Gwillim’s World: Places

Much like determining Elizabeth Gwillim’s personal networks can enlighten her work, so too can an understanding of her physical world. For an artist who painted landscapes and aspects of the natural world, personal geographies can be very influential. Below are a few places that Gwillim frequented in Britain before sailing to India.

Hereford: Gwillim was born in the Valley of Wye in the county of Herefordshire. Located in the West Midlands of England, the area is home to many country homes, which may have been a point of exposure for Elizabeth to books and works of art.

Hereford by John Bluck, 1800, British Library Topographical Collection.
Llug Meadows, near Hereford by David Cox the Elder, 1800-1859, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Wales: Both Mary and Elizabeth mention locations in Wales when seeking to describe the landscape in Madras. They likely visited often in their youth, naming places such as Borth, Barmouth, and Landrindod. Wales is also home to Powis Castle of the Lady Clive, whose husband was the Governor of Madras when Elizabeth and Mary arrived. 

The Rocks & rivers are romantick [sic] as Wales tho the Hills are not lofty.

Describing Covelong, Elizabeth Gwillim to her Mother, Esther Symonds, no date; received in England February 28, 1806
Barmouth 21 July 1830 by Henry Courtney Selous, 1830, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Richard and I walk out almost every evening, sometimes on the beach it is a very fine sand but not so hard as the sand at Barmouth.

Mary Gwillim to her Sister, Hester “Hetty” Symonds James (no date or signature), 1802

Ely: In 1797, Henry Gwillim was appointed Justice of Ely, a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire. The Bishop of Ely, James Yorke, and his wife Agneta (Mary) became friends with the Gwillims, exchanging letters and gifts. There is no direct mention or evidence of Elizabeth travelling to Ely, but it is a possibility.

Ely Cathedral by Edward Dayes, 1792, Victoria & Albert Museum.

London: The Gwillims lived in London before their departure to Madras. London features many specific locations and connections that are relevant to Elizabeth’s life and work. See the page titled “Gwillim’s London” on this site for a more detailed exploration.

By Saraphina Masters