Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I solved a minor mystery whilst visiting my home town - that of the identity of Charles Townley in the Zoffany painting above. Recently I read that the figure in the dark coat seated at the table in the middle of the picture was Charles Townley but I'd always thought he was the one on the right seated side-on to the painter. That figure is in fact Charles Townley and at his feet is his dog Kam. The presence of the dog points to that man being Townley for I cannot imagine anyone else in the picture taking a dog on a formal visit - the kind of visit that is taking place. 

As I say, minor mystery, and easily solved by flying across the Atlantic, taking a 3-hour train journey and then a half-hour's car ride to his former house. 

Now, you might ask, why is this of significance? Well, really it isn't but it bugged me. The fact that the collection depicted in the painting eventually formed the basis of the British Museum's collection is neither here nor there. Was it worth the flight, the train and the car journeys? Yup! Isn't any expense worth it when one is proven right? 

The following eight photos are of Townley's ancestral home, now a museum. I wish I could say it was a fascinating place to visit but it holds more nostalgic than intrinsic value, for when the house was donated to the town at the beginning of the 20th century it had been stripped by the family of anything that might be of value to a visitor today and the town council has struggled ever since with an empty shell and little to fill it with. 

One of the features of the Hall and one common to most of the building that went on in this locality is that the building material is stone - Millstone Grit if my memory serves me well - the same stone, as the name suggests to make millstones for milling flour and whetstones for knives. 

I took the photograph below as I was sitting on a window ledge with my sister in the room above because it reminded me of sidewalks when I was a child, before they were all pulled up and replaced with tarmacadam in the name of modernization. 

I stared and stared at this floor as she and I discussed the prospects for my beloved brother-in-law who is on chemo-therapy. This was the actual reason for crossing the Atlantic: him, my sister and the family reunion in Scotland. 

Below, the old brewhouse. 

Nothing to do with Townley but a building made of stone in the vernacular style of the region. The photo gives a pretty good idea of what the moorland around my home town is like. 

The last picture is one of those "how did I not know this" moments. The straight run of canal you see below is apparently one of the Seven Wonders of the British Waterways System. 

Known locally as the Straight Mile, the Embankment, built between 1796 and 1801, carries the Leeds and Liverpool Canal 60 feet above the town. The importance of this straight run, a mile long, was that though costly to build the embankment it meant the canal could traverse the valley without the need for two systems of locks. 


  1. Thank you, Ma'am. I forgot to mention, and quite how that happened is beyond me, is the Townley Hall art gallery that contains such works by artists such as Alma-Tadema, J W Waterhouse, et al. Go figure!

  2. Oh I would love to see that gallery! Wonderful post and photos!

  3. What a fabulous home! And that shot of the floor is so lovely, the stone really is beautiful.

  4. Of course where I come from the sidewalk was called the pavement, the road surface just being called "the road" or "the street." If a mother said to a child "stay on't flags" that child knew it should not stray onto the road. It is a lovely stone and that floor had such character.

  5. Thank you for tracking down Mr. Townley's source was clearly misinformed. And if ever I have the chance to occasion an erratum, you will be thanked a second time!

  6. I hope you know it was not done to correct you - as I said, it just bugged me.