This panoramic view of Twickenham was painted in about 1725. It is the earliest complete topographical record of the river frontage at that time, one of three views of the area that Tillemans is known to have made during the decade. The picture contains much detailed information which, when collated with other contemporary records enables many of the owners or occupiers of the buildings shown to be identified.
It is also a social commentary by an artist who had come to England from Antwerp in 1708 and was prepared to paint what he saw. The picture is essential viewing for those interested in the nature of life in Twickenham during the early part of the 18th Century.
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The big house later named Radnor House, is where John Robartes lived from 1722 until his death in 1757. It is a rectangular building with three pairs of windows on two floors, four attic windows behind a parapet and a gabled roof. Unusually, the windows are shown with external fabric blinds gathered up over the window heads.
At the left is a small, open fronted pavilion and the garden is ornamented with classical sculptures. Behind the pavilion is an interesting tower or folly. It may be part of the stable complex for Radnor House, although it has an ecclesiastical look.
In front almost at the waters edge is the Bath House or "Cold Bath" of John Robartes. It was fashionable at this time to build these where streams or springs of fresh, cold water were found.
The two riders illustrate the dress and style of the 18th century privileged and leisured class. It has been suggested that these are Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and her husband, Mr Wortley, but it cannot be proved.
On the river can be seen two men fishing from a small rowing boat and a small craft under sail, perhaps ferrying people or goods to London.
On the far side of the river is the Tanyard, leased to William Hunt, the tanner. It is one of the commercial properties in this area. To its left are several tall buildings, described in 1791 as a malthouse and two cottages.
The rider is probably a companion of the two on the left of the painting. He is in conversation with two fishermen in a skiff. Perhaps a flounder is being offered for sale to the rider in white gloves?
A group of people are being rowed downstream - the river was an important highway between the settlements on the banks of the Thames.
Built by the poet when he moved to Twickenham in 1719, The Palladian style of Pope's Villa contrasts with the artisan cottages and trading establishments on each side. Pope had the choice of the smell of the tannery to one side and the noise from John Dimmock's cockerels to the other. The villa is the principal focus of the left hand side of the painting.
To the right is a group of buildings, including a malthouse later converted into four tenaments after it had been vacated by John Dimock the poulterer.
Countess Ferrer's Summerhouse, built in about 1718 stands behind a wall marking the boundary of her garden with Cross Deep. There are three people looking over this wall, talking to a horseman on the road. Sheep are grazing in the field in front.
The two story house with attics set back behind pillared gates, is the original part of the house known as Crossdeep Lodge. It was owned by Richard Foote a Twickenham grocer who probably built it in 1707.
The line of five men, in working dress, are hauling a barge. It is hard, gruelling work.
On the river are a number of small boats, ferrying people across the river or downstream to London.
The grandest house on this stretch of the river was owned by the Earl of Denbigh. Probably built in 1710, it was described ten years later in Macky's "Journey Through England":
'A Little House...with its hanging Gardens to the River, is well worth the curiosity of a Traveller...'
The house burned down in 1734 as recorded by Horace Walpole:
'...a house belonging to the Earl of Denbigh. It was let to Monsr Chauvigny the French Ambass during which time it was burnt: & the King of France paid largely for the loss.'
Here we see the original centre of Twickenham, with houses crowded together coming right down to the water's edge. One house has what appears to be a free standing inn sign. If so, the building behind may be the Waterman's Arms. The building is separated from a row of houses by a passage: probably the site of Water Lane today. Set back is a turreted building, perhaps the Manor House.
St Mary's Church dominates the town. Its 15th Century ragstone tower survived the collapse of the nave in 1713. The rebuilt nave can be seen to the right in strongly contrasting style. In front is the vicarage dating from 1635. Today this land forms the Garden of Remembrance.
There are a number of people here, some in small boats. The town is busy.
The barge is being pulled by five men hauling on a rope and is also using its sail. The fisherman on the bank is in danger of entangling his line with the rope.
("The Prospect of Twickenham" by Peter Tillemans illustrated by courtesy of Orleans House Gallery)