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Thomas Christopher Hofland 1777-1843
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Thomas Christopher Hofland 1777-1843

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A river landscape of Dinting Vale Mill and the Glossop Valley, Derbyshire, with a view of the Mr Edmund Potter’s Calico Works, (“Boggarts Mill”), looking West.

 

Oil painting on canvas 48 x 66 inches in a giltwood frame.

 

Provenance: ……………….; acquired in 1973 from Gooden and Fox by an American collector

 

Mr. Michael Brown of the Glossop Heritage Centre has kindly provided much of the information from which the following note is made.

 

The Dinting Vale Mill was built speculatively in 1817 by Joseph Lyne of Simmondley Hall, Glossop; it was intended for spinning and carding cotton but was never used for this purpose. It remained empty for six years until acquired by Edmund Potter (b.1802) in 1823 and brought into use as a Calico Printing Mill. The present painting must date from that date or a little later, since the smoke from the factory chimney clearly shows that it is in use, but before the rapid industrialisation of the area in the years immediately following. It is certainly pre-1842 when the viaduct of the Manchester-Sheffield railway was built here.

The Mill had been dubbed locally as “Boggarts Mill” in the six years of its being empty. (A boggart is a name for a mythical creature who preyed on humans creating mischief, and who inhabited largely impenetrable Mosses and Peat-Bogs in Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. The name is perhaps a faint folk memory of the bog-burials of Celtic times, as the creatures were said to live subterraneously in “boggart-holes”.). It was re-named by Edmund Potter, founder of the Dinting Printworks, whose family was long for its connections with Manchester and the textile trade during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The first James Potter ( 1710-1770) of Hindley, near Wigan and later of Pool Fold, near New Market Place, Manchester  was a flax merchant and then a  manufacturer.

His son, John Potter lived in “good style” at Ardwick Green, Manchester, where there were green fields. He married Catherine Eccles of Macclesfield and went to America in 1794, the passage taking thirteen weeks from Liverpool. During the twelve months in America he met George Washington, the first President of the United States of America.

John and his wife had three sons and two daughters. The eldest son, John was a calico printer and made a large fortune. Their third son was James, father of Edmund of Dinting Vale, who was born in 1802. The family also lived at Ardwick Green,  Manchester. Edmund married the Jessica Crompton of Lune Villa, Lancaster. Their early married life was spent at Greenheys, Manchester but by 1842 they resided at Dinting Lodge, Glossop where they lived for twenty years. They had seven children - four sons and three daughters. Edmund, the eldest followed his father as head of the firm at Dinting. (The second son was Rupert, a barrister, who married Helen Leech of Gorse Hall, Stalybridge. They had two children: Walter Bertram, farmer and artist, and Beatrix Potter, farmer and well-known writer of children’s stories.)

By the middle of the 19th century, Dinting Vale was the largest producer of printed calico in the country, exporting more than 85% of its very considerable production around the world; by then the idyllic landscape in the painting was a mass of Mills and mill-ponds, and the inevitable pollution brought about by coal-fired industrial production. The industry declined from the end of the 19th century, and by 1960 had all but disappeared, and the mills and ponds were derelict.

The painting is a synthetic and slightly idealised view past the mill towards Mottram and Hollingworth, with the hill of Werneth in the centre distance. On the flat land beyond the mill-pond is the site of Ardotalia, the Roman Fort which was Christened Melandra Castle after its discovery in the early 19th century. Called “Zerdotalia” (confusingly) in the 7th century Ravenna Cosmology, it is described as lying on the road from Lincoln to Manchester (Mamucium/Mancunium) beyond Aquae Arenmetiae (modern Buxton). It was built in the Flavian Period between 75 and 108 AD, and abandoned by about 150-55 AD. An inscription on a stone (R.I.B.219) records that the Friesian Cohort was stationed there. It covers an area of about 21 acres, with a Mansio close by, which was excavated in the 1960’s.

The painting has traditionally been attributed to Joshua Shaw (1776-1860), a landscape and flower painter from Billingborough, Lincolnshire, who trained as a sign-painter in Manchester and who later had a good practise in Bath. Shaw, however, emigrated to New York in 1817, the year of the construction of the mill in the painting and some six years before it was “in steam”. He can therefore securely be dismissed as the author of the painting. The painting itself shows the immediate and very strong influence of the late industrial landscapes of Joseph Wright of Derby (1737-1797), both in its subject-matter and its painterly technique. It recalls to mind, for instance, the views of Cromford Mills recently acquired by the Derby Museum and Art Gallery:

Given the very high quality of the painting, it is clear that the artist was not a provincial hack of the type who produced innumerable topographical paintings of the North of England in the early years of the 19th century. Stylistic analogies may be drawn with the landscape painter Thomas Christopher Hofland (1777-1843) who worked for a few years as a drawing master in Derby, the nearest large town to Glossop, in the early years of the 19th century, and where he would have been aware of the work of the recently-deceased Joseph Wright

 

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T C Hofland A view of the City of Derby (c.1805). Painted while Hofland was working as a drawing master in the City. (Derby Art Gallery, formerly with Lane Fine Art). Though perhaps 20 years earlier, the painting of the trees is particularly close to the present painting.

Hofland was widely itinerant during the early years of the 19th century throughout England, Wales and Scotland, but he returned to Derbyshire on several occasions. We know from exhibited paintings that he was in the Peak District in 1823-4, the very likely date of the present painting, since he exhibited a large painting of The entrance of the Great Cavern of the Peak of Derbyshire with the Castle of the Peveral of the Peak at the British Institution in 1824.

 

 

 


 







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