Sidmouth Museum marks 200th year of ‘Long Picture’

The Long Picture

The Long Picture - Credit: Archant

A panoramic painting and a unique record of Regency Sidmouth is being celebrated as historians mark the 200th anniversary of its creation.

The Long Picture

The Long Picture - Credit: Archant

‘The Long Picture’ is a snapshot of life showing bathing huts and fishing vessels, horses and carts, the fishermen’s cottages and Chit Rock that were washed away in the storms of 1824, and Fort Field still being grazed.

But it is somewhat selective in its content, a conceit to attract people to the new and fashionable resort, and the town today is transformed – its buildings bigger and more numerous, its cliffs further eroded, its portrayed population ‘less genteel’.

The original watercolour hangs in Sidmouth Museum, where chairman Nigel Hyman said: “The fascination of the original print is that it gives us a snapshot of Sidmouth in the year of Waterloo and it is possible to see something new almost every time it is viewed.

“The figures on The Mall were mostly smartly dressed gentry.

The Long Picture 2014. Ref shs 5566-38-14SH Picture: Simon Horn

The Long Picture 2014. Ref shs 5566-38-14SH Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

“The pattern of social life in 1814 Sidmouth was for the gentlemen and ladies to parade up and down the front in the afternoons. The Long Picture was an advertisement to attract the discerning wealthy.”

He added that panoramas were popular at the time but few other towns are fortunate enough to have such a record.

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It features the names of three influential figures who helped make Sidmouth what it is today.

Firstly, the artist Hubert Cornish, whose brother George was Lord of the Manor of Salcombe Regis and an important member of Sidmouth society.

Secondly, John Wallis, who commissioned the painting to advertise his business, the library that now forms part of the Bedford Hotel. The artist shifted his perspective to position it in the middle of his commission. Thirdly, Emanuel Baruh Lousada, whose wealth and influence acted as a magnet to attract other like-minded people.

Engravings were also made so the painting could be replicated and copies would have been on sale in Sidmouth and Wallis’s business in London. One was presented to Edward Duke of Kent when he chose to move to the town in 1819.

Sidmouth Museum is hosting a talk on the painting before a walk along the Esplanade at 10.30am next Friday (September 26). It is free but donations are welcome.

? Herald photographer Simon Horn has recreated the image - see this week’s edition for the full picture.