Monday 9 February 2015

William Ingalton and a mystery painting part one

William Ingalton and a mystery painting

Mystery painting

Australian author Stephen Scheding has contacted us about his research into this picture, which he believes was painted by Eton artist William Ingalton.

I am writing a book about a mystery painting which was found many years ago on a Sydney street during a council "throw out" campaign. The painting is about two by three feet, on an oak panel and bears a fake David Wilkie signature. The theory I have developed is that it is identifiable with a painting titled 'The New Road to Matrimony; or the New Marriage Act' which was exhibited at the British Institution in 1823 by the now obscure Eton artist William Ingalton.

I believe there are autobiographical elements in the painting. While I think it is unlikely, I am wondering whether Ingalton may have used a local building as a model for the neo-classical white house on the distant hill. Would anyone in the group know of such a building?

White house detail

As well as being about the short-lived New Marriage Act of 1822 (it was repealed in 1823) I believe the painting has autobiographical references.

Ingalton himself was about to be married when he was painting it and married only weeks after his painting was exhibited in January 1823. His wife was Sarah Ann Emlyn, the daughter of James Emlyn who was the half-brother of Henry Emlyn, the famous Windsor architect, builder and antiquary whose best-known work was in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Both Sarah Ann's father, James, and her brother, Henry Emlyn Junior, were builders. I believe they are represented by builders depicted on the left of the painting. When William Ingalton gave up painting in 1826 he became a builder in partnership with Henry Emlyn Junior.

William Ingalton also described himself in the 1841 census as an inventor. I have found one reference to the fact that he invented a way to build fire-proof vaults for banks in 1838. This reference is from the very useful Windsor & Eton Express Master Index on Rootsweb.

Ingalton's father, William Ingalton senior, was a boot-maker/cordwainer and his aunt was a milliner who had her own address as milliner in London in 1823 before moving back to Eton High Street. The High Street had high numbers of both milliners and boot-makers at around this time. Between the censuses of 1830 and 1846 I have counted about a dozen of each in the street which has about 140 premises. (John Denham has helped me with this information). There seems to me to be an emphasis on shoes and boots in the painting. Likewise, the hats appear to me to be quite distinctive. I believe that the man in black, who wears particularly large, distinctive boots, represents the artist's father and the woman on his arm is the artist's mother. The artist had only one sibling, Ann, and I believe she is depicted in the foreground with the bird in the cage.

I believe Ingalton has depicted himself in the painting as the man in grey standing with his wife to be Sarah Ann Emlyn. My theory is that he has included children with this couple because it is his promise to have children with Sarah Ann and to stay with her. This is a reference to the New Marriage Act which was designed to close a loophole in the 1753 (Hardwick's) Marriage Act which had allowed men to abandon wives and children. The New Marriage Act was also designed "for the better prevention of clandestine marriages".

It is possible that Ingalton had a clandestine marriage before marrying Sarah Ann in April 1823. I have found references to a Lucy Ingalton, born c.1816 and a James Ingalton born c.1822. The spelling of Ingalton is so unusual that I believe these two must be from the same family but I am having difficulty placing them on the Ingalton family tree. If my theory that William Ingalton had a relationship prior to 1823 that bore children, then it may explain why he chose to paint The New Road to Matrimony; or the New Marriage Act before marrying Sarah Ann. His marriage to her would indeed be his new road to matrimony. In other words, the painting is a personal as well as apolitical statement. Hence the inclusion of family members.

I have attempted to trace descendents of the Ingalton family, using traditional family history methods, but to no avail. The hope was that I might find William Ingalton's diaries, records or sketchbooks or even more of his paintings. I would be interested to know if anyone in the Etonwick History Group has any ideas about how to get additional information on the Ingalton family, in particular on Lucy or James Ingalton, or knows the whereabouts of other Ingalton paintings.

Comments about the plausibility or otherwise of my theory would also be welcome. You can email comments to

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