Serendipity at Work

It’s fantastic to have good fortune befall on us when it comes to acquiring items for Creative Wiltshire, and this one appeared out of the blue a few weeks ago thanks to the movement of items from Melksham House, once associated with Avon Rubber Social Club (and later with Wiltshire Council), and to the artistic endeavours of Mrs Elizabeth Ann Tackle in the 19th century.

Elizabeth Tackle was the daughter of a Quarter Master with the First Garrison Battalion Infantry, James Hamlyn (serving in Ireland when she was born) who moved to the “Three Lions” in Holt. Elizabeth’s father became a non-conformist minister of the Congregational Church, and Elizabeth continued the non-conformist tradition by marrying the Reverend James Tackle in 1832, minister of the Congregational Chapel at Bearfield in Bradford on Avon. James also ran a day school, working as schoolmaster, and Elizabeth, perhaps understandably, taught drawing.

The engraver Holloway of Milson Street, Bath, was receiving Elizabeth’s material focused on the Bath area by the 1840s, and in the 1851 census Elizabeth was recorded as an artist and teacher. By the late 1850s she was also supplementing the household income with floristry, advertising her services in a local directory with her husband James.


Lithographic print of Bradford on Avon by Elizabeth Tackle, 1850s
Lithographic print of Bradford on Avon by Elizabeth Tackle, 1850s

Mrs Tackle drew and painted scenes around the Bradford and the Avon valley, capturing the period in the 1840s and 1850s when transport was being transformed by the building of the railways. This example is her best known, looking down to Bradford on Avon from the hill which leads to Westwood. It shows the railway station and goods sheds built in 1848 but not the rails and bridge which were erected in 1857. The print is a lithograph which Elizabeth may well have produced herself after having learnt the technique. The new acquisition will take its place in Wiltshire Local Studies’ Historic Photograph & Print Collection, thanks to Melksham House and to our good fortune! Another copy of the image can also be found at Bradford on Avon Museum.

Elizabeth’s work is a beautiful example; an artistic snapshot of our county in time, giving us a glimpse of a past landscape that is often much altered in the present.

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