Completed British 18th C, except portraits, British 19th C, except portraits, London: Artists and Subjects, South East England: Artists and Subjects 70 When were these two views of Bower House painted? Are they by the same artist, ‘J. S.’ or ‘B. S.’?

ESX_ECCC_ECRO_3
Topic: Execution date

It is not possible that this was painted in 1791. The wings on either side of Bower House were not added until 1800. The bizarre thing is that the other piece of artwork of Bower House attributed to ‘J. S.’ on Your Paintings is of the north front, and does not include the wings: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/a-view-of-the-north-front-of-bower-house-havering-atte-bowe3158

This suggests it was painted before 1800, but the painting record indicates an approximate date of 1840. Perhaps ‘J. S.’ painted the north front before the add-on and then was hired to paint the south front after the addition?

The collection comment: ‘We are quite happy for this to be opened up for public discussion. The artist’s initials are recorded at the Essex Record Office as “B. S.”’.

PCF Note: Please be aware that, until January 2016, the Your Paintings website displays the 1791 ‘A View of the South Front of Bower House, Havering-atte-Bower’ as being by the same artist of an unrelated work, ‘Cows in a Field, a Farm in the Background’ at Letchworth Museum and Art Gallery, signed in the lower-left corner ‘J. A. S’. Assigning the two works to the same artist (‘J. S’.) was an error which has been corrected in our database but is yet to appear corrected online.

Bethany Pearce, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The artist of both works has been identified beyond reasonable doubt as Abraham Pether (1756–1812) and the paintings dated to 1791 or thereabouts. They are likely to be no. 180 (the south view) and no. 206 (the north view) exhibited by Pether at the Royal Academy in 1792. The discussion has also established that the wings seen in the paintings of Bower House were a later addition, probably c.1800.

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

69 comments

Patricia Hopkins,

I have an oil painting of a rural scene with sheep & cottage which has many similarities to the style & execution of this artist.The signature is an entwined JS. Southerbys,then at Pulbrough Sussex, gave the artist name as John/ Jonathan Spence & valued the painting at £500; this was in 1992. Where would I find out more about JS & indeed if our respective paintings are by the same artist? I've searched high & low & to date your reference to an artist with the initials JS is the only one I have ever found hence I'm hoping you can tell me more & that perhaps our respective paintings are by one & the same person.......regards Tricia Hopkins

Jade King,

Hi Tricia, thanks for your comment. Would it be possible for you to upload any photographs of your painting to this discussion? Particularly of any signatures or inscriptions.

I want to mention at this stage, Art Detective was set up to improve knowledge about the UK’s art collection, and as such it cannot exclusively answer enquiries about paintings that are not in public ownership. However if Tricia's painting and Essex Record Office's painting under discussion here can be compared, both the collection and Tricia may benefit.

Patty Macsisak,

Have you considered that J.S. could be the mark of the owner/builder of Bower House, John Smith (d. 1803), rather than of the artist?

One source says he adopted the name Burges (thus John Smith-Burges) when he married Margaret, the only daughter and heiress of Ynyr Burges, esq. of East Ham and Thorpe-Hall (m. 1771) but if so, he only later obtained the name by royal license (1790).

Ref. brief biography via Google Books
Title The Monthly Register and Encyclopedian Magazine, Volume 3
Publisher J. Wyatt, 1803
Page 99

Title Complete Baronetage: Great Britain and Ireland, 1707-1800, and Jacobite, 1688-1788
Volume 5 of Complete Baronetage, George Edward Cokayne
Publisher W. Pollard & Company, Limited, 1906
Original from University of California, Berkeley
Digitized Aug 18, 2015
Page 285-286

Bethany Pearce,

Hmmm, interesting idea. Although John Smith was not the builder of Bower House, (it was built in 1929 by Sir John Baynes) but John Smith did live there from 1777 until his death in 1803. At first he was just a tenant of the property until 1787 he acquired 1/6 of a share of the property. But it is still possible that it could be his initials, as he dwelt there in 1797 when the North Front of Bower House was painted (http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/a-view-of-the-north-front-of-bower-house-havering-atte-bowe3158) See Essex Record Office for the date of 1797 (http://seax.essexcc.gov.uk/result_details.aspx?ThisRecordsOffSet=5&id=305065). And he lived there approximately when the South front was painted. Which wasn't until at least 1800 when the east and west wings were added on for a large fete that was held at Bower House in 1804 by the then widow Margaret Smith-Barnes.

See: About Bower House
Author: S.D. Pomeroy
1970

Patty Macsisak,

I appreciate the correction re: builder and assume that 1729 is the date it was built. I am curious about the name Margaret Smith-Barnes...did you mean Margaret Smith-Burges? I was aware that she married secondly John Poulett, 4th Earl Poulett (1816).

Patty Macsisak,

I am curious whether these paintings could have originated from the practice of Humphry Repton (1752–1818). After he left the employ of John Nash ca. 1800, his son, the architect John Adey Repton (1775–1860), joined his father in nearby Rumford. Another son, George Stanley Repton (ca. 1784-1862), also worked with his father.

Reviewing this discussion, I wonder what the evidence is for the attribution to an artist with the initials J.S. Is there a signature or monogram, on the front or back, or in some other documentation?

If one of the pair is signed J.S., a possible solution might indeed by John Smith, except that he became John Smith Burges in 1790 (perhaps around the date of the pre-1800 north front view?). It is perhaps conceivable that the north front view is by him and the later south front view has been attributed to J.S. on the basis of the other view. It does in fact look to be in a slightly different style. In any case, we first need the evidence from Essex Record Office for the artist's initials.

Edward Stone,

We have contacted the collection and will relay any further information we receive.

Edward Stone,

Staff at the collection have examined the two paintings of Bower House at Essex Record Office. They initially thought that the painting under discussion was the one containing the initials, but after checking were unable to see any signature.

Staff then looked at the other painting of what has been described as the north front (http://bit.ly/2zgQcZx) and found the initials on the crossed piece of wood, at the bottom right. Several members of staff have looked at the painting and think that they read ‘JB’, but cannot be certain. The collection has checked the information compiled about the paintings and the notes record either ‘JB?’ or ‘JS?’. It is unclear where the reference to ‘BS’ first crept in.

Christopher Foley,

Are we absolutely sure this is Bower House ? It seems in the lo-res image on this site to be a stucco-rendered house but in all the images I can see on the web it is red brick. Stylistically it looks to me like a picture from an earlier topographical tradition than post-1800. It is not unlike the view of Canons Ashby in the FitzWilliam by Nicholas Thomas Dall, an anglicised Danish painter of Gentlemen's seats working throughout the UK in the third quarter of the C18th

https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/ashby-lodge-northamptonshire-4371/search/actor:dall-nicholas-thomas-17061776/page/1/view_as/grid

The only painter of house-views in vaguely this sort of style working in Essex around 1800 that I can think of is George Cuitt Jnr. (1779-1854) who painted, inter alia, a series of views of The Hyde at Ingatestone for the Disney family - but his technique is rather harder-edged.

Country Life published two articles on Bower House by Christooher Hussey on March 17th and 24th 1944 which included images of these paintings. See http://www.countrylifeimages.co.uk and search for Bower House. I haven't seen the articles but it may be that the paintings were then in the house. The house certainly seems to be identical in form to that in the paintings.

Osmund Bullock,

Thank you, ERO, for checking the inscription for us, though to be honest a high(ish)-res of it that we can try tweaking electronically and puzzling over ourselves would be even better - a number of people here have spent long professional lives trying to decipher such things, and further opinions could be useful. If one is not possible from the original PCF image (is it?), then even a digital snap of the relevant area, in good light and sharp focus, could be valuable - flash is OK if taken obliquely (and not too close), or sunlight. Meanwhile can we assume that the 1791 date given to this one really belongs to the other (north front) view like the initials - in fact are they part of the same inscription?

Osmund Bullock,

I was looking for higher-res versions of the two paintings on ERO's SEAX site and came across some black & white images (there are various versions) of the paintings from old glass negatives still apparently held by the Record Office. See http://bit.ly/2gdivmE (North Front) & http://bit.ly/2yGsFE4 (South).

In this catalogue the latter is correctly dated 'after 1800', while the former is described as '1797' (not 1791), which opens up the possibility of a pair (or half of two pairs) of 'before' and 'after' views. There is no mention of initials, however. Even to access somewhat larger images on the website costs a minimum of £10, so I didn't. Glass negatives are generally very high resolution, so I wonder if the full-size digital image held by ERO of the North Front one (or a portion of it) could be made available?

The date of the photographs (made by or on behalf of the County) is not mentioned, but at the time the paintings are said to have been at 'Danbury Park'. Danbury Place (alias Palace) was known as Danbury Park from c1903 till at least the late 1930s (as given in old directories). After use as a hospital during WWII, the house was sold to Essex County Council in 1946, so the photos may date from then. Oddly, though, the Art UK entry says the paintings were "acquired from Ilford Ltd, 1960". I wonder, is it possible there was some confusion between the paintings and their photos? Ilford were a major local photographic business, producing (inter alia) specialist cameras and film - at the time they had a lab at Brentwood just a few miles from Havering, and could easily have been involved in the photography, the processing or subsequent prints made from earlier glass negs.

It would be good if we could access the Country Life articles found by Andrew. Having said that, I don't doubt that the paintings are of Bower House - though Christopher is right to suggest that the stucco appears to have been removed since 1944 (see http://bit.ly/2yimmFz ), the structure of the building appears the same.

Osmund Bullock,

The Country Life archive is now on ProQuest, and can be accessed remotely by those with credentials for many academic institutions including the Bodleian & the Courtauld: http://bit.ly/2xB4Zw1

Can anyone here oblige?

Kieran Owens,

Although probably better known for his mysterious 'moonlight' paintings, the best candidate for the artist who painted both fronts of the Bower House, Havering-atte-Bower (aka Havering Bower) is Abraham Pether (Chichester, 1756 - Southampton, 1812). Attached is a six-painting composite, including the two paintings of Havering-atte-Bower referenced in this discussion, alongside four know works by him.

In 1792, from his address at 30, Litchfield Street, London, Pether exhibited two works at that year's Royal Academy exhibition, one entitled 'South View of Havering Bower, Essex' (exhibit 180) and the other entitled 'North View of Havering Bower' (exhibit 206). An examination of various elements of all six of the composite images, especially of the trees, but also of the sky and the use of livestock and people, presents a consistent stylistic approach.

Also attached is an obituary for Pether, from The Examiner of Sunday 26th April 1812, which talks of Pether's "peculiar softness of his distances, and the brilliancy of his afternoon scenes, (which) conferred on him the appellation of the British Claude". These surely are qualities that are present in both of the Havering paintings.

Of the composite's four know paintings, one is of Claybury Hall, which is less than 8 miles from Havering-atte-Bower, and St. Alban's Abbey is just 30 miles away, so Pether was certainly working in this geographical area at the end of the 18th and the start of the 19th century. The ArtUk website has several other Pether paintings with which a comparison can be made, and several other 'daylight' works can be found by way of a Google search.

Kieran Owens,

The ArtUk site is acting up again. Here are the attachments that did not upload with my last posting above.

Kieran Owens,

P.S. - In case it crosses the mind of any observer to mention it, I am very aware that Abraham Pether's son, Sebastian, was well know for his own paintings of 'moonlight' scenes. However the above-attached list of works submitted by Abraham to the Royal Academy, between 1784 and his death in 1812, clearly shows that the father was just as entranced by that theme as the son.

Kieran Owens,

Additionally, to address Christopher Foley's question above, attached is an image of the front of the house, from the Yale Center for British Art's collection. As catalogued there, the drawing is "Inscribed in graphite, verso, upper left: "Havering Bower"" and "Dated in graphite, verso, upper left: "May 16 1819"". The similarities of style to the ArtUk's front view of the house must be obvious. For full details see:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Havering_Bower,_Essex_(A_View_of_a_Country_Mansion)_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Kieran Owens,

A selection of photos of Havering Bower can be seen at the following site:

https://www.francisfrith.com/havering-atte-bower/havering-atte-bower-ford-marketing-institute,-the-north-facade,-bower-house-c1965_h42006

The front (with its circular drive) and back views, plus the annex with its clock tower (as is depicted in the "Front View" painting), can be seen here, confirming that the two ArtUK paintings are indeed of "The Bower House"/"Havering Bower" (as time and taste named the building). Also, Havering Bower sits at the bottom of Orange Tree Hill, thus possibly explaining the artist's rather elevated position, as he looks down at the building.

Kieran Owens,

One more thought...dating evidence might exist in the Annex building (especially if the clock is the original and is dated) which could help identify the year of the painting of the North Front view.

Kieran Owens,

One additional suggestion might be worth thinking about. If these two paintings are the works of Abraham Pether, as recorded for 1792 in the Royal Academy's list of his exhibited works, perhaps the two wings depicted in the "South View' were added to the painting at a later date, after c.1800, so as to present an up-to-date version of the house, perhaps to tie in with the 1804 fete as mentioned above by Bethany Pearce. It would not have been necessary to do so in the "North View" painting, due to the presence of the tress on either side of the house, and anyhow these wings cannot be clearly seen from that view, as the photos from the Francis Frith collection clearly show. A closer examination of the "South View" might reveal a different hand involved in the painting of those wings.

Kieran Owens' discovery of Abraham Pether's pair of Havering Bower exhibits at the 1792 RA exhibition is indeed very significant. I think it is not impossible that these are the same two paintings; at the very least they are surely related to them, e.g. copies. The subject matter, the form of the trees and foliage, and slightly dodgy perspective are characteristic of Pether.

I have accessed Hussey's Country Life article and he describes the north front painting as being signed 'J.B. 1791', so the date is right for the RA and the initials perhaps a misreading of A.P.? The south front painting he dates 'circa 1800', presumably by comparison. Annoyingly he does not confirm the location of the paintings, but one assumes they were in the house, though they are not shown in the interior photographs in the article. He comments that the paintings show the house ‘washed in putty colour’, now removed of course.

If these are Pether’s paintings, then either the wings were added before 1792 or they were added to the painting later, as has been suggested. I am sceptical of the idea they were built for a fete, as has also been suggested, and Hussey only says they were probably built during the ownership/tenancy of Sir John Smith Burgess, between 1780 and 1803 (conceivably after he, according to Bethany Pearce, acquired part ownership of the house in 1787).

If we could accurately date these wings I think we have strong reasons for attributing the paintings to Pether.

Kieran Owens,

Attached is a short clipping illustrating the elevated company who visited Havering Bower during the end of the 18th and start of the 19th century. Perhaps the South View wings were constructed in preparation for this visit or for visits by other similarly distinguished guests at or after that time.

Also, as per Patty Macsisak's suggestion above, if John Smith was allowed to add Burges to his name by Royal Licence on 10 June 1790, this might explain the initials JB (if they are not in fact AP for Abraham Pether), in 1791, as an owners mark rather than an artists signature. He was created 1st Baronet Smith-Burges, of Eastham, on 4th May 1793.

Kieran Owens,

2nd attempt to upload clipping....

Kieran Owens,

Would there be a possibility that Essex Record Office could provided a very hi-res image of the initials and date that appear on the North View painting? These letters might then be compared to other recorded signatures by Abraham Pether. In particular, it would be of interest to find out of there is a similar signature on Pether's painting of 'Claybury Hall' of c.1800, which is in the Government's Art Collection. ( https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/claybury-hall-essex-29022/view_as/grid/search/keyword:claybury-hall/page/1 )

Claybury Hall was landscaped in 1789/1790 by Sir Humphry Repton for its new owner Sir James Hatch. It is less than eight miles away from Havering Bower and Pether painting it c.1800. There is a good chance that a comparison of the two paintings, vis a vis canvas, paints, and signature etc, might confirm the Havering Bower paintings as also being by Pether.

Kieran Owens,

As per the request of two months ago, would there be a possibility that Essex Record Office could provided a very hi-res image of the initials and date that appear on the North View painting?

Kieran Owens,

As per the request of two months ago and three weeks ago, would there be a possibility that Essex Record Office could provided a very hi-res image of the initials and date that appear on the North View painting?

Oliver Perry,

To clarify the provenance: this document published by Havering Borough Council) says that Bower House was actually owned by Ilford Film from 1946 to 1960, when they sold it to the Ford Motor Company. So presumably the paintings remained in the house until that date.
http://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/s18542/Ocella Pack.pdf

Kieran Owens,

Once again, as above over several weeks and months, would there be a possibility that Essex Record Office could provided a very hi-res image of the initials and date that appear on the North View painting?

Edward Stone,

A high-resolution image of the North front painting attached, courtesy of the collection. Apologies for the delay.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Not, alas, a high-res of the bit we're interested in - but thanks for trying, anyway.

Attached is the best tweak I could manage of the crossed planks and their inscription, and it really doesn't help at all. Hey-ho.

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

How very frustrating. Once again, would there be a possibility that Essex Record Office could provided a very hi-res image of the inscription, initials and date that appear on the North View painting? From this latest attachment, they would appear to be on the two planks of wood that sit on the bottom right-hand corner of the painting, to the left of the colour correction card. The top plank seems to read 'Havering Bower' but the bottom plank is unreadable even from this latest hi-res image. The taking of a close up of this part of the canvas is surely a rather simple task, which most modern mobile phones could easily do.

It's possible, but we need a good photo of the 'JS' or 'JB' monogram on the painting too. Perhaps an Art Detective reader near Essex could go and see the paintings for themselves?

Kieran Owens,

Thank you Marion for the excellent link to Pether's signature. If the hi-res image from the North View painting, via Essex Record Office, could be supplied as soon as possible, a useful comparison could be made.

Kieran Owens,

.....assuming, of course, that the Bonhams painting is actually by Pether. Signatures on known works by Pether would also be worth consulting.

Christopher Foley,

Here is a High Res image of a picture by Abraham Pether which was at the RA 1788 (422) as as “A view near Stroud in Sussex”. The form of the signature (lower centre, below the sitting child) is virtually identical to the one provided by Marion via Bonhams. I saw that picture 'in the flesh' & it was certainly by Pether, too, despite Bonhams' timid cataloguing as "attributed to". It was very well preserved and in its original frame, so a good guide to his technique at the date (1791)

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

Marion, four months on again, if the hi-res image from the North View painting, via Essex Record Office, could be supplied as soon as possible, especially in the area where the signature is located on the wooden planks in the foreground of the painting, this discussion might be able to be concluded. Is there a chance of nudging them along to supply this?

I have spoken with Essex Record Office. The person who deals with enquiries about paintings was unavailable, but I expect a reply by email soon.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, perfect! The title is obviously that of Havering Bower, the date is 1791 and the monogram is AP, surely that of Abraham Pether, as is to be found in a very similar intertwining of the letters on several other of his paintings.

The presence of the 1791 date raises the question as to whether the wings of the house were actually added as late as 1800, or, possibly, that these might have been presentation pieces to show how the house would look when the wings were added. Alternatively, as I suggest above at an earlier date, the wings were added to the painting after 1800, to keep the painting up-to-date.

What ever the truth, the date of 1791 fits perfectly for this painting to have been the one that was exhibited the following year in 1792 at the RA.

Can there be any doubt now that the painting is by Abraham Pether?

Kieran Owens,

Alternatively, can there be any doubt now that the painting is not by Abraham Pether? English not being my first language, I am not sure as to which is the more grammatically correct structure of the question!

Osmund Bullock,

I don't know how you do it, Marion: yes, huge thanks to the Duty Archivist at ERO.

Absolutely no doubt now in my mind: the monogram is the tied 'AP'* of Abraham Pether, the date is 1791, and these paintings of Bower House are the two views of 'Havering Bower' exhibited by him at the RA in 1792, as first suggested by Kieran ten months ago. Congratulations to him for the initial discovery, and for his persistence in pursuing it ever since.

[*The similarity to the 'AP' ligature in the signature on the Bonhams picture of the same year found by Marion (and which Christopher Foley confirmed as by Pether) is particularly strong. See attached comparison, together with that on the view near Stroud exhib RA 1788.]

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Kieran, the first of your grammatical alternatives (and your initial instinct) is the right one. I am amazed to hear that English isn't your mother tongue.

Kieran Owens,

Aha Osmund, English is my mother tongue but not my first language. A long life of exposure to the two regularly sew doubts about correct usage in both.

Kieran Owens,

And of course we are forgetting.......the two planks upon which the house name, date and monogram are painted are not to be found in this painting but in the other, North Front, painting that has been referenced in this discussion. An attribution of Pether to that painting is now, surely, beyond doubt and can be comfortably dated as 1791 as the added wings do not appear in it. This discussion's painting is likely to be its accompanying South Front sibling, though whether there is any signature or monogram hiding in the grass or undergrowth has not yet been observed.

Beautiful signature, date and title. The probability must remain very strong that both North and South Front are both by Pether and were the pair he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1792. They are the same size (do they have identical original frames?). The dating of the wings needs more research, preferably archival documentation of the building of them. It is conceivable, as has been suggested, they were added to the painting later; the perspective of the wings seems at odds with the main block of the house.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, would there be a chance of posting a hi-res image of the bottom quarter of this discussion's painting, so as to facilitate a search for the AP monogram in the undergrowth to the right-hand-side of the work?

Kieran Owens,

Marion, many thanks. Alas, nothing seems to be lurking therein.

Osmund Bullock,

Could I also make a request for a high-res detail from this painting, please? This time it's for one of the house itself.

In a fairly detailed black-and-white image from the ERO website (attached 1) I've noticed on the side of the wings what may possibly be 'ghost' lines marking the original edge of the building (painted over by the added wings)...or they may equally be an attempt to depict what are genuine architectural details of the wings (see attached 2). I've marked them with a green spot in the first image (which you'll need to enlarge) - it's particularly visible on the left-hand one. I suspect, though, that even on the higher-res it won't be possible to be sure, but it's worth a shot.

Osmund, This is the best crop I can get from our image, but it's good enough to demonstrate what you suspect. I see what you mean about a ghost image and I do not think these are attempts at authentic architectural detail. In the close-up attached here, a vertical line descends to the middle of the LH window of the RH wing, whereas - as your photograph shows clearly - the actual architectural detail is well left of that window.

1 attachment

Thanks to Osmund and Marion for obtaining these. They do indeed support the theory that the wings were added to the painting later and without a perfect mastery of perspective. They thereby also support the idea that these are indeed the pair that Pether exhibited in 1792.

Kieran Owens,

It might be worth noting that there are at least five architectural details in the painting that are different to the house as can be seen today. Admittedly this might result from incremental changes over the course of the house's history, but it also might suggest that our painting was intended to show how the house might look following building additions and improvements that were made at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, the final result being brought about by changes made while the building or alterations were underway.

Specifically different in the painting (working clockwise around my annotated attachment) are the chimney stacks; the hipped roofs of the added wings (compared to what would appear to now be flat roofs); the single top course as opposed to the doubles that are now present on the added wings; the broader three-pane-wide windows and doors in the painting's added wings compared to the two-pane-wide ones now; the string course that runs under all of the main house's ground-floor windows (which are straight under the far left and far right windows in the painting, but which are contoured under them all now); the small plinths on either side of the main garden door; and the far left and far right windows of the main house, which are smaller in the painting than in real life.

There might also, of course, be a degree of artistic licence being taken by artist.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Thank you, Marion, that's very helpful and interesting. As Andrew says, the perspective in the receding side wall of the RH (east) wing is distinctly odd; and no attempt at perspective at all is made in the parapet atop the LH (west) canted wing end - it is as if we are directly in line with it, unlike the RH one.

Kieran, I think the differences you note (and one or two others) are probably a mixture of changes over the years, artistic licence and/or incompetence, and very possibly just the distance the artist was painting from, which may have hindered accuracy; remember that in the full picture the house is only a small part of the composition – less than 19% of the width, and just 9% of the height.

The Yale Centre drawing of 1819 (which has its own deficiencies) certainly shows all the principal floor windows of this, the south front, as being the same height (which architecturally they must surely have been from the start), with the string course dipping beneath the outer ones as well as the inner: https://bit.ly/2zMPFjO .

Osmund Bullock,

I've now found a very detailed 2010 history of the building, and its site, surroundings and architectural context – almost too detailed, as the pdf runs to 98 pages, and being just a scan of a brochure accompanying a planning application, it is not searchable: https://bit.ly/2UkOyAx .

There is a great deal there to absorb; but the conclusion reached as to the date of the wings remains as circa 1800, which concurs with Pevsner's 'Essex' (1954), the relevant listed buildings entry ( https://bit.ly/2U05trO ), the 1978 Victoria County History of Essex ( https://bit.ly/2KK2zTO ) and apparently also S D Pomeroy’s 1970 ‘About Bower House (extracts from which are here https://bit.ly/2Q8Uy0E ).

I think we'll be unlikely to find documentary evidence of the wings' actual date of building – the house is well-known and Grade 1 listed, and if any such record existed in any likely archival resource I suspect it would have emerged before now. There might, perhaps, be some illuminating reference to be found in an unexpected place, but for that to emerge would be a stroke of luck.

Osmund Bullock,

Like Andrew I am not convinced by the 1804 idea – I doubt that such substantial building works would have been undertaken for a fête. However I have found one historical event (also mentioned in the brochure) that suggests that it was probably before Oct 1801, when Princess Charlotte of Wales visited the house with her governess Lady Elgin and retinue (see https://bit.ly/2FOhPAl and attachment 1).

I wondered for a while if the building work could have been directly connected with that...before realising that the princess was only five years old, and the visit merely a stop off for dinner on the way back from Southend. But I think you can still argue that even a relatively minor royal visit is more likely when a house has just been significantly upgraded; and though just a child, Charlotte was at the time a very important and prestigious figure, as the Prince Regent’s only legitimate child, George III’s only legitimate grandchild, and thus the ultimate heir presumptive to the throne.

The new east wing in fact consisted entirely of (to quote a letting advertisement of March 1819) a “superb drawing room, 45 feet by 21, with an anti-room [sic]”. It seems likely that such a space would have enabled the stylish reception of the royal party (and perhaps invited guests), something that might otherwise have been impossible granted the relatively small scale of the house – the new room was close to double the size of any other in the building. See attachments 2 & 3.

Osmund Bullock,

Finally, Andrew asked a week or two ago if both paintings (which are the same size) have identical original frames. Without a close examination I can't say whether or not they are likely to be the original ones (though they certainly look of the right period), but they do indeed appear to be identical. See attached B&W image of both with frames.

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

Osmund, I hope you will forgive me but the 1801 reference to Princess Charlotte was posted above by me eleven months ago, though repeated requests since then for hi-res images of sections of the painting might have obscured that initial find and its relevance to the potential construction of the wings.

Returning to the question posed at the start of this discussion, would it now be safe to say that at least one half of that query has been answered, to wit that the work was painted by Abraham Pether, and possibly also safe to say that the other half has been resolved, that is that the substantial part of it was painted in or just before 1792. Would contributors agree that it is more than likely that this and the North Face painting were those as exhibited by Pether at the Royal Academy in 1792?

Osmund Bullock,

I beg your pardon, Kieran; it did indeed get lost in the sheer volume of information in this discussion (rather a lot of it from me). Before posting on long threads I often do a control+F text search for relevant words in case I've missed a repetition, but I'm afraid I failed to in this case.

Further to Kieran and Osmund's comments about the difficulties of finding again what anyone wrote months or even years ago, we have been discussing a few changes to be sent to our software developer: that comments should be dated; that we can reply within comments, and that the threads should be searchable; that Art Detective should be optimised for mobile devices; that the instruction at the bottom of each artwork on Art UK should be changed to something like 'Start a discussion or send us information'.

Thomas Ardill, Curator,

Fascinating discussion. I feel the original question has been answered that both works were painted by Abraham Pether in (or shortly before) 1792 when they were exhibited at the Royal Academy.

The discussion relates to two oil paintings held by Essex Record Office of views of the Bower House, Havering-atte-Bower, Essex, seen respectively from the south and north fronts, and more particularly to the likely date of execution of these works and the identity of the artist. Valuable contributions to this discussion have been received from a number of people over a period of three years and in particularly from Kieran Owens who was the first to identify the artist as Abraham Pether (1756-1812) and to suggest that these two paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1792 as #180 (the south view) and #206 (the north view). After further assistance from the collection, it was established that one painting, the North View, is initialled 'AP' (for Abraham Pether), titled, and dated 1791. The discussion has also established that the wings seen in the paintings of the Bower House were a later addition, probably in circa 1800. It is therefore my recommendation that this discussion should be closed on the basis that the artist of both works has been identified beyond reasonable doubt as Abraham Pether and that these paintings date to 1791 or thereabouts. Our thanks go to the Essex Record Office, Kieran Owens, Osmund Bullock, and a number of other people for their respective contributions to a successful conclusion to this discussion.