Down the street, from where I stayed while shooting the canal project, an abandoned cottage loomed behind trees not far from the river
I was curious and asked around. It was said that the painter Mary Beale (1633–1699) has stayed there. Described as the “most important portrait painter of 17th century England, and the first professional female English painter”.
Seeking more information on her, I recently consulted Ellen C. Clayton’s book ENGLISH FEMALE PAINTERS (Vol 1: 1876), of Mary Beale she writes; “One of the most industrious of women, as all female artists have ever been, she assiduously copied every good Italian picture she could obtain.” The time spent at Allbook was likely due to her husbands financial troubles, and it was during this time she grew in skill and prominence, returning the family to a Pall Mall studio with her £200 annual income from commissions (about US$600,000 in today’s money).
Clayton called her, “The leader of the little sisterhood of artists patronized by King Charles the Second…”
The cottage is a Grade II Listed building, however developers are rumoured to be seeking the removal of this 1659-built farmhouse for a court of new houses, and may wait for it to become unsound.