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George Arnald

The Bell, Hockliffe by George Arnald [Z693/1]
The Bell, Hockliffe by George Arnald [Z693/1]

British painter George Arnald [1763-1841] was born in Farndish in north-west Bedfordshire, on the Northamptonshire border, in 1763. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives holds an album of largely biographical manuscript poems written by Arnald interleaved with a series of watercolours mainly depicting Bedfordshire scenes [Z693/1]. Arnald left Farndish when he was about six years of age, and lived as a child in Wingfield, Houghton Regis (where Arnald's father Thomas was buried in 1783) and Leighton Buzzard, all of which are represented in the album [Z693/1]

Arnald's first school was at Hockliffe, presumably Hockliffe Charity School, where "the master's name was Crane, he was always strict in his discipline but kind, and I respect his memory". Reminiscing in verse on revisiting Hockliffe Arnald recalls:

"Near the blue bell, embosom'd in the trees,
Whose ensign creaking with the gentlest breeze,
There, where the humble mansion on the right,
Retires like modest merit from the sight. }
All silent now. Alas! How changed it's state,
With noisey habitants so throng'd of late. }
The master in his rule would seem severe,
But duty done, to all who sought his care,
Was more than kind, and every school boys friend
And in their cheerful sports would oft unbend".

Hockliffe street scene by George Arnald 1830s [Z693/1]
Hockliffe street scene by George Arnald 1830s [Z693/1]

Arnald continues with an anecdote, relating how "the task half learn'd" he "cast the school book from his trembling hand" on his way to school, but was rescued from his miserably anticipated punishment by a loving sister who "mingled her sorrows with my strong distress". The section is illustrated with two sepia watercolours of Hockliffe scenes, the first showing a public house sign, presumably the Bell or Blue Bell, and the second the building which had been his school. After leaving Hockliffe Arnald attended another school run by "Young the cruel" in the Market House at Leighton Buzzard; unsurprisingly, he remembered this school with rather less affection.

After his childhood in Bedfordshire little is known about George Arnald's career until he came to prominence as a painter. Although he specialised in landscapes, he is best known for his work Battle of the Nile which is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. The National Portrait Gallery holds a portrait of Arnald in his studio in 1831.