A Far Pavilion
Sunday, 14th December 2003
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
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lushly verdant trees - resembling giant sticks of broccoli - form
the background to a portrait of my great grandfather George Swift.
They remind me of the painted scenic backdrops you see in studio
portrait photographs of the Victorian era but this particular portrait
is an oil on canvas, about 3ft x 4ft, from 1843.
George was then aged just 3 and he is depicted wearing the black
velvet dress that toddlers of that time were dressed in. He holds
a hoop and stick.
The silk sock on his right leg has slipped and, as a toddler, my
Mum had her Mum stand her in front of the portrait and
have her say: 'Grandad! Pull your sock up!'
difficult to photograph using my rudimentary digital camera as the
canvas is so shiny. The face bears an uncanny resemblance to my
sister's son Richard at that age. We did think about dressing him
in an identical outfit and photographing him, age 3, in front of
the portrait. Luckily Richard escaped that!
Young George certainly didn't live in the landscape park depicted
in the painting. There are tubs of flowers, lawns and a gravel paths
amongst the trees. Like many in the smoky steel town of Sheffield
at that time he suffered from bronchitis. My Mum suspects that he
might have worked in the cutlery trade for a while, like his relatives,
but the fact that he and his wife took a shop, probably a general
store, at 198 Hanover Street, suggests that he had to opt for an
occupation that kept him away from the dust you'd get in the grinding
first wife died soon after the birth of their second child, and
the child survived his mother by only a few months.
But thanks to the unknown Victorian painter we can picture him
in a paradise garden, complete with a pavilion just a short stroll
down that path in the background.
Grey Squirrel Drey
No pavilions in my Mum's garden but her variegated beech appears
to have a grey squirrel's drey in it. A collection
of leafy branches has been bundled together halfway up the trunk,
using the stump of a sawn-off branch as a support.
We didn't see a squirrel using it, but there are plenty around.
'At least they're not building in the roof-space', said my Mum.
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