I f you’re a lover of Portsmouth and Old Portsmouth in particular, then you’ll be interested in a newly-published book about a famous son of the city.
Author Nigel J H Grundy (no mean artist himself) has a vast knowledge of the great marine artist W L Wyllie RA and his book The Old Portsmouth Trail has photographs, line drawings, etchings and watercolours on each of the 88 pages – including several by Nigel.
Wyllie spent his life in three locations, France, London and Portsmouth, and it’s the final part of his life from 1906-1931 that the book concentrates on.
It follows a route of about a mile around Old Portsmouth, noting buildings and events connected to him, while showing many of his local etchings and paintings.
Wylllie was such a prolific recorders of locations in Old Portsmouth and of the navy, so there is so much to thank him for in preserving views that are now but just a memory to a few and unknown to many. HMS Victory is well represented of course.
We can be thankful to Wyllie for having the forethought to ‘be there’ when the grand old ship was towed into Number 2 dry dock for preservation.
Mind you, he was one of the leading lights in getting the old warhorse saved in the first place.
There are seven of his paintings that capture Victory as she was towed from her old anchorage into the dock.
He also reproduced a painting of the Foudroyant, formerly the Trincomalee, which was moored in Portsmouth Harbour and used by Sea Rangers, Sea Cadets and Sea Scouts for training purposes.
It was the greatest wish of Wyllie’s son, Harold, to see the ship restored to her sea-going state.
Sadly this did not happen until many years after his death, the ship was towed out of the harbour in 1986 and is now resplendent in Hartlepool, drawing large crowds.
Perhaps the most well-known of all of Wyllie’s work is the Panorama of Trafalgar, recently restored in Bristol and on view in the National Museum of the Royal Navy close by HMS Victory in the dockyard.
The 42ft X 12ft mural of the battle can be seen as viewed from the stern ports of the French ship Mercury.
Wyllie died in 1931 and was given a full naval funeral with his coffin being taken to Portchester Castle by a cutter.
He was then buried in St Mary’s Churchyard within the castle walls.
It’s a superb book, well-researched, edited and reproduced.
It can be obtained online from Nigel Grundy’s website at imagesafloat.com and Amazon.
Local stockists include W H Smith in Palmerston Road, Southsea, Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral, The Southsea Gallery, Albert Road and the Royal Naval Museum in the dockyard, and the book is priced around £15.