Seeing is Believing, – but is it?

Bedford Hotel

Parade, Bedford Hotel

Take a look at the engraving of the Parade in this article and in particular take a close look at the classical portico on the left of this image, the Palladian style building with the Ionic columns. This engraving first appeared in Hopper’s History of Leamington Priors published in 1842 and has been reproduced in several more recent histories of the town including John Drew’s history published in 1978. There are many 19th century engravings of the Parade prior to and after 1842 but none show this building or anything remotely like it. So what are we to make of this seeming contradiction?

There is little doubt that the rather imposing building shown never existed save in the imagination of the man who made the ink drawing all those years ago. The artist was thoughtful enough to write his name on the bottom corner of the drawing and that is really the answer to this conundrum. It is signed ’Jackson’. J G Jackson was a Leamington architect and land agent who obtained many commissions for designing buildings in and around the town. A study of the engraving indicates that the building shown is what started life as the Bedford Hotel.The hotel was sold in 1854 and the building was subsequently purchased by the Leamington Priors & Warwickshire Bank who added a new and totally different stone facade which exists to the present day on the premises now owned by HSBC bank.

My conclusion is that what we see in the engraving is Jackson’s impression of what the street scene MIGHT have looked like had his design for the bank’s new frontage been carried out. Much of his work was in the Classical style and he designed and built similar porticos for the original post office in Bath Street and for the Episcopal Chapel, Milverton Hill.There used to be a saying that ‘the camera never lies’ but in an age of digital-enhancing software, that is patently not true. It is as well to bear in mind that artists throughout the ages have exercised a degree of artistic license when interpreting views so when you look at old engravings and prints, don’t believe everything you see.

Alan Griffin

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