Nantwich Museum is luck to own a variety of paintings, illustrating different aspect of life in the town through the ages.
Here is some information about some of our collection.
Walter J Hall (1866 – 1947)
A painting of Nantwich historian James Hall greets visitors as they enter the Museum.
The portrait was painted by James Hall’s son, Walter J. Hall, in 1943 (29 years after his father’s death) and given to the town. It was originally hung in the Nantwich Free Library (the building the Museum occupies today). When the library moved to its present building, the painting went too.
Trying to trace the portrait, Nantwich historian John Lake mentioned the painting to a member of the library staff who recalled that it was under a flight of stairs in the building.
There is was rediscovered, with a broken frame and in a dirty condition.
Thanks to Mr Lake, it has now been restored with grants from Cheshire County Council and the North West Museums Service and returned to Nantwich Museum where it now has a permanent home.
James Hall, author of ‘Hall’s History of Nantwich was born in Lincoln on 20 February 1846, but moved to Nantwich at the age of 20. In 1875 he became the first headmaster of Willaston School, which is two miles from Nantwich. He retired to Chester where he died on 6 October 1914.
A plaque in the porch of St Mary’s Parish Church, commemorating the centenary of James Hall’s birth, was instigated by local historian Percy Corry. He arranged the collection which raised the money to erect the plaque.
You can see more of Walter Hall’s work on the Art UK website here.
Herbert St John Jones
In 1956, a local newspaper recorded: “As a boy, Herbert St John Jones would sketch on any scrap of paper he could find and spend hours watching the ‘hunting gentlemen’ who visited the Brine Baths Hotel. Nantwich was then the centre of the hunting world and the boy Jones learned to love horses and hounds. He studied them in every detail, their finer points and temperament. He grew to know them all by name and many of his later portraits were drawn from memory at his Hospital Street Studio”. He lived with his sister at 13 Shrewbridge Road (now demolished and replaced by a house built in 1939) and had a studio – number 1b – on the second floor above the shops built in 1897 at the end of Hospital Street adjoining the Square approached by an entry next to the yard of G. F. & A. Brown and Sons, wine and spirit merchants (right).He kept a book into which he copied appreciative letters from his distinguished and aristocratic clients each one embellished with the writer’s coat of arms fully achieved.
“The list of names is long,” said the newspaper, “and includes Lord Crighton, Lord Gough, Lady Holland of Poole Hall, Baron William von Schroeder of the Rookery, Worleston, and the Duke and Duchess of Westminster.”
“King Edward VII (see footnote) commissioned a painting of his Hereford bull, Earlsfield. The Duchess of Teck from Windsor Castle expressed her approval of the painting of her pony, Southern Cross. A portrait of the world champion jumper, All Fours, painted at the 1909 International Horse Show at Olympia, is also recorded.”
Herbert St John Jones was a well known character about the town. He wore a straw boater winter and summer and a very high stiff collar about his neck. Like many artists he was frequently short of cash and locals were often happy to take a painting in settlement. It was believed that Edward Brown arranged that he should be allowed to run his bill up to £40 when it would be discharged by a picture. These were hung in G. F. & A. Brown’s premises, and on its cessation the purchasing brewery transferred the paintings to its new public house in Runcorn.
Perhaps his most outstanding painting is an oil of the thoroughbred called Satan which belonged to Billy Brown who had stables in Marsh Lane. Satan was a most vicious animal and in one outburst killed its groom. In the horse’s expression and posture, the portrait perfectly expresses the acme of equine savagery. Although hunters were the most frequent subject he also painted cart horses, horses in harness, hounds, meets of hounds, cattle and dogs.
His strangest painting, which attracted considerable notice, was entitled “Angels of Mons” and depicted the legend of this spiritual phenomenon in which a troop of flying, white-robed angels turned back the charging German cavalry away from the British infantry during the 1914-18 war.He also left paintings of old Nantwich created presumably from photographs and later in life he painted many attractive signs for Nantwich inns.