Its always such a pleasure when people get in touch, and when we find that our research on Clark can dovetail with theirs.
A few months ago we received some correspondence from Sally Woodcock, who had been commissioned (with May Berkouwer) to assess a painting that is in the possession of St Peter’s Church, the parish church of Great Totham, just down the road from Great Totham Hall. The current resident of the Vicarage is architectural historian Dr James Bettley (who incidentally wrote the entry on Clark for the ODNB and is the author of A Guide to the Parish Church of St Peter’s, Great Totham) asked Sally and May to write a conservation report on Great Totham Church – a painting depicting a view of the parish church at Great Totham from the front room of the Vicarage. The painting had been hidden behind a cupboard in the vestry of St Peter’s for some time and was rediscovered during the restoration of the church in 2012. It is of historical importance because it depicts the church of St Peter’s before major restoration took place in 1877–79, restoration which altered the appearance of the church.
The painting was produced by a Miss Hayter and several prints of the painting exist, one having been in the possession of Clark and another owned by his friend and neighbour the Rev. Thomas F. Gower. Sally wrote to us asking us to check Clark’s correspondence for any mention of this lady or of the painting. We found this reference in a letter of 1842:
“By-the-bye, while you were packing up for me on Monday evening I was most comfortably dining & tossing down my wine at our worthy Vicar’s tithe dinner, according to annual custom, in the very room from which Miss Hayter took her sketch of our Church that was engraved for our History … it was suspended against the wall just behind me.”
This letter confirms that Miss Hayter took the sketch on which she based her painting from the sitting room of the Vicarage, and that Gower’s print was displayed on the wall of that same room. Sally’s report was able to tell us that Clark’s print of the History of the Parish of Great Totham, Essex, written by George William Johnson, has as a frontispiece “a view of Great Totham Church, on wood; from a drawing by Miss Hayter”. It seems that the engraving was done particularly for this publication. The report also suggests that Clark may have at one time owned the painting.
Unfortunately, the painting is in poor condition and is need of repair. Dr Bettley has been in touch to inform us that plans are in place to restore the painting and to display it in the church; however, this is dependent on funding, and the Great Totham Parochial Church Council is actively seeking financial support to make this happen. The report makes clear that the painting is a unique survival, recording a history of St Peter’s that is largely unknown; however, the work of art is far too fragile to be displayed in its current state. Any readers interested in assisting the restoration programme should contact Great Totham Parochial Church Council; we at the Clark project are also happy to pass on any correspondence. Anyone with further information on the artist, Miss Hayter, is also encouraged to get in touch.
The painting and the circumstances surrounding its production are fascinating: they clearly had great local importance and were culturally important to Clark and to his milieu. The prints also travelled: there is one currently held at the British Library, and Clark’s imprint would have helped to disseminate the drawing more widely. We hope for an excellent response to the Council’s search for funds for this worthy restoration project, and we look forward seeing the painting restored to its former glory on a future visit to Great Totham!