The South Ambulatory, Westminster Abbey
Research by Anne Matthews
Acc No 198
Artist Albany E Howarth
Artist dates 1872-1936
Size 44.5 x 24.1 cm (17.5 x 9.5 in) - see ref 4
Date produced 1924
Purchased by Lytham St Annes Borough Council for the
Mayor’s Parlour from Cuthbert Partington, Fine Art Dealer,
27 St Andrew's Road, Lytham St Annes
Date purchased 12 August 1943
see The Chancel, York Minster 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, 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 of 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 Painter 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)
The South Ambulatory (walking place) has proved a popular subject for several artists and photographers. The present Gothic building dates mainly from the reign of King Henry III. In 1245 he pulled down the eastern part of the C11 Abbey, founded by King Edward the Confessor and dedicated in 1065, to rebuild it.
In the left foreground is the canopied tomb of Queen Philippa of Hainault (c1314-1369), Queen of England and a popular monarch. She married her second cousin, Edward III, at York in 1327 and bore him 14 children, their eldest son being Edward, the Black Prince. Queen’s College, Oxford, founded by her chaplain in 1341, was named after her.
A similar view of the ambulatory, painted by Frederick McKenzie (1787-1854) in 1811, shows railings around the tomb, but these were removed in the 1820s. A postcard from the period adds, ‘and the Chantry Chapel of Henry V’, to the description. The entrance is to the far right of the print.
Other graves or memorial plaques in the South Ambulatory include:
Mary of Brittany, 4th daughter of Edward III and Queen Philippa; supposed tomb of a legendary founder of an earlier church on the site, Sebert, King of the East Saxons, died cAD616; John Beverley, valet to Edward III; Dr Sir John Golofre, politician, (on the orders of Richard II); Philip Ludlow, sailor; Princess Katherine, daughter of Henry III and Queen Eleanor; Thomas Bilston, Bishop of Winchester; Sir Robert Ayton, courtier and philosopher; Sir Henry Spelman, historian and author.
Further progression down the South Ambulatory leads to Poets Corner. (2)
This acquisition, and that of an engraving of The Chancel, York Minster 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 has 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, as they point out, 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 deceased, having died in 1939, aged 57, leaving a widow, Ada, and a son George, recorded as an electrical engineer. The shop was taken over by Franklins, but was still listed as a Fine Art Dealer in the 1950s. (3)
(2) Chambers Biographical Dictionary,
(ed) Magnus Magnuson, 1990
(3) Council Minutes 1942/1943
Lytham St Annes Express 1943
Index of Wills and Administration 1856-1966
dated 6 January 2015
(4) Actual size given online as 8.75 x 16.25 ins
(41.3 x 22.2 cms)