Signed on front R.W. Billings, 1832. Titled on back, Herstmonceaux Castle and priced at £44. Signed, R.W. Billings. The date on the front, 1440, is the date of Billings' reconstruction drawing.
ORIGINAL ARCHITECT DRAWING
Two watercolours - front view and ground plan.
Watercolours on paper. Front view, 31.5 x 21 inches. Ground plan, 21.25 x 21 inches.
The front view watercolour is an historical reconstruction of the architect's expert analysis of the castle as originally completed in 1440. To it he has added some contemporary figures, including three workmen on the left, one of them up a ladder. Standing on the bridge over the moat are several red-coated soldiers and some ladies, who appear to be sightseeing. The ground plan is an outline (the castle having no interior walls at that time) but contains some detail of the gatehouse, and also marks the well.
Robert William Billings (1813-1874) was an architect and author, born in London. His best known publication was The Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland (4 vols, 1845-52) but he also produced numerous other works on cathedral and church architecture and on castles. Much of his graphic work was reduced for the use of engravers. He was elected an associate of the Institute of British Architects in 1835 and many of the drawings he prepared for publication are now in the RIBA Library.
Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex, was rebuilt by Sir Roger Fiennes, a royal official in the household of King Henry VI in 1440, as a sumptuous country residence, with a pseudo-defensive facade. The interior was dismantled in 1777 to build a manor house nearby and the castle remained a picturesque ruin until it was reconstructed as a residence, 1913-33. It provided a library and offices for the Royal Observatory, located on this site, 1957-88, and since 1994 Herstmonceux has been an International Study Centre for Queen's University, Ontario.
This painting has been extracted from an album used by several generations of the family of Thomas Law Hodges at his properties of Hemsted and Jennings, near Maidstone. The Hodges had married into many of the other local landed families and were in the habit of visiting each other's houses and estates, including Herstmonceux. Hodges was Liberal MP for Kent from 1830-32 and for West Kent from 1832 until the dissolution of Parliament in 1841; he was again elected in 1847 and sat until 1852. He died 14 May 1857. Hodges is listed in Pigott's Directory for 1840 as living in Benenden; Hemsted House was subsequently sold and demolished by its new owner, Gathorne Hardy, later Lord Cranbrook and replaced by a new building which is the basis for Benenden School, one of the top private girls' schools in the country.
An impressive and evocative watercolour of this magnificent early brick castle.
[Stock No. 19749]