The Society for Nautical Research helps to purchase important works of art for the National Maritime Museum. In the interwar years many private art collections were in danger of being sold abroad. Among them was the collection of over 11,000 maritime prints, drawings and paintings of the noted yachtsman and collector Arthur Macpherson. In 1927 the society launched a public appeal to raise the funds to acquire his collection. With the huge generosity of Sir James Caird the collection was purchased and formed one of the founding collections of the National Maritime Museum.
Macpherson had an encyclopedic attitude to art collecting and aimed to document every aspect of maritime history through pictures. The early Netherlandish paintings are particularly fine, including a late sixteenth-century allegory of the Ship of State and Abraham Storck’s ‘Shipping off Amsterdam’.
The surplus of the public appeal was used to create the Macpherson Collection Endowment Fund which continues to be used to assist the purchase of additional works of art for the museum. Among the works purchased are a large number of paintings, prints and drawings by the noted marine artist W. L. Wyllie and an album of drawings by Gabriel Bray from a voyage to Africa in 1775.
The following works of art are taken from the many hundreds acquired for the nation by the society. A new work will be published monthly.
Featured Piece: Lord de Cliffords house at Kings Weston 5 miles from Bristol – with a View of the King-road and the Bristol Channel – and the opposite coast of Wales (1782)
In 1991 The Society for Nautical Research purchased an album of 73 sketches by Lieutenant Gabriel Bray and donated them to the National Maritime Museum. Bray, served as a second lieutenant on the 38-gun HMS Pallas between December 1774 and September 1775. Read more about the Bray collection at the National Maritime Museum and see a Lieutenant’s Log for Bray’s Journey to the Caribbean in 1774. The Captain’s Log also survives at the National Archives in Kew, Ref: ADM 51/667.
This image was in that album – but is not believed to have been created by Bray even though it is fairly consistent with his general style. An unidentified monogram signature ‘F.N.’ suggests that it was a gift from someone he knew, or perhaps someone he visited the scene near Bristol with. The inscription is probably in Bray’s hand, but a slightly tighter hand than the notes he usually put on his own earlier drawings.
The magnificent Kings Weston house was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh and built between 1712 and 1719 and then remodelled in 1763-8 (so fourteen years before this sketch was made) by the Scottish architect Robert Mylne. The spectacular views and landscaped grounds made this a famous riding spot from the fashionable resorts of Clifton, Bath and Hotwells. Another popular option for the horseless or maritime-minded was to hire a boatman in the Bristol to take you down the Avon as far as Shirehampton from where you could easily walk up to the estate. The gardens were open to the public on certain advertised days of the week and it bcame a popular spot for the romantics of the age – poets, authors and artists.
The De Cliffords had been peers since 1299, during the reign of Edward I and was granted to a Norman family that came with William’s invasion of 1066.
The part of the Bristol Channel depicted – ‘King Road’ is still used today as a major shipping area, particularly to swing large ships accessing Portbury or Avonmouth docks.
The Society has published a number of articles on Bristol, including
‘Bristol Channel Pilotage: Historical Notes on its Administration and Craft’ by Grahame Farr in 1953
‘The Privateering Voyages of the Tartar of Bristol‘ by M.H. Rodgers in 1931
‘Bristol Shipping and Royalist Naval Power during the English Civil War‘ by John Lynch in 1988.