the early 1900s. And you can just see the resevoir which is shown on this and later maps.

Amanda Draper,

I visited Lancaster City Museum to get a closer look at the Heaton Mersey painting. It is monogrammed and dated bottom left (unfortunately my photos of them are terrible ... long story) but hopefully one of you can identify the artist from it.

The artist is recorded as A. Fraser, although the label alongside the exhibited work says A.N. Fraser. There doesn’t seem to be a known artist of the period with that name. The painting has been on the wall over 20 years, apparently, and nobody is sure where that attribution came from.

Discussions have centred on whether the painting might be by the Scottish artist Alexander George Fraser. I’d say not, plus there are no records of him working in the Manchester area that I could find. The painting seems to be dated 1831, but it could possibly be 1851. The latter would allow AGF’s son, Alexander Fraser Jnr (1827 – 1899) to be a contender. There are similarities in subject matter but his handling of paint is more free, plus his monogramme is a distinct ‘AF’. Again, no record of him in the area.

As for the scene, it appears accurate to the topography of Heaton Mersey and the landscape beyond (I used to live there). The pack-bridge in the foreground and waterway under it may have been part of the bleachworks complex which was in two parts.

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K Reese,

Amanda, thank you for taking time to visit the museum and adding some new information to this discussion. It would be good if someone can help shed more light on the artist from the mongramme and date details you have provided. In terms of the scene, I wonder if the dress of the workers carrying cloth to the works could help date the work? And, if you are interested in finding out what's going on today in Heaton Mersey, have a look at

K Reese,

It does look to be dated as you say. There seems to be a mark to the left of this which looks related but I can't make out any initials.

Amanda Draper,

The monogramme is to the left of the date, also in red paint. It can perhaps be described as an anchor shape with, on the left, two additional arms on the horizontal joined by a perpendicular stroke. It creates a shape a bit like a butterfly wing on the left side. I couldn't discern any obvious initials.

Attached is another copy of the very poor photo previously posted.

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K Reese,

It's looking doubtful then that this A. Fraser is a known artist.

Nevertheless, the painting is a nice impression of the landscape in Heaton Mersey around what looks from the date and image to be early to mid 19th century.

In the distance is what was originally Samuel Oldnow's bleachworks, built in 1785/1786.

Manto Psarelli,

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion so far. We might not have identified a candidate for our 'A. Fraser' but after liaising with my fellow group leader as well, I am happy to recommend to Art UK that we can now close this longstanding discussion with the recommendation that execution date of 1831 seems plausible.

Jacob Simon,

Can Manto's recommendation from March 2021 be followed through by Art UK to bring closure to this 6 year old discussion?

Sadly, the name A. Fraser cannot be identified with any certainty, but the reading of the date of 1831 is plausible. Sadly I agree that the discussion can now be closed.

Marcie Doran,

There was an A. Fraser exhibiting at the R.A. in 1825 (no. 108, “A scene on the sea beach”). Also, according to the ‘London Courier and Evening Gazette’ of April 1, 1825, there was an A. Fraser showing “Courtship” at the Society of British Artists in Suffolk Street in 1825. Maybe it is too soon to give up!

Marcie, thank you for these additions. Are you looking further at 'A. Fraser'? I won't close this yet if you expect to have more to add.

Marcie Doran,

I will do some additional research early this week, Marion.

There is a reference to an “A. Fraser” of 56 Sloane Street at the British Institution in Graves that is separate from “Alexander Fraser". I see in the Graves listing that Alexander Fraser worked from 10 Johnson's Street, Somer's Town, therefore the 1825 RA work that I suggested might be by the mystery "A. Fraser" would have been by Alexander Fraser.

Marcie Doran,

Here is ‘On Holmwood Common’ by Alexander Fraser Jnr RSA RSW (Scottish 1828 - 1899). I suspect this is the painting from 1857 listed as being by “A. Fraser” of 56 Sloane Street in Graves.

Marcie Doran,

Marion, I have been unable to find any information that would shed light on the mystery artist “A. Fraser” despite checking the BNA, Google, and Ancestry.

The website for ‘Welland Antique Maps & Prints’ has an interesting image of Stockport, circa 1835, by George Pickering (1794-1857). As stated above, Heaton Mersey is a suburb of Stockport. I have included Pickering's image in the attached composite because it has many compositional details that are similar to those in A. Fraser's painting. It makes me think that A. Fraser might have been an older artist who painted an idealized view of Heaton Mersey.

Marcie, thanks for a valiant effort to get us further, but I think we'll have to draw a line under this one now. New submissions on the same topic are always welcome if more information comes to light.