This print was drawn, lithographed and published by artist William Frederick Austin. At the centre of the composition is St Laurence’s Church, to the left of which is the Simeon Monument. This obelisk was commissioned by the wealthy banker Edward Simeon in 1804 and designed by Sir John Soane. Standing 25 feet high and made of Portland Stone, the monument supports three lanterns and was intended as a visual focus for the square. It was restored in 2007. This view also includes what was then the new Corn Exchange building, surmounted by a spire and weathervane to the left of the composition. The foundation stone was laid on Monday 18 September 1854 and the building, designed by architects Francis Hawkes and J. B. Clacy, opened in June the following year.
On the Saturday 27 September 1856, ‘The Reading Mercury’ reported the publication of this print as follows:
‘VIEW OF THE MARKET-PLACE. – An admirable lithograph engraving has been published by Mr. W. F. Austin, an artist residing in this town. The picture presents a full view of the Market-place, on either side, with the obelisk in the centre, and St. Lawrence’s church in the distance, giving it the appearance of being a very noble street.’
William Frederick Kimmon Austin was born in Bedford; the son of printer, architect, surveyor and builder John Sunman Austin. He studied painting under his father and landscape painter Bradford Rudge. He moved to Oxford in about 1856, where he joined his father’s printing business: J. Austin & Son. Father and son drew views in and around Wallingford and Wantage. In 1860 he moved to Norwich, where he painted landscape views. He began painting the areas around Nottingham and Derby between 1890 and 1894, and may have lived in the East Midlands during this time. He also produced drawings of pubs, with which he paid landlords' bills, and made pencil portraits. At the time of his death he was working from a studio at the Six Bells Inn, Reading.
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