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This Artistic Family and Artists in London
The idea for this article came from the study of the letters to the Aglio
family. Not only was it possible to become aware of where the family lived at
certain times but also it was possible to geographically position a number of
their contacts and acquaintances.
It became apparent that a number of artists were living in the Regents Park area of London in the mid 1800's and obviously although not amongst the very rich they seemed to be comfortable.
We are considering the "Victorian Era" and poverty was rife in London and although there is little reference to it amongst the family archives, one or two comments in William Joseph Dibdin's autobiography ring through ones memory. Particularly his reporting on the occasion he visited the Crossness Southern sewage Outfall across Plumstead Marshes, with a Mr Ward, a stern old lawyer, distributing picture cards to children of workmen on the site. He referred to the situation as being worthy of Dickens.
Aglio arrived in England in 1803 and settled and worked for a short while in Cambridge however by 1805 he and moved to London and in 1805 married Letitia Clarke, the daughter of Robert Clarke, an Alderman of London and possibly one time mayor.
In 1814 they settled in a new house at Edwardes Square in Kensington where they lived until 1820.
Taken from 1822 ordinance map but the train lines were added in 1891
Link to overall map of London 1882
|This map of London shows how sparsely built on the West End was and
how London seemed to have stopped at Kensington Gardens and Chelsea..
All three of Agostino and Letitia's children, Augustine, Emma Walsh and Mary Elizabeth were born at Edwardes Square but it seems that in 1820 they moved elsewhere but the address is unknown.
The next recorded address in London, we have at present, is that in 1838 that Mrs Aglio received letters at 2 Osnaburgh St, near Regents Park, however during those years between 1820 and 1838 Aglio had had a fairly busy time. He had done some theatre backdrop painting and done decoration at Woburn Abbey. He then spent 4 years travelling in Europe making facsimiles of the Mexican Antiquities during which time we have no idea how his family managed other than it is expected that Letitia had support from her family. In the early 1830's he was working on the Town hall an Manchester and it seems that his wife and possibly family were living with him just outside the city.
By 1838 the family had returned to London and at that time he became involved in work associated with Queen Victoria. He drew and painted pictures of the coronation and then was brought into the Summerhouse Project. It is through this work that we get insights into his contact and relationships with other artists of the time and it is possible to build up a picture of where they all lived.
Osnaburgh Street is located very nicely on the South East corner of
Regents Park and it is from here that Aglio must have carried out his
work and the young family must have enjoyed the London life. Through the
Buckingham Palace - Summerhouse job and the letters associated with it
we get some idea of the artist community that he was part of.
Addresses of these artists includes several in Fitzrovia and others in central London near either Regents Park or Hyde Park The following map from before the Second World War shows some of the areas of interest. Current maps some some changes as a result of the war destruction to the centre of London and of course new building work. No 2 Osnaburgh probasbly does not exist.
Refer to the database of letters for details of addresses and the contents of them for some idea of how involved Aglio was with the activities associated with the Summerhouse Project.
The one mystery address in that of C.R.Leslie, 12 Pine Apple Place, as to date no current reference to that place can be found.
Augustine must have met and married, in 1846, Margaret Absolon, John Absolon's sister, from his fathers home and they when married moved not too far away up the road to Oval Road in Camden Town. At that time John Absolon may well have moved to Cornwall Crescent on the South West corner of Regents park having been living in Jermyn Street of Piccadilly in 1841. Later the Absolon family moved to Palace Gardens and then to Palace Gate, all residences comfortably central for London life. Reference is made in an article written some time ago within the family that John's father, also John Absolon, had lived with his family in Bond Street .
"Madge (Margaret Absolon) was born in 1813 and at the age of two and a half was lifted
from her cot to see the sashes of the windows of the street lined with
lighted candles. The impression of these illuminations in honour of the
victory of Waterloo remained with her all her life."
While living at 4 Oval Road Augustine Aglio set up as a photographer in partnership with his brother in law's son Hugh Wolfgang de Mansfield Absolon for a couple of years. They had premises in 201 Piccadilly which is thought to be on the south side of the street in the block between Green Park and the Ritz. Apparently this was in about 1852 just after the invention of the Collodion Process for photograph making.
It must have been quite a pleasant journey to work from Camden Town, down through the side of Regents Park, round Park Crescent and down Regents Street to Piccadilly Circus. Alternatively he could have travelled down through Fitzrovia - Fitzroy Square, Upper Charlotte Street, Soho Square and Shaftesbury Avenue, passing on the way any number of the homes and probably the studios of artists known to his father and possible to himself.
It is also noted in the article about the family of Artists, written by
Marian Montford, a daughter of W.J.Dibdin, that Thomas Colman Dibdin was a contempory of Aglio and there is every reason to believe that TCD
and his family visited Augustine Aglio up in Camden Town.
Thomas Colman was born in Bletchworth near Box Hill in Surrey but after a short stay in the City in his twenties he moved to New Bond Street before moving up to Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. In 1850 he moved to The Polygon in Somers Town which was situated between Euston and St Pancras Station.
See summary of places of Residence of members of the family
So now we know the whereabouts of four members of the family living in central London and knowledge of another eight artists that lived close by, including areas such as in Charlotte Street and Fitzroy Sq. all within reasonable walking distance of each other and the Parks of London. It is worthy of note that Fitzroy Sq comes up as a place of residence of a member of the Fleuss Family, Oswald Fleuss who was a stained glass artist but he was working in the area later in the century.
It is of interest that amongst all the artist that we know about in relation to the Aglios, and T.C.Dibdin we have no reference to William J Turner of John Constable although both may have been within their circle of acquaintances bearing in mind that they were both in London at the time and that Charles R.Leslie was a close friend of Constable who sadly had died in 1837. There is an oblique reference to Turner under a painting in a scrap book of Aglios's.
So what was life like in London at the time?
A look at maps of the town over the years can give an indication of population densities and hence the qualities of life lived by people in various areas and we can be fairly confident that for those living around the West End and the Royal Parks life was not too difficult. Aglio himself must have overcome his bankrupcy problems of the 1830's and with the help of his wife's support and his own work must have offered his family a reasonable quality of life.
We can imagine the scene, with the help of pictures from that time. These London Parks that include Regents Park, HydePark, Kensington Gardens and St James' Park are all referred to as Royal because of having been acquired by Henry VIII and so had a well to do atmosphere about them.
It may be worth mentioning at this point that the first open space made specifically for the general population in South Lewisham was Mayow Park with pressure and financial support from Rev.William Taylor Jones, T.C.Dibdin's brother in law.
There is evidence
that in later years T.C.
Dibdin worked for Rev.W.T.
Jones at Sydenham College where the latter was head. Jones had talked
Dibdin into donating
6 sketches of the site of the park which sold at £5.0.0 each
for the venture.
Other views of London give a sedate and comfortable feeling such as this view of mail leaving the General Post Office in St Martins-le-Grand in the City of London.
This view of Cheapside in 1823 shows quite a lot of traffic and is a bit crowded but there is still a aire of elegance about the scene.
Monet's scene of Westminster and the River Thames shows activity as well as the delightful view but in no way gives us an insight into that other side of London that anyone with the slightest knowledge of Victorian London will be aware of. A mile or so from these views of calm and elegance, were the scenes of dereliction and immense poverty that were so well portrayed by Gustav Dore in his illustrations of London.
William Joseph Dibdin, when describing one of his visits to the works at the Southern sewage outfall near Plumstead Marshes refers to the Dickensian nature of the experience when his colleague acts charitably.
Although in the 1840's and 1850's his father appears to be sufficiently well off to be living in the centre of town or in leafy Banstead, it seems that later in the 1860's money was not so available. William Joseph refers to having to leave school at 14 years old because his father could not afford for him to stay on and tried to teach him to be an artist. It seems that he had capability but because of his poor sight which could not in the 1860's be corrected he could only manage to paint copies of his father's work. Thomas Colman Dibdin had a total of 12 children.
At this time the family was living in Belsize Road Kilburn which at the time would have been just on the edge of the built up area of London. See Map of London 1882
It may have been that he travelled across to Camden Town station by train or he may have had to walk the two or so miles. This may have been his first encounter with the more difficult side of life in London
Again from WJDibdin's autobiography
Life was such that William at the age of nearly 17 years old was driven to emigrate to Australia and he spent about 7 years there until he was 24 and his mother wrote to him saying that his father was missing him.