Samuel Rayner’s Haddon Hall: Comparing 21st century photography with 19th century artwork

Haddon Courtyard 2015 Photograph by Ian Daisley

Haddon Courtyard 2015 Photograph by Ian Daisley - Credit: Archant

A new exhibition comparing a Victorian artist’s work with 21st century photography reveals that very little has changed in two hundred years

View of the Courtyard by Samuel Rayner c.1830s

View of the Courtyard by Samuel Rayner c.1830s - Credit: Archant

Visitors to Haddon Hall this month can look around a fascinating new exhibition that draws a significant correlation between the work of a group of 21st century Peak District photographers and the drawings of a 19th century artist who visited and seemingly fell in love with Derbyshire.

The exhibition, entitled ‘Samuel Rayner’s Haddon Hall – Revisited’ presents the work of Samuel Rayner, artist and author, who in the early part of the 19th century studied intricately the architectural details of Haddon Hall, near Bakewell, creating over thirty sketches of the property in its ‘then’ state.

With artwork and writing in his History and Antiquities of Haddon Hall, Rayner captured Haddon when it had been left almost deserted for over a century, producing fascinating details on this semi-dormant period of the Hall’s history. These included tales of the elderly celebrated guide William Hage, who recited stories about the Manners family passed down to Hage through his ancestors, who had served Haddon Hall’s owners continuously from the 16th century.

Fast forward to 2015 and Derbyshire photographers Ian Daisley and Chris Gilbert, from the Peak District Photography Gallery in Bakewell, were two of a group of photography professionals who approached Lord and Lady Edward Manners with the idea of an exhibition on Rayner and his work. Chris explains the inspiration behind the project: ‘Samuel Rayner was living and working in the Peak District when he created History and Antiquities of Haddon Hall and we felt it was important to reconnect with such an important body of work, bringing Rayner and his family’s work back into the public eye and raising awareness.

‘Rayner was an exquisite draughtsman. We aim to show with this exhibition and through modern day photography just how accurate his depiction of Haddon Hall was. Visitors to Haddon this August will see that there is an extraordinary correspondence between Rayner’s hand and eye rendition of the architecture and that achieved by us today, with the camera. The artistic context is the same even if the tools the artists are using are radically different.’

The five local photographers, several of them award winning, have spent the last few months visiting Haddon and recreating scenes from Rayner’s drawings from the 19th century, setting themselves the challenge of trying to match the sketches as accurately as possible.

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Ian Daisley rose early and stayed late at Haddon in order to get the light and look right for the exhibition: ‘Rayner’s drawings not only offer incredible detail as to the architecture and immediate landscape of Haddon Hall, but his writings also gave the social context of Haddon, which – at the time of writing in the mid-1830s – was when Haddon Hall was just becoming a popular tourist destination, which it remains today, almost 200 years later.’

Haddon Hall’s owner, Lady Edward Manners, who commissioned the exhibition, comments: ‘We owe a lot to Samuel Rayner and his work capturing Haddon in the middle of the 19th century. His sketches are not only of the roofs, rooms and corners of the hall, but are also beautifully detailed diagrams of Haddon’s incredible and ancient architecture – like the Tudor panelling – which help shape how we work with the house and architecture today. Rayner’s book sheds light on how Haddon functioned at the time of writing, as it existed in its resting state. Samuel Rayner was undoubtedly a dedicated artist and historian.’ w