The Chancel, York Minster
Research by Anne Matthews
Acc No 199
Artist Albany E Howarth
Artist dates 1872-1936
Size See ref (4)
Date produced Unknown
Purchased by Lytham St Annes Borough Council for the
Mayor’s Parlour from Cuthbert Partington, Fine Art Dealer,
27 St Andrews Road North, St Annes
Date purchased 12 August 1943
see The South Ambulatory, Westminster Abbey Etching by Albany E Howarth also in the Collection
Albany E Howarth was born in Durham in 1872. His first job was working in the drawing offices of Armstrong Mitchell of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Founded in 1847, Armstrong Mitchell was the largest employer in the area, manufacturing armaments, ships, locomotives, automobiles and aircraft. However, already aware his own artistic inclinations he left the company after 4 years. In his own words he ‘found it too mechanical’.
Continuing to develop drawing as a profession, he worked for a while illustrating various papers and periodicals in the North of England. A benefit that did emerge from this time was that he was able to teach himself different printing formats and their characteristics, a major advantage when he began the commercial production of his own work.
During the early stage of his career, and at least up to 1912, Howarth printed most of his plates himself. His first published plate in 1907 was of Stirling Castle. Like many other etchers of the period Howarth also sought the advice of Frederick Goulding (1842-1909), a master printer of copper plates, and a significant figure of the time who had worked with many etchers, including James McNeill Whistler and Sir Francis Seymour Haden.
In 1909 he published a set of 12 etchings of Oxford University Colleges and followed this up in 1910 with a set of 7 etchings focusing on the Cambridge University Colleges. That same year Howarth was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of Painters Etchers and Engravers, where he exhibited regularly until 1923, along with exhibitions at several galleries, including the Royal Academy.
He travelled extensively within the British Isles and Western Europe, spending over six months in Venice in 1912, where he produced many drawings, including The Doge’s Palace, Piazza San Marco, The Bridge of Sighs,
Ca D’Oro, Canale Albrizzi, Palazzo Dario, The Grand Canal and The Rialto Bridge.
In addition to his prolific etchings he was also known as a water-colourist, although surviving examples of his work seldom appear.
Howarth’s work was very popular in his day, with most of his output up to 1912 sold to collectors and only obtainable when it came up for resale. He worked with several printer/publishers throughout his career; they would purchase a plate in order to produce a limited edition set of prints, after which the plate would be destroyed to preserve exclusivity.
Howarth moved to London in 1905, then to Essex the following year, where he lived and worked until 1920. He then moved to Watford, Hertfordshire, where he remained until his death on 14 November 1936. (1)
Although the first recorded church on the site was 627 AD, building did not begin on the Gothic structure until 1220, and then continued into the fifteenth century. The east end of the Minster, which houses the Chancel, is designed in what is known as the Grand Perpendicular Gothic style. It contains the High Altar, a four bay choir stall, a second set of transepts in line with the high altar to throw light on it, and the Lady Chapel. The interior of the choir and wooden stalls are a 19th century replacement following a fire in 1829.
Central to the etching is the magnificent Great East Window, created by John Thornton, the renowned medieval artist, which was completed in 1408. It is the largest single expanse of medieval glass in the world (approximately 23 metres - 76 feet). It depicts scenes from the beginning and end of the world from the books of Genesis and Revelations.
The Chancel aisle contains most of the tombs of the cathedral, the only royal tombs being those of Osbald, King of Northumbria, (d 799) and Prince William, the infant son of Edward III (d 1337).
Albany Howarth would see great changes to the view he depicted in the 1920s, the piece is therefore of historical value. This area is undergoing massive reconstruction to be finished by 2016. Below the window now sits
The Orb, a stainless steel dome containing five of the conserved panels from the window. Opened at the end of October 2012, this facility allows visitors to examine the remarkable detailed workmanship more closely. Other notable windows include the ornate Rose window and the Five Sisters. (2)
This acquisition, and that of an engraving of the South Ambulatory Westminster Abbey by the same artist, are stated as being purchased by the Council for the Mayor’s Parlour, as opposed to being donated. A thorough examination of the Council Minutes for 1943 have drawn a blank, as has a similar examination of the Lytham St Annes Express for that year.
A theory put forward to Fylde Borough is that the Mayor, Councillor J W Horsfall, bought them out of his annual Mayor’s allowance of £550 to recognise his year in office. This would then, technically, make it a purchase by the Council. At that time, unlike today, the Mayor elect was chosen at the beginning of September and his inauguration was during the first week in November. The date of the purchase would fit perfectly into that timescale.
Fylde Borough Council, although not able to find any specific information on this purchase, have confirmed, after consultation with Lancashire County Council, that a number of items/pictures have indeed been purchased by Mayors during their tenure to be placed in the Mayor’s Parlour. However, it must be noted, as they point out, that these had “not been purchased specifically for the art collection”.
The Fine Art shop from which they were purchased has now been converted into a residential dwelling. However, the Partington family has a further connection to the art history of St Annes. Prior to the family moving from Heywood, the occupations of both Cuthbert and Harold, his father, were recorded as self-employed carvers and gilders. Harold was also a prolific painter. In 1922, when Lytham and St Annes councils amalgamated, Harold was a founder member of the Lytham St Annes Art Society and became its first Treasurer. He died in 1928, aged 76. He has two watercolours in the present collection, The Windmill, Lytham (1916) and The Interior of a Chapel, which is almost certainly Cartmell Priory. There is also a War Memorial carving in the Ansdell Institute.
At the time of purchase Cuthbert was also deceased, having died in 1939, aged 57, leaving a widow, Ada, and a son George, an electrical engineer.
The shop was taken over by Franklins, but was still listed as a Fine Art Dealer in the 1950s. (3)
(3) Council Minutes 1942-1943
Lytham St Annes Express 1943 (microfiche)
Census 1901 and 1911
Index of Wills and Administration 1856-1966
email from email@example.com (6 January 2015)
(4) Although Stephen Sartin provides no size in his Comprehensive Catalogue (No 5, August 2001) dimensions given online are:
plate: 15.7/8 x 9.1/8 in (40.3 x 23.2 cm)
sheet: 21.1/4 x 14.5/8 in (53.9 x 37.2 cm)