Children of the Jordan Family
Research by Christine Armstrong
Acc No 100
Artist William Huggins
Artist Dates 1820-1884
Medium oil on canvas - oval in square frame
Size 63.5 x 77.2 cm (25 x 30 in)
Date painted 1845
Inscr: signed and dated
Donor Margaret Jessie Gourley
57 St David's Road, Lytham St Annes
Date donated 25 July 1955
Acc No 181 New Forest Hampshire (Hines)
Acc No 182 A Lane Near Guildford (Fox)
Acc No 183 Haunt of the Wild Duck (Ireland)
William Huggins was born on 13 May 1820 in Liverpool, the son of Samuel Huggins and his wife, Elizabeth. He had a younger brother, Samuel, an architectural historian, and two sisters, Sarah (1853-1865) and Anna (1854-1862), whom he taught to paint. William himself was taught drawing at the Mechanics' Institute in Liverpool and at the age of fifteen won a prize there for an ambitious design, Adam's Vision of the Death of Abel. (1)
Not only did he always keep a house full of pets but he also spent many hours making life studies at the Liverpool Zoological Gardens. He was especially fascinated by the lions and tigers of Wombwell's Travelling Menagerie which he sketched whenever the opportunity arose. (2)
He never saw big cats in their natural environment and consequently his backgrounds were understated. However, their subtlety served to focus all attention on the powerful depiction of the animals themselves. The influence of George Stubbs, which Huggins readily acknowledged, may be seen in his early painting of two pumas.
In mid-career Huggins developed the highly individual technique that characterised some of his best work. Having first drawn a pencil outline on smooth white millboard, he then glazed in oils, which allowed the white background to show through, created a luminous effect.
Huggins first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1842 with Androcles and the Lion, then became a regular exhibitor until before his death. His connection with the Liverpool Academy began when he attended life classes as a student. He was elected an associate in 1847 and a member in 1850; his active connection ceased in 1856. He also exhibited in Manchester, Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
In 1861 Huggins moved to Chester where he lived with his bor4ther. It was presumably under his influence that he took up architectural drawing and he painted many views of the city. He developed a particular liking for its red sandstone, which featured prominently in his later works, The Ruins of St John's, Chester and View from St John's, Chester, plus a general view of Chester from the other side of the river.
In 1876 he left Chester for Betws-y-Coed where he painted landscapes, including The Fairy Glen, exhibited in Liverpool in 1877. He eventually settled at Rock House in the village of Christleton in Cheshire.
In his last years he suffered partial paralysis which stopped him from painting and died on 25 February 1884. (1)
His death was reported in several newspapers, the main one being the Liverpool Mercury, where he was described as being 'a great connoisseur of china, Chelsea, Derby and other ware, and old glass, was an amateur musician, playing on the guitar to accompany his voice. In appearance he was described by one who knew him well as having a head and countenance not unlike one of his own lions. In society he was very retiring and somewhat eccentric in his ways'. (3)
Other descriptions of the artist included Albert Nicholson and the Reverend Mark Pottle, who said, 'Huggins has unusually long hair and dressed somewhat shabbily. He was of less than average height, with a florid complexion, but good-natured and helped friends who were in financial straits, despite often facing difficulties himself. But he could also be shy and prickly'. (4)
According to Rupert Maas,'Huggins was an eccentric individual. He preferred the company of animals, especially chickens, than of his fellow men. He hated travelling through tunnels and so would get off the train before Liverpool and walk the rest of the way home'. (5)
Huggins was buried in the graveyard of St James Church, Christleton and the headstone, dated 1884, has been Grade 2 listed. It is a pointed, arched, pink sandstone slab with a carved posy of flowers above the inscription. His epitaph, which he composed himself, reads: 'WILLIAM HUGGINS, an Historic and Animal Painter of acknowledged eminence. A just and compassionate man who would neither tread on a worm or cringe to an emperor. The stone also carries a memorial to Samuel, his brother, who died the following year and Hannah, his sister. (6) His estate was £1623 2 s. (7)
The oil painting, which was painted in 1845 depicts Emily Jordan with her three brothers: from left to right Harry (2), Emily (4), Thomas (9) and Charles (7). Emily Jordan was the mother of the donor, Margaret Jessie Goulay. We can see that Harry was wearing a dress which he would have done up to the age of five or seven years until he was 'breeched', the occasion when a small boy was first dressed in trousers or breeches. From the mid 16th century until the late 19th or 20th century young boys in the western world wore gowns or dresses until they were between two and eight years old. Breeching was an important rite of of passage in a boy's life, often marking the point at which the father became more involved with the raising of his son. (9)
Margaret Jessie Gourlay was born in 1871 in Birmingham, West Midlands, to Emily Pearson Gourlay, nee Jordan (1841-1934), born in Wolverhampton, and William Gourlay (1836-1917), born in Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.
In 1851 Emily was living was living with her parents, Sarah, born 1814, and Thomas, born 1812 in Edmonton, Middlesex. She had six brothers and one sister. That same year Emily's husband-to-be, William, was living at High Street, Penninghame, Wigtownshire, with his parents, three sisters and two brothers. His father was a watchmaker and he became his apprentice.
By 1861 William was living in lodgings at 48 Howe Street, Aston, Birmingham and, having served his apprenticeship, was working as a watchmaker. Emily was living with her mother and seven siblings, her father having died. Somewhere their paths crossed and they married in 1863 in Staffordshire.
Their movements can be traced by the places their children were born: 1865 their son, James W, was born in Coventry, as was their daughter, Ellen C in 1866. They then moved to Glasgow where they had another daughter, Emily, born 1869, before returning to Birmingham where Margaret Jessie, the donor, was born in 1871. On the census of that year they were living in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Lancashire.
The following census, 1881, recorded their address as Barton-upon-Irwell, Lancashire. William was a watchmaker jobber and his son, James, was an apprentice.
By 1891 they had moved to 11 The Groves, Eccles, Lancashire. William continued as a watchmaker to the trade but James had moved out the family home. Their eldest daughter, Ellen, was a dressmaker, Emily worked in a boot and shoe shop and Margaret was an embroiderer.
The family had moved to 84 Lord Street, Blackpool by 1901 and although William was still a watchmaker jobber he worked for himself at home. Ellen was unemployed and Emily had become a boot and shoe dealer on her own account employing her sister, Margaret, as an assistant.
In 1911 their address was 8 Park Road, Blackpool. Emily, now 70, and her widowed sister, Annie Maria Jones (nee Jordan), aged 63, had moved in with them as a help and companion. Emily and Margaret were both boot and shoe dealers. William was visiting friends in Bournemouth during the census and was reported as being a retired watchmaker; he died in the Fylde district in 1917, his wife, Emily Pearson died in 1934, aged 93.
On 25 July 1955, Margaret Jessie Gourlay donated the painting prior to moving to 19 All Saints Road. Her final place of residence was the Kingstown Nursing Home in Lytham St Annes where she died on 2 June 1957. Councillor Crook reported her gift of 4 paintings at the Council meeting held on 25 July 1955. (10)
=14052&back= the Oxford DNB
The Victorian Web - London:
Peter Nahum, Leicester Galleries
Sally Burgess, Pre-Raphaelite-Symbolist-Visionary
(3) Liverpool Mercury, Thursday, 28 February 1884,
Albert Nicholson and Rev Mark Pottle
http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/huggins/index.html The Victorian Web: Mass, Rupert, British Picture,
The Mass Gallery 2006
administration, 30 May 1884, CGPLA England
(10) Council meeting memo, 25 July 1955
More paintings by William Huggins can be seen at: