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History Brannon Family Engravers

1824 May Appley Near Ryde

REF NR: 1226

The Print

Appley is around one mile east of Ryde town centre and just before Puckpool. The pier can be seen clearly in the background, along with the faint outline of what appears to be Royal Pier Hotel. One can see a gaff rigged sailing vessel in the foreground with many smaller craft around. It is thought that the house to the left of the print was built by a Dr Roberts in the 18th century, latterly this was replaced by the Benedictine nunnery.


Close inspection of the wording shows that this was an early plate, made when George Brannon was still living in London.


The Brannons

Little is known of George Brannon’s early life. Born in Ireland in 1784; his family were apparently forced to move to London where George's father began work as a shoemaker. George however was lucky enough to gain a position as a apprentice printer where it is said he excelled at all he attempted, taking to it like a duck to water. He continued his training and mastered Latin 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. It's noted in an obituary (probably written by his son Philip), that in his early years as an artist he 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. Only six actually survived to maturity, however this was fairly common in those days. 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. 1831 Vectis Scenery, researched by Raymond Turley is one such publication that suggests this as so.

It is thus thought they moved to the island around 1809 and took up residence in Landscape Cottage on Wotton Common. Here he began his life’s work, engraving and publishing the wonderful impressions of the island we know so well today.


By 1824, the family business was fairly well established and had 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 the passionate promotion of the Reform Bill's passing. In addition to this, he still on 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 in the following years, fell on hard times on several occasions.  George’s grandson went on to become one of the founding members of the Isle of Wight County Press which is still running today.


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