In the next few blogs I want to explore the lives of an amazing artistic family. Today I am starting this voyage of discovery by looking at the lives of the heads of the family, the mother and father and in the next blog, I will investigate the life and works of some very talented artistic children.
Samuel Rayner was born on April 15th 1806 at Colnbrook a to the west of London. He was the third of five children of Samuel Rayner Snr., a farmer and a dealer in corn and his wife Margaret Rayner (née Ingram). In 1812, when Samuel was six years of age, his parents moved from Colnbrook to London, and set up an ironmongery business at No. 7, Blandford Street, Marylebone. Five years later, on May 26th 1817, Samuel Rayner Snr. died suddenly at the aged thirty-nine, leaving his widow to carry on the business with the help of their children. A year after this sudden death, on November 21st, 1818, Samuel Snr’s grandfather Thomas Rayner, a painter himself, who is thought to have encouraged his grandson to sketch and paint, dies at the age of eighty-six.
In 1821, when he was fifteen years of age Samuel Rayner began to work as a trainee draughtsman for John Britton the antiquary and author. John Britton had published the first of his nine-volume Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain in 1805 and the ninth volume was completed in 1814. When Rayner went to work for him Britton had started on the massive task to publish his fourteen volume-work, Cathedral Antiquities of England which would not be completed until 1835.
Among Britton’s draughtsmen were the brothers George and Richard Cattermole and they and Samuel were involved in producing drawings for John Britton’s fourteen-volume work with Samuel having five of his own drawings engraved for inclusion. George Cattermole who had started working for Britton at the age of fourteen and Samuel became good friends and Cattermole’s work greatly influenced the art of Samuel Rayner.
Samuel Rayner must have learnt the basics of watercolour painting very quickly, for at the age of fifteen, he had his watercolour of Malmesbury Abbey accepted for exhibiting at the 1821 Royal Academy exhibition. Buoyed by that success, Samuel Rayner put forward another watercolour painting of the abbey for inclusion at the 1822 Royal Academy Exhibition and it was accepted. This time the work featured the West Front of the abbey. Presumably his employer, John Britton admired Samuel’s talent and began to train him as an architectural draughtsman and this would often entail him travelling around on sketching trips making intricate sketches of buildings and monuments. It was all about recording accurate details in his drawings. His work was mainly to do with cathedrals and abbeys as well as castles, often in ruins, and old mansions. It was not just the exteriors of these buildings which Samuel Rayner managed to capture on canvas but he tended to focus on the interiors of these great edifices.
During one of his visits to the art galleries in London in 1823 he met Ann Manser, the daughter of William Manser, a successful London publisher and amateur artist. Ann was born on October 29th, 1802 and was almost four years older than Samuel Rayner. As a member of a prosperous family Ann was encouraged to engage in the “lady-like” pastime of painting. For Ann painting was more than just a simple hobby and at an early age she excelled in her artistic ability. However, her friendship with Samuel was frowned upon by her father who probably thought his daughter was too good for “her young man” and that Samuel’s prospects were not good enough to support his daughter. He would also be concerned that although his daughter was twenty-one, Samuel was only seventeen years of age and hardly mature enough to become Ann’s husband.
Ann was not deterred by her father’s misgivings but realised she would not be able to persuade him to change his mind and so the young couple eloped and in 1824 they were married at St George The Martyr Church in Southwark, London. The couple lived at No. 11 Blandford Street, Marylebone, two doors away from Samuel Rayner’s mother’s home and business premises. That same year their first child William was born but sadly died at birth. A daughter was born May 1st, 1826 and was christened Ann Ingram Rayner, but always known as Nancy. Although born after William, Nancy was always regarded as the eldest child of the family. Samuel Rayner’s success at having his paintings accepted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition continued in 1824 and 1826 with the exhibiting of his paintings of Salisbury Cathedral and Wells Cathedral.
In 1827, when Samuel reached the age of twenty-one he inherited his share of his grandfather Thomas’ estate and also received a very lucrative commission from the William George Spencer Cavendish, the sixth Duke of Devonshire, who resided at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. This commission and his newly-found wealth convinced Samuel and Ann to move, with their daughter, out of London to the quiet Derbyshire countryside and the town of Matlock Baths, although they retained their Blandford Street house in London. They settled into a newly built terraced house in what was then called Museum Parade but is now known as South Parade.
Whilst her husband was working on his watercolour paintings, his wife was busy working on her intricately and meticulous black Ashford marble engravings. Ashford Black Marble is the name given to a dark limestone, quarried from mines near Ashford-in-the-Water, a village in the Derbyshire Peak District, ten miles north west of Matlock Baths. Once the marble is cut, turned and polished, its shiny black surface becomes highly decorative.
Samuel Rayner was kept busy working for the Duke of Devonshire and he also set up a lithographic printing and publishing business in partnership with John Vallance. However, he still dedicated some of his time to his watercolour painting and in 1830 published Rayners Sketches of Derbyshire Scenery Part 1, a collection of writings and lithographs by James Duffield Harding, featuring the Derbyshire countryside and buildings.
Above we see Samuel Rayner’s sketch of South Parade, with its museums and Great Petrifying Well, which was published as a lithograph in “Sketches of Derbyshire Scenery, Part 1. Samuel’s depiction of the town would have been from standing opposite the entrance to the Old Bath Hotel, above what is now the Fish Pond Hotel but then known as the Old Bath Tap. The Upper Towers, high up on the hillside above Matlock Bath on the Heights of Abraham, must have only just been built. A year later, in May 1831 John Vallance exhibited several of Samuel Rayner’s drawings in his museum.
Having spent six years at Matlock Baths Samuel and his wife returned to London in 1833. There is no certainty as to why they returned but it could be that Samuel’s mother, Margaret’s health was deteriorating. The Rayner family now stood at seven, with Rhoda (Rose) (1828), William Harry (1830), Louise (1832) and Samuel (1833) all born in Derbyshire. The Rayner family did not return to their original home in Blandford Street but instead to a house at No 6 Dufour Place, Broad Street, St James, Piccadilly.
Margaret Ingram Rayner, Samuel’s mother died on March 15th, 1834, aged 50. Five months later Ann Rayner gave birth to their fourth daughter, Frances on August 19th. Maybe because his mother had passed away and because of his wife’s talent at engraving on the Derbyshire Black Marble the family once again left London and went to live in Derby in 1836. Samuel quickly went into partnership with Robert Mosely and formed a lithographic printing and publishing company which was run from their Friar Gate family home and business premises at the Derby Corn Market.
In 1839 Samuel Rayner completed a work entitled The 1839 Derby Exhibition which depicts the early period of the formation of the Derby Town and County Museum and Natural History Society in 1836 and what would become the Derby Museum and Art Gallery in 1857. This collection of painting includes Joseph Wright of Derby’s painting Romeo and Juliet and the tomb scene which is on the left of the back wall.
Six years later, in 1842, and with two further children, Margaret (1837) and Dorothy (1839) the Rayners moved back to London where they resided at No. 15 Berners Street in the central area of the city, just off Oxford Street. Shortly after their arrival back in the capital, Ann gave birth to another son, Richard Manser Rayner (1843). He was the ninth and final child of Samuel and Ann. In February 1845, Samuel Rayner was accepted as an Associate of the Old Water Colour Society.
In 1846 Samuel’s uncle died and he was left a small amount of money. There is some conjecture as to Samuel and Ann’s financial situation but in a letter written by his wife in 1848 she talked about money being tight. Samuel’s children were doing well with the eldest, Nancy being elected as an Associate member of the Old watercolour Society in February 1850. Life was good for the family and they had a large circle of friends. The good life came to crashing halt in February 1851 when Samuel’s father-in-law, William Manser, was charged with fraud and Samuel was implicated.
The case hinged on the fact that William Manser allegedly wrote a document promising £2000 to his daughter Ann and so any money coming this way to Anne would automatically have become Samuel’s under the prevailing property rights of 1851. Following this, Samuel chose to use the money to make a payment to a Mr Roe (possibly an art dealer), and so endorsed the promissory note to pass the rights to that gentleman. At some point later, payment was refused, with Mr Manser claiming the note was a forgery. William Manser lost his argument that his signature was a forgery and thus the promissory note was genuine, so this would appear to clear Samuel Rayner of any wrong-doing but there was a belief in some quarters that he was in collusion with his father-in-law in trying to avoid making a payment that was promised, and that the two men were jointly seeking to defraud Mr Roe.
The adage that “there is no smoke without fire” in a way damned Samuel Rayner’s character and the officers of the Old Watercolour Society “unanimously resolved that Mr. Rayner’s name be erased from the list of Associates.”
Samuel Rayner, whether he be innocent or guilty, was disgraced by this court case and it should be noted that for the rest of his life he tended to only exhibit his work in the provinces and steered clear of the prestigious London galleries. He and the family had a number of London addresses during his later years as well as spending time in Brighton and the nearby town of Hove.
Samuel Rayner died at his home in Windsor in 1879, aged 73. His wife, Ann continued to live there with her unmarried daughter Margaret who joined her soon after her father’s death and kept company with her until Ann herself died in 1890. Samuel and Ann Rayner must have been very proud of the artistic qualities of six of their children and in my next blog I will be looking at some of their work.
Besides the usual sources such as Wikipedia I got most of my information about the Rayner family from an excellent and comprehensive website entitled DudleyMall.
It is really worthwhile you going to have a look at it.