The Print: - Ryde Isle Of Wight (1847) - "East of the Pier"
In the foreground you can see several ‘Gaff’ rigged vessels normally associated with cargo supply vessels, many of the smaller boats are tenders to move clients from deeper water to the shore.
To the right of the image you can see George Street leading up to the Congregational Church with its original small spire, several years later a larger spire to the church was constructed making it then supposedly the tallest spire in Ryde. However, the church was pulled down in the late 1970’s and replaced with a residential building known as Rose Court.
Further to the left at the bottom of which is now Dover Street (formerly “Wellington Street”) you can see “Ryde Castle” as it is now called. If you look very closely at the distance between the building and the sea wall you can see that it is only a few yard to te sea. It was only in later years did the Victorian civil engineering projects reclaim what is now the esplanade. Further up Dover Street you can see the Trinity Church with its spire.
One can assume from the sketch, that this was drawn in the summer of 1847 due to appearance of five or six Victorian bathing booths or "machines" as they were known, all partially submerged at the waters edge. Queen Victoria and her family had their own private beach at Osborne House at Cowes - equipped with bathing machines.
Little is known of George Brannon’s early life, born in Ireland in 1784, the family were apparently forced to move to London where his father began work as a shoemaker, George however was lucky enough to gain a position as a apprentice printer where it is said excelled at all he attempted, taking to it like a duck to water. He continued his training and mastered Latina and Greek and became very good with pen and ink drawings and architectural design.
He was married on the 17th March 1812 at Alverstoke near Gosport. George himself was almost totally self-educated but went on to become one of the foremost engravers of his time. In his early years as an artist it has been noted in his obituary (probably written by his son Philip) that he that showed great awareness and ability learning from the masters as he moved forward in his apprenticeship. He later went on to become an accomplished artist in both water and oil as well as well as having a wonderful architectural eye.
Over the course of the following years, nine new additions were added to the Brannon family of which only six actually survived to maturity, which was in those days fairly common. Their two most well known children were Alfred and Philip, who both followed in their father’s footsteps becoming not only extremely good artists and engravers but also architects, civil engineers and inventors.
The actual date of the families move to the Island is not documented as such but certain publications in 1831 do suggest they had been ensconced for around 18 to 20 years or so, as the preface of “1831 Vectis Scenery “ as researched by Raymond Turley suggests this as so.
It is thus thought they moved to the Island around about c1809, and took up residence in “Landscape Cottage “on Wotton Common. Here he began his life’s work engraving and publishing the wonderful engravings of the Island we know so well today.
By 1824 the family business was fairly well established and by 1824 had a attained a style that produced and lifelike sharpness that lifted his technique to that of the masters he had studied, as can be seen in the editions of Vectis Scenery 1824 and 1826.
At the age of 83 George Brannon retired, he then dabbled in publishing and some speculative building, as well as supporting the promotion of the “Reform Bill” with a great passion, which he was most pleased to see adopted according to his Son Philip at the time.. In addition to this he still on the odd occasion sketched the odd engraving or two. He died on the 23rd March 1860.
Both sons Alfred and Philip continued to run the business, Philip went on to become an inventor but fell on hard times over the coming years on several occasions. Latterly George’s grandson went on to become one of the founding members of the Isle of Wight County Press which is still running today.