Wentworth Castle Estate, Barnsley, South Yorkshire

Wentworth Castle Estate, Barnsley, South Yorkshire




English School  


Wentworth Castle Estate, Barnsley, South Yorkshire    

Oil on canvas

101.6 x 147.4 cms

40 x 58 inches

Overall framed size 119.4 x 164.5 cms

                                 47 x 643/4 inches


Another version of this painting is in the collection of the Cannon Hall Museum, Barnsley and is dated to c.1751-2


Thomas Bardwell was an artist and writer who painted diverse subject matter including horses, country estate views, conversation pieces and portraits as well as undertaking decorative work in house interiors. However, it is probably for portraiture that he is most recognised today because this represented the majority of his work.

He was born in 1704, probably in Worlingworth, Suffolk and was the son of John Bardwell a local farmer and although Thomas was self-taught, he began his career painting decorative panels for a business which he had begun in 1728. This venture proved to be very successful necessitating the need for assistants so he took on apprentices. However in 1732 he decided to concentrate on portrait painting and handed the business over to his brother Robert.

The earliest dated paintings are from 1736, one of which probably portrays the Brewster Family of Beccles from Suffolk in a domestic interior and is now in the collection of the Museum of the Home in Hackney. He established himself as a prominent East Anglian portraitist but it is possible that he also garnered some commissions in London as in 1740 he depicted John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll and Duke of Greenwich – now in the National Portrait Gallery - and he also portrayed David Garrick as Richard III, a work which is now in the collection of the Russell-Cotes Museum and Art Gallery.

In 1746 he painted William Crowe who became the newly-elected Mayor of Norwich in the following year. In achieving this he supplanted John Theodore Heins who had undertaken all civic portraiture up until then and Bardwell painted different Mayors of that city a further eight times up until 1765. 

His portraits are in all sizes and formats – bust, half-length and full-length -  and stylistically he can be compared to Thomas Hudson (1701-1779) and in composition the influence of van Dyck can be discerned as also can be noticed in the treatment of the costume of the sitters. Other influential portrait commissions included: Thomas Fermor, 1st Earl of Pomfret and Henrietta Louisa, Countess of Pomfret; The Broke and Bowes Families in an interior; and the splendid portrayal of William Henry de Zylesstein, 4th Earl of Rochfors who stands in a landscape before his dappled grey horse which is held by a groom with a view to his house in the distance. It measures 161 x 212 cms and hangs now in Brodrick Castle. In 1748 he painted an allegory piece Joshua Ward receiving money from Britannia and bestowing it as charity on the needy. Ward was a London doctor and when completed, the painting hung in the Ward family house in Whitehall. It is now in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons.

At the same time as Bardwell was augmenting his reputation as a portraitist, he was also venturing in to recording country houses for their wealthy owners. Thomas Bardwell and the other architectural topographical painters of that time had displayed a disciplined adherence to perspective and keenly observed architectural views almost a decade prior to the arrival of Canaletto in 1746 but the latter had a significant effect on the popularity of architectural painting and artists who gained more prominence in the post-Canaletto influenced portrayal of buildings and urban scenes included painters such as Pieter Tillemans, John Wootton and George Lambert. The first two of these were described by Alexander Pope as “…the two best landscape painters in England” and were already established in this genre. It is not recorded how Tillemans came to know Bardwell but when the former came to Suffolk sometime in the 1720s to paint Livermere Hall, he employed Bardwell to assist him. This painting is one of Tilleman’s most successful country house portraits as it has a gathering of horses and hounds in the foreground with the house and park beyond, making the scene reminiscent of a stage set. A feature peculiar to this work compared to others by Tillemans is the attention to detail of architectural features, almost like that of a miniaturist, and this is directly attributable to Bardwell. In Bardwell’s independent house paintings, the inclusion of equine staffage is similar to that of Tilleman’s so their working association clearly had an influence.

The progression to country house painting, given his background in earlier decorative work, seems a natural one for Bardwell and combined with painting the portraits of the wealthy would have afforded good contacts. On 10th June 1738, he had placed an advertisement in the Norwich Gazette which read: “History, Landskips, Signs, Shew-Boards, Window Blinds, Flower Pots for Chimnies, and House-Painting in imitation of all sorts of Wood, Stone and Mahogany, to such Perfection, as is not practiced in this part of the Kingdom. I also sell all Sorts of Colours for House-Painting ready prepared.” He had by this time already painted bas-relief trompe l’oeils for John Buxton (he also painted the portraits of several members of the family) for the hall in Shadwell Lodge in Norfolk in 1728. In around 1730, he had been commissioned to depict Woodton Hall and Perry Hall in Birmingham, and then in 1735 he painted Hedenham Hall in Norfolk which, with its inclusion of a number of horses and deer grazing in the foreground and a carriage beyond, clearly shows a link to Tillemans. Further evidence of the melding of the architectural and sporting genres represented by Tillemans through to Bardwell can be discerned in an unidentified East Anglian H-shaped 17th century house which forms the background to a portrait of two King Charles spaniels. Previously ascribed to Tillemans because of the composition, stylistically it is almost certainly by Bardwell. This development also moves him closer to John Wootton whereby an equestrian portrait is only one significant part of the painting. An example of this is the aforementioned 1741 painting of Easton Park, Suffolk where the fore and hind legs and belly of the dapple grey horse frame the view to house.

The Earl of Strafford paid Bardwell the significant figure of £20 for a view of Wentworth Castle and a further £21 to produce A View from Stainborough Gardens, both completed in 1751. Another painting, dated 1752, bears the title Wentworth Castle looking towards the Tivoli Temple and Queen Anne Obelisk. The Wentworth series of paintings display the maturity that Bardwell had attained, compared to his earlier work, by using shadows and highlights to give the work perspective. 

It is hardly surprising that Thomas Bardwell had achieved such eminence in his field when one considers the study that he had made to publish in 1756 The Practice of Painting and Perspective made easy: In which is contained, The Art Of Painting In Oil, With The Method Of Colouring, Under The Heads Of First Painting, or Dead-colouring; - Second Painting; - Third or Last Painting; - Painting Back-grounds; - On Copying; - Drapery, and Landschape Painting. This 64 page technical treatise was printed and published by Miller from Bungay in Suffolk and has a dedication by Bardwell to the Earl of Rochford. The address given to obtain a copy from the author himself was given as “…at the Golden Lamp, in Rose Street, near the end of Covent Garden.” The work was the result of the author’s assiduous studies of 17th century paintings in East Anglian collections. The painting section deals solely with the technique of painting in oils and is deemed one of the most original and significant works of its kind in England and was described by one contemporary critic as: “…the instructions contained in that short work, so far as they relate to the process of painting, are the best that have hitherto been published.” A second edition came out in 1773.

In 1752 and 1753, Bardwell travelled around Yorkshire and Scotland undertaking a large number of commissions which included country house perspectives, portraits and some decorative work. The former included the Wentworth pieces. While in Scotland, he painted a number of portraits for John Murray, the third Duke of Atholl and for Caroline Scott, Countess of Dalkeith. In addition to the portraits commissions for the Duke, Bardwell also painted a set of four decorated roundels for the refurbished dining room at Blair Atholl Castle.

The artist returned to East Anglia and in 1759 he settled permanently in Norwich. His wife pre-deceased him and Bardwell himself died on 9th September 1767 and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary, Bungay two days later. A Norwich newspaper wrote an obituary of him in which it stated that he was: “…an eminent portrait painter of this city, who principally through the power of genius and dint of application, acquired a degree of perfection in his art, which would have been deemed excellent, even if it had been accompanied with a liberal tuition.” John Harris, writing in The Artist and the Country House, regarding a set of four views of Adlington Hall in Cheshire that Bardwell created in 1761, states that: “Only a fine perspectivist could successfully paint the view of the house and stables with the wooden fence curving towards the spectator and the treatment of architectural detail is superb.”

Some of Thomas Bardwell’s paintings can be seen in the collections of the following museums and institutions: Ashmolean Museum; National Portrait Gallery; Victoria and Albert Museum; British Museum (several prints after portraits); Government Art Collection; Norwich Castle Museum; Russel-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum; Hunterian Museum; Laing Art Gallery; Cannon Hall Museum; Ancient House: the Museum of Thetford Life; Museum of the Home; Birmingham Museum Trust, Staffordshire County Museum; Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital; Ingestre Hall; Pembroke College and Gorville and Gaius College, University of Oxford; Eton College; Marble Hill House (English Heritage), Felbrigg Hall and Seaton Delavel (National Trust; Brodrick Castle (National Trust for Scotland).



The Artist and the Country House – John Harris

Dictionary of 18th Century Painters – Ellis Waterhouse

Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists – Sally Mitchell

Suffolk Artists.co.uk



First portrayed by Jan Kip in a bird’s-eye engraving of avenues and parterres in 1714 and then featuring in Vitruvius Britannicus in 1715, the house was known then as Stainborough, the seat of the Earls of Strafford but when the original building was constructed in 1670 it was known as the Cutler house after its first owner Sir Gervase Cutler. Following its purchase by Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford in 1708, its eponymous name had changed until 1731 when it became Wentworth Castle

Wentworth had been a soldier and colonel of dragoons in the service of William III and had been involved in the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Utrecht (1713-1715) which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. The Earl employed Johann von Bodt, a military architect who had experience of English country houses. The utilisation of a large order of pilasters on the front of the new building is reminiscent of Chatsworth with a continental baroque frontage and inspired Pevsner to say of Wentworth that it was in possession “…of a palatial splendour uncommon in England.” Another writer stated that it was: “…a remarkable and almost unique example of Franco-Prussian architecture in Georgian England.”

 Following the death of the first earl in 1739, William, the second earl, undertook many of the architectural upgrading himself and created a neo-Palladian range between 1759 and 1764. It was said of him that: “Lord Strafford himself is his own architect and contriver in everything.” Even in the earl’s London residence, Horace Walpole stated that, “…he chose all the ornaments himself.”  Of Wentworth Walpole went on: “If a model is sought of the most perfect taste in architecture, where grace softens dignity, and lightness attempts magnificence... where the position is the most happy, and even the colour of the stone the most harmonious; the virtuoso should be directed to the new front of Wentworth-castle, the result of the same judgement that had before distributed so many beauties over that domain and called from wood, water, hills, prospects, and buildings, a compendium of picturesque nature, improved by the chastity of art.”

Wentworth Castle at the time of Bardwell’s paintings had seen the formerly intricate old gardens softened for the 2nd Earl of Strafford. His painting of 1752 with the title A View of the East Front of Wentworth Castle, Yorkshire, Looking Towards the Tivoli Temple and the Queen Anne Obelisk portrays the part of the house designed by Johann von Bodt from circa 1710. The artist raised bills for “Painting a picture of a view from Stainborough Gardens £21” and “For painting a view of Wentworth Castle £21” in February 1750 and 1751 respectively. The original name of Stainborough survives in the Castle, a sham ruin constructed as a garden folly that can be seen at the crest of the hill.