I did know that there was a Victorian watercolour of Heaton Lodge, drawn by William Alexander Ansted, I even put a track on it at auction houses, so I could at least see it before it flew to a high bidder. I did not expect to see the painting pop up on Ebay whilst I was idly perusing it in February. It did though, and on a reasonably priced Buy It Now auction.
Well what could I do?
There’s not a lot about Ansted to be found. He was born in Guernsey on 1 March 1859, he trained as a draughtsman for an engineering company, and in 1882 exhibited two paintings at the Ipswich Fine Art Club, moving to St John’s Wood¹ London the following year when he exhibited five oils at the same club.
In 1887 he married Constance Greville Walsh (1856-1937) with whom he had two children (Constance 1888-1971) and David Alexander (1890-1945).
He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1888 and 1893 moving to Dover by 1911, where he worked as an artist, instructor and poster writer. He died at 291 Folkestone Road in Dover on 26 April 1948 at the age of 88.
However, what about the provenance of the painting?
Firstly on the back it confirms it is a painting of Heaton Lodge in Heaton Norris, the home of Roger Rowson Lingard in the 18th and 19th centuries, the note goes on to say that the picture depicts the house in which my grandfather lived.
Who that was will remain a mystery for now, Ansted also published series of ecclesiastical engravings, so he may have been commissioned by the Reverend Roger Rowson Lingard (1825-1908) Roger’s son, who was chaplain to the Bishop of Brechin, alternatively it may have been his son Randle Lingard (1827-1904) who became an accountant in Liverpool, but returned to Heaton Norris to die, or possible Richard Boughey Monk Lingard (1824-1907), who is mentioned in Debrett’s, became a Solicitor, and took on the arms of Monk-Lingard. He may have wished to create a backstory about his past.
It is all conjecture. Whilst Ansted may have seen the house, and sketched it in the late 19th / early 20th century, he has depicted it in Regency times (incorrectly as the house was at best late Regency built around 1830.) Roger Rowson Lingard only lived there 14 years, first being seen in the house in 1831 and dying in 1844, his widow Mary moved out soon after his death, surviving until 1875.
I was doubtful at first about the pond, but reflecting on the two pictures side by side the watercolour is drawn from the West Bank side, whilst in the photograph we are looking at the house from the Highfield side, and there was a pond at that side (which survived until the mid 1970s). Albeit drained, and a mudpool. We called it the swamp, and regularly sunk in 6 inches of mud, sometimes luckily avoiding sharp objects at the bottom.
Whatever the history, it is a nice touch that Roger was remembered enough at the beginning of the 20th century for an ancestral home story to be created. I did try and contact Kevin Rowson Lingard, an ex senator in Australia who I believe is a living descendant, but as is so often the case, I received no reply.
For the next piece I have Tony Marsh of Stockport Heritage to thank. He wrote a piece about Juan Illingworth in Stockport Heritage Magazine in the early noughties.
I learned some new facts about the family, his brother Abraham Roger Illingworth (1785-1868) was a Ship’s Surgeon and Medical who followed Juan to Ecuador, and settled in Guayquil.
His descendants have made a pilgrimage in recent times to Stockport to visit his birth town, now that we have identified his birthplace as Parr’s House, it would be nice if they had known that, and the visits have been reciprocated, in 1989 Princess Anne, the Princess Royal toured South America to pay homage to Admiral Illingworth and other mercenaries from England who fought in the battle for independence. Tony says Juan Illingworth is as famous in South America as Admiral Lord Nelson is in England.
In 1986, Ecuador celebrated the bicentenary of his birth by striking some commemorative medals, which I saw at the Heritage Centre. Tony was kind enough to give me one of the medals from his collection, and I thank him for his kind gesture.
I really do think we need a blue plaque to Mr Illingworth.
¹ Random fact about St John’s Wood, it is the only station on the London Underground that does not contain one of the letters in the word mackerel.
Copyright Allan Russell 2020