In this view, published in 1743, the town of Leicester seems to curve around a field. The spires and towers of several churches rise high above the other buildings and are each numbered and named in the key below. In the foreground, several local people are represented, some hunting or busy with farming duties, others apparently at leisure, enjoying the countryside.
In 1728, whilst also working on a project to publish sets of prints illustrating the remains of buildings of antiquity including castles and churches, the brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck commenced a parallel project: to record views or ‘prospects’ of each of the principal towns and cities of England and Wales. Each prospect was drawn at a rural spot, some distance from the town itself and, when possible, from a height. When these were later published, a numbered key and an accompanying, descriptive text were included below the image. The text on this, ‘The South Prospect of Leicester’ tells us:
‘It is noted for one of the greatest Markets in England for Corn, Cattle and Meat, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and for its Fairs on the Eve of Palm-Sunday, the 1st of May, Midsummer-Day, Michaelmas-Day, and the 8th of December.’
Brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck were the leading British topographical draughtsmen and engravers of the 18th century. They produced several hundred drawings and engravings, including 87 ‘Prospects’ of England and Wales. The engravings are important visual records of the appearance of British urban landscapes prior to the Industrial Revolution. In many cases, the places depicted have since disappeared or changed beyond recognition. Their dedication in recording almost every corner of the country has left modern viewers with an invaluable record of Britain’s past. As demand for their prints fell away, Nathaniel took over a furniture business, while Samuel tried several professions, including teaching draughtsmanship and cleaning pictures.
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