Reading from Holm Park

William Byrne (1743 - 1805)
Thomas Hearne (1744 - 1817)

Coloured engraving

published 1 January 1803
  • About the work
    Country: Other
    City: other locations abroad
    This view across fields, to the town of Reading in Berkshire was published in 1803 and demonstrates how small the settlement of Reading once was. The River Kennet meanders gently through the fields and a boat can be seen sailing on the river. Reading, the administrative centre of the county of Berkshire, rose to prominence in the middle ages due to the presence of the Benedictine Abbey which was founded in 1181 and destroyed during the Reformation. Only ruins of this remain. The town lies on the River Kennet, but has now grown to embrace the nearby Thames as well. Barges laden with coal and other goods used the Thames as a main navigation from London to Reading until the 19th century, returning with timber, malt and grain. Reading became known for the manufacture of sail-cloth and biscuits, among other products. This engraving was issued as part of Britannia Depicta: a Series of Views of the Most Interesting and Picturesque Objects in Great Britain. The series was published by Cadell and Davies between 1803 and 1817. However, publication costs were so high that the project was never completed. Other artists who produced illustrations for Britannia Depicta include landscape painter and diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) and artist William Alexander (1767–1816). The plates were engraved by William Byrne (1743–1805). Britannia Depicta was published to accompany and illustrate a text by brothers Daniel (1762–1834) and Samuel Lysons (c.1763–1819), both antiquaries. The brothers collaborated to author Magna Britannia, being a concise topographical account of the several counties of Great Britain, issued in parts between 1806 and 1822. (Magna Britannia was also never completed.) Britannia Depicta included references to pages in the Lysons’ book and was ‘published regularly at the same periods, as the continuation of the Magna Britannia; arranged in the same manner, and printed on papers of corresponding size and quality.’ 
  • About the artist
    William Byrne made etchings and engravings of landscapes after contemporary artists. At 22 he won a premium of 25 guineas from the Society of Arts. From 1769 to 1772 he worked for Johann Georg Wille in Paris. After returning to the UK he became a prosperous engraver and publisher. He exhibited from 1766 to 1780 and was elected a fellow of the Incorporated Society of Artists. With watercolourist Thomas Hearne he produced the series of engravings for ‘The Antiquities of Great Britain’ (1778-06). Among his pupils were Samuel Middiman and Johann Gottlieb Schumann. Byrne married twice and had five children, all of whom became painters and / or engravers. Byrne died suddenly at his home in Titchfield Street, Westminster, at about the age of 62.
    Thomas Hearne was born at Brinkworth, near Malmesbury in Wiltshire. He was apprentice to the engraver William Woollett, and became a watercolourist, mostly of topographical views. In 1771 he went to the Leeward Islands with the Governor-General Sir Ralph Payne, and stayed for three and a half years. His most important work was in conjunction with the engraver William Byrne, with whom he produced ‘The Antiquities of Great Britain’ between 1777 and 1781, and many of the plates for ‘Britannia Depicta’ between 1806 and 1818. His early work shows the influence of Paul Sandby, and he was in turn to influence the early styles of Thomas Girtin and J. M. W. Turner.
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  • Details
    Reading from Holm Park
    published 1 January 1803
    Coloured engraving
    Purchased from Sotheby's, 22 February 1977
    GAC number