PAUL SANDBY, R.A. (1725-1809)
The Old Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury
watercolour, gouache and body-colour, on paper laid on canvas
26 x 37 3/4 in (66.1 x 95.8cm)
The Rev. Thomas O`Grady, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
D.A. Auton- Hall, Esq., Church Stretton
Dick Stephens, Esq., Ludlow
The Old Welsh Bridge at Shrewsbury was a favourite subject for Paul Sandby. It inspired him to paint a number of fine works. At least twelve views of the bridge from differing angles are known , they include a view titled `The Old Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury` in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Luke Hermann states `that work and other equally impressive ones from the same period, illustrate Paul Sandby`s determination to remain among the innovators in British Landscape Art at the close of the eighteenth century.`
The picturesque bridge was painted by many artists of the time including J.M.W. Turner in 1794, and Richard Wilson, R.A. Sandby was painting it from the time of his first visits to Wales in the early 1770`s. cf .for instance Sandby`s view of the Welsh Bridge (Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection )
Sited on the main coaching route into North Wales,the Old Welsh Bridge at Shrewsbury was a well known topographical feature of the town There had been a recorded bridge on the site from at least 1155. As a border town ,defending Shrewsbury was an important feature in the design of the bridge, which included a gatehouse to bolster defence against attacks from the Welsh.
In the foreground of the painting, men are loading a trow and barges, whilst closer to the arches of the bridge,a rowing boat is being rowed ,with passengers seated beneath a canopy in the stern, an ensign fluttering behind them. Various figures in the foreground include a mounted dragoon on horseback casting a glance at a country girl,, and mounted soldiers on the bridge pass a wagon.
Paul Sandby is certainly known to have exhibited at least three views of the Old Welsh Bridge at Shrewsbury; at the British Institution in 1809 (no.90), and two views at The Royal Academy in 1801 (nos 622 and 629)
The example at Shrewsbury Museum , ( formerly owned by Sandby`s friend, the royal portraitist Sir William Beechey.) depicts a view towards the Old Welsh Bridge from the Frankwell district. Our picture depicts the bridge from the same view point. A further variant is in the Collection of the Newport Museum and Art Gallery, South Wales.