Garth Lawson's monthly walk: an easy five miles along good paths inspired by the county artist Brian Hatton

Following the path In search of Brian Hatton.

Following the path In search of Brian Hatton.

First published in News

WHILE the left bank of the Wye and the backcloth of Breinton are familiar to many, we’re paying homage with a difference.

The route takes you to locations where Hatton is thought to have conceived some of his pictures. Look him up on the internet under Brian Hatton, The Life and Death Of A Young Artist (1887 -1916), and you will find an impressive gallery.

Then, armed with some of the drawings, sketches, watercolours, oils and paintings evoked below, you can see what you think about their provenance and perhaps discover a few likely locations of your own.

The pastoral milieu which Hatton was trying to capture just before the Great War often embodied hard and monotonous work for the families who laboured in the fields.

Agricultural labourers were still amongst the poorest paid of all workers, and Gypsies, some of whom camped near Green Lane close to point (4) on the walk, supplied the surrounding farms with seasonal workers.

Influenced by French artist Millet, Hatton explores the theme of the noble peasant and the dignity of labour. Much of his work also empathises with the strength and muscularity of working horses, susceptible to requisition in the war, and the harmony of man and beast working together on the dark red Herefordshire soil.

These “sweet borderland” hues were noted by Elgar as he pedalled along the same quiet lanes which Hatton visited with his stool and easel.

Though the regal composer was usually more partial to a draught of cider on his outings from Hereford, local resident Henry Alfred Wadworth could provide learned discourse on the making of beer.

The man who founded the brewery in Devizes set up his home at Breinton Court, where he converted a barn into two fine cottages in 1890. He enjoyed cycling expeditions with George Marshall of Breinton Manor, who was secretary of the Woolhope Club for 29 years, inveterate contributor to The Transactions, and a companion with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the county.

Wadworth’s daughter Alice died aged sixteen when, tragically, her horse slipped on The Callow. The great brewer himself, a huntsman, also died after falling from his horse in August, 1929. Ironically, the Wadworth Brewery emblem is a pair of shire horses.

George Marshall, Wadworth’s other daughter Brenda (Lady with Pearls in a White Dress), Prebendary Phillip Lushington, his graceful wife and her little brother, were all portrait commissions which Hatton took on board.

Whilst yew, holly and ivy are just about the only trees which would have provided colour in the Edwardian winters , the present landscape is more verdant, but little changed from the era when Hatton depicted his rustic scenes.

Robin Thorndyke, retired art master, has carried out painstaking research in Breinton and Warham.

Eighteen drawings, sketches and paintings referring to Warham survive, and shire horses bred by Jim Powell at Warham Court near to point (2) take pride of place in many.

All this “detective work” gives fresh impetus to an appreciation of the Hereford prodigy’s work. At the website, you can also find biographical information, a “timeline” and a feel for the lost generation of the First World War.

With Robin’s insightful guidance, descendants John and Eddie Hatton and Geoffrey Vevers, undertook their own pilgrimage to the scene and gave their seal of approval to the walk which we shall call In Search of Brian Hatton. Easelly does it.

THE ROUTE 1 Start from Breinton Springs car park, GR 473 397. Leave park via kissing-gate, TL and and walk up bank to right of churchyard. Go through k-gate along path at foot of (old) rectory garden. (Portraits of the Lushingtons). Continue beyond orchard (L) and go through k-gate, into pasture. (Broomy Hill water tower one mile ahead marks Hatton home and studio). Follow R edge/hedge for 200m to go through k-gate (R), and reach London plane and turkey oak in front of Warham House ha-ha.

2 The Lawns, Warham: oil painting of trees planted to enhance the view from house towards Belmont). Bear R down bank and TR through k-gate, below. Through gap after 50m is view L eastwards towards pumping station suggesting Fields By The River at Warham, and Wye Bank at Warham, oils.

Carry on ahead through K-gate and TR upstream along riverbank. Go through k-gate, and about 200m beyond Belmont Golf Clubhouse, on opposite bank, reach location for The Wye at Belmont, oil. Continue through k-gate by information board and bear R, through gateway up bank, through k-gate back into car park.

3 Breinton Springs car park. Keep ahead along lane to R of Breinton House, where bear L through k-gate along path L of tennis court, through two gates onto lane at Breinton Court. (Portraits of wealthy middle class occupants and in-laws, including Lady with Pearls in a White Dress, Brenda Wadworth). Keep ahead on gravel path L of Breinton Court Lodge through k-gate (L). TR along R edge/hedge of crop field up Church Walk. (Evening at Warham – a gypsy woman working in the field, an oil looking south-west towards the Black Mountains). Cross stile, road and stile and head up L edge/fence (orchard other side).

(Drawings of Working Horses, Harrowing in watercolour, Ploughing in oil, and studies of gypsies all probably conceived on the higher land to the right). Go ahead through two gates to Wyevale Wood. (Green Lane Wood on OS).

4 Wyevale Wood loop. (Two Guns in a Wood with Dog). TR along lane and just past Upper Hill Cottage, TL through unwaymarked gate into Wyevale Wood. Follow R perimeter, with views north to Credenhill, and pass bird hide (over to L) back out of wood. TL 30m. Now TR past Green Lane Caravan Park and Cranstone to road junction.

5 Go straight ahead across road through wooden gate up R edge/hedge of crop field. Bend L at top. Go through gate in bottom R corner, cross stile and bear L in orchard. Go further L up bank across stile. Follow L edge over two more stiles into trees, then TL over stile and TL through adjoining gate. Bear R up R edge/hedge and through metal gate.

Views now across full landscape of Hatton country: eastwards, oil Study towards the Malverns; Behind, westwards, oil, Harvesting towards Moorhampton). Bear L down pasture through gate and down bridle path.

6 Upper Breinton. Pass to R of Breinton Manor complex. (Portrait of George Marshall, prominent Woolhopean). At road, TR past Manor Cottages, redolent of cottages depicted in various horse studies. At road junction, TR for Breinton Common but 10m before R bend at Wyecliffe House, TL off road up steps through gate. Follow lower R edge of pasture. (Possible scene for The Skylark, pastel drawing of 1906, with pre-Raphaelite influence).

Cross WVW stile, R edge of crop field and exit through original k-gate. TR, TL in lane, and TR back to park.

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