Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

2. "Trees at Upper Longdon"

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Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

4. "The Coach House, Upper Longdon"

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Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

5. "A Traveller on a Country Track"

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Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

7. "Two Figures on a Country Lane"

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Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

8. "A Figure on a Woodland Track"

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Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

9. "Two Figures on a Woodland Track"

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Doodles 9
Doodles 9
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Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

6. "A Figure Resting on a Country Track"

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Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

3. "A Hay Barn at Upper Longdon"

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Doodles 5
Doodles 5
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Doodles 4
Doodles 4
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Doodles 8
Doodles 8
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The setting of these watercolour views is the Staffordshire countryside near the house of the architectural historian and artist Rev. John Louis Petit, Bumblekyte Hall (also referred to as "Bumblekite", and in some sources - confusingly - as "Bumbledike"). They date to the years 1860 and 1867. The house was built for Petit at Upper Longdon, north of Lichfield, in the mid-1850s. Petit also had a home in Lichfield itself.

 

The various country tracks shown in this series of drawings can be identified with Lower Way, Grange Hill (formerly Bumble End), Dark Lane and other roads near Petit's now-demolished Bumblekyte Hall. Today the site of Bumblekyte is occupied by a cul-de-sac of homes known as "The Grange".
 

Augustus Hare described an 1862 visit to Petit at Lichfield, where he resided with "three sisters and seven cats, who appeared at all meals as part of the family". The Petits' "country place of 'Bumblekite Hall'," Hare wrote, was "far more extraordinary than any other house I have ever seen".

 

Contemporary commentators admired the "bold colouring and rapid execution" of Petit's work, whose palette was dominated by shades of sepia, terracotta and olive. Each of the drawings is inscribed as being near Bumblekyte. All are precisely dated and bear old printed inventory numbers.

 

The reverse of each work additionally has pencil drawings of cartoon-like creatures enacting amusing scenes. These characteristic doodles were noted by Hare. Meeting Petit and his entourage in Menton in 1861, Hare described him as "extraordinarily clever, especially as an artist, but most eccentric". "He covered the backs of his pictures with caricatures of goblins, &c., representing the events of each day on which the pictures were done."

 

On Petit's death in December 1868 - which, ironically, ensued from a cold he contracted while out sketching in the Lichfield area - a biographer wrote, not without a measure of hyperbole: "It is impossible to speak too highly of the beauty of the vast number of sketches from nature left in his portfolios. With a correct eye for proportion and colour, and a rapid hand, he invariably finished his drawings on the spot, and the power and breadth that they display have been seldom equalled. It is difficult to particularise any as preferable to the rest; but those of Lichfield, Tewkesbury and St. Paul's may be mentioned as among the finest."

Stanfield & Turner is very grateful to Gareth Evans, who has written about the history of Upper Longdon, for his help in identifying the locations of the present views.

 

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

 

  • Augustus J.C. Hare, The Story of My Life (IX Work in Southern Counties, X Work in Northern Counties)

  • The Register, and Magazine of Biography, Jan 1869, pp. 220-222

  • The Civil Engineer and Architects' Journal, Vol XIX, 1856, p. 43

Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

10. "A Country Track" (A sketch)

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Doodles 1
Doodles 1
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Doodles 2
Doodles 2
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Doodles 10b
Doodles 10b
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Doodles 3
Doodles 3
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Doodles 7
Doodles 7
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Doodles 10a
Doodles 10a
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The doodles

Watercolour with traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 28 x 38.5 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bum.te" and dated "Oct 19 1867", with old printed inventory labels "1867 C. 34", doodling (see Doodles 2 below). Unframed. SOLD

The subject appears to be a group of barns and outhouses set back from Upper Way, Upper Longdon. It has been suggested that the roof dominated by a tall chimney in the distance could be a glimpse of Petit's house, Bumblekyte. Two of the trees resemble ones painted by Petit's sister, Elizabeth. The painting by Elizabeth Petit - "Turkeys at Brambles" - also shows a nearby pond (no longer in existence). The proximity of the pond would explain the presence of three white geese next to the haystack in the present composition. A pair of similar trees, perhaps the very same ones, is to be found at this spot on Upper Way today.

Watercolour over traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 28 x 38.5 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bum.te" and dated "Nov 7 1867", with old printed inventory labels "1867 C. 57" and further pencilled number "896", doodling (see Doodles 3 below). Unframed. SOLD

The building depicted was formerly the coach house of Longdon Lodge in Catmeadow Lane, Upper Longdon. The house (known today as "The Old Barn") has lost one of its ground-floor lean-to structures and no longer has its chimney or roof lantern with weather vane, but remnants of the two distinctive dovecote ledges in the gable wall (above a subsequently added window) survive. The external wall of the missing outbuilding remains, and the two buttresses which are such a prominent feature of the composition are still to be found behind thick vegetation today. The Lodge and coach house were once part of the Marquess of Anglesey's Beaudesert Estate.

Watercolour over traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 28 x 38.5 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bumblekyte" and dated "Aug 25 1860", with old printed inventory labels "1860 A. 91" and further pencilled number "862", doodling (see Doodles 4 below). Unframed. SOLD

Watercolour over traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 38.5 x 28 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bum.te" and dated "Oct 18 1867", with old printed inventory labels "1867 C. 33" and further pencilled number "990", doodling (see Doodles 5 below). Unframed. SOLD

Watercolour over traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 38.5 x 28 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bum.te" and dated "Aug 19 1867", with old printed inventory labels "1867 B.70" and further pencilled number "958", doodling (see Doodles 6 below). Unframed. SOLD

This view appears to be looking down Bumble End (today's Grange Hill) towards an old coaching inn, The Gate (the building beyond the bend in the road). The Gate Inn survived until 1985 when it was pulled down because of mining subsidence.  The steep bank on the right is the outer perimeter of Bumblekyte.

Watercolour over traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 38.5 x 28 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bum.te" and dated "Oct 16 1867", with old printed inventory labels "1867 C. 31" and further pencilled number "989", doodling (see Doodles 7 below). Unframed. SOLD

Watercolour over traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 38.5 x 28 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bum.te" and dated "Jul 2 1867", with old printed inventory labels "1867 B. 3" and further pencilled number "993", doodling (see Doodles 8 below). Unframed. SOLD

Watercolour over traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 38.5 x 28 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bum.te" and dated "Oct. 11 1867", with old printed inventory labels "1867 C. 27" and further pencilled number "988", doodling (see Doodles 9 below). Unframed. SOLD

To judge by the accompanying doodles (verso), the execution of this sketch was interrupted by rain, leaving it uncompleted but affording a fascinating glimpse into Petit's working methods.

Watercolour over traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 38.5 x 28 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bumble" and dated "Aug 15 1867", with old printed inventory labels "1867 B. 67" and further pencilled number "960", doodling (see Doodles 10a and 10b below). Unframed. SOLD

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Doodles 6
Doodles 6
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Rev. John Louis Petit
Rev. John Louis Petit

1. "A Distant View of Lichfield Cathedral"

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Petit appears to have painted this view looking down Shavers Lane in Upper Longdon, with the chimneys of Gunpowder Cottage (the walls of which are painted white today) at lower right. 

Watercolour with blotting out over traces of pencil underdrawing on heavy textured paper, 28 x 38.5 cm. Reverse inscribed in pencil "Nr. Bumblekyte" and dated "April 23 1860", with old printed inventory labels "1860 A. 22" and further pencilled number "865",  doodling (see Doodles 1 below). Unframed. SOLD

Rev. John Louis Petit

Views at Upper Longdon near Lichfield