17 January 2013

Samuel Lines: From the Dome of St. Philip's

There are a number of topographical paintings of the absent landscape of Birmingham, but this one by Samuel Lines Senior gives one of the best impressions of the town as the perspective is taken from a central position outwards, rather than looking towards the whole town from a distance. It was painted in about 1821, and although it is not a panorama (as discussed in this previous post) as it does not go round 360 degrees, it is panoramic, in the sense that it is an elongated field of view like that captured by a wide angle camera-lens. Perhaps Lines was inspired by some of the cityscapes that could be visited in actual the Panorama on New Street (see E below), which encouraged him to produce this vista of Birmingham's own townscape. For his vantage point Lines took the highest point of the town, which happened to accommodate the church of St. Philip's and that building's large dome, and pointed himself south-west. This was in the direction of one of the newer parts of the town, an area that had expanded from the Medieval district from the 1750s onwards. At the fore of the image can be seen the graveyard attached to the church, and the buildings, some still very makeshift, of Temple Row, one of which was Lines's own house which he had built when he had started to do well as a drawing instructor.  In the close-up, below, some of the buildings and landmarks have been pinpointed, and you can follow the proceeding links to find out more.

A to E are along New Street
A) Is the Theatre, by the time of the painting, the Theatre Royal.
B) Next to the theatre was Portugal House, a grand Georgian town house, at the time of the painting divided into two properties with a distillery attached.
C) Just over the street is the original Georgian cottage Post Office, which had at its rear...
D) The Post Office yard where the Royal Mail coaches would arrive from 1812.
E) Is the Panorama, where 360 degree actual size paintings were shown.
F & G are in what is now Victoria Square
F) Is Christ Church, the interior of which can be viewed by following the link.
G) Is placed just to the left of the flag that topped Allin's shop, nicknamed The Flag as it always flew the Union Jack. The Town Hall was later built near this spot. In the distance, behind the 'G', is the Canal Offices on Paradise Street.
H) Is the walled garden attached to Bennett's Hill House, the house just out of view on the right. All the green land in that area was the original Bennett's Hill, and had been protected from building work by a clause in the 120 year lease for the house and land. The lease had expired in 1818 and not long after Lines's painting the whole are was built up with two new roads, houses, shops and other businesses.

View from 3 Temple Row West (Samuel Lines's house) drawn by Lines.
The drawing gives a similar view of the Theatre and Portugal House
as the painting and may have acted as inspiration. To climb on the roof
and look the growth of Birmingham must have fascinated Lines. 

To see all posts including Samuel Lines Senior's work click here.

The painting and drawing are owned by BMAG and the painting is currently on display in the Birmingham History Galleries.