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WHEN I began to look about for material for this sketch of the life of William Green I was half discouraged by the scantiness of available records, for I found that so little was known, and that so incomplete or erroneous, not even excepting the short article in the Dictionary of National Biography, that I had little hope of increasing the information. Fortunately, the columns of the Manchester Mercury proved an unexpected store-house, and I perused the sixteen volumes covering the period between 1779-1796, where Green's name often appears. His contributions to that paper form an autobiographical record, and serve as authority for many statements in my paper. My attention was drawn by Mr. George Middleton, of Ambleside, to one of Green's surviving grandsons in Manchester, Mr. W. H. Mayson, who courteously permitted me to examine a portfolio of rare examples of his grandfather's work, and gave me valuable family information. These sources enabled me to trace his career, and afforded details of incidents which throw light on many obscure
points. I allude particularly to the strange circumstances of the production of his "Survey of Manchester." Green's career is certainly one of interest and instruction. He was an individual of finely-strung nature and noble qualities, never on the wrong side. His intimate contact with the Lake School forms a feature that attracts us. He was an unassuming toiler, whose latter life was wholly spent in the service of art and nature. His comprehensive knowledge of the lakes stood above that of all the men of his time, not excepting Wordsworth.
His life is conveniently divided into three periods—his career in Manchester, from 1760 to 1795-6, as a surveyor; his residence in London from 1796 to 1799-1800; and his settling at Ambleside from 1800-1823.
William Green was the son of Joshua Green (born 1725), by his first wife, Catherine Simpson, whom he married on 22nd February, 1756, and who died on the 5th September, 1760, in her twenty-seventh year, in childbirth. He was born on the 25th August, 1760.* His father was a school and writing master, residing at 3, Windmill Street, Lad Lane, Deansgate.† For several years he acted as clerk of St. John's Church, Deansgate, with the Rev. John Clowes then rector. Joshua was married, secondly, at the same church, to Elizabeth Hartley, and William, the artist, became consequently half-brother to Bernard Hartley Green (died 16th August, 1828), a cotton merchant, well known as one of the earliest chairmen of the Manchester Exchange, and a borough-reeve of Salford.‡ William, the
* Taken from William Green's family Bible, as entered by his wife. This Bible, with all the entries of his children's births, is now in the possession of his grandson, Mr. Mayson.
† See old Manchester directories.
For some of the dates I am indebted to Mr. John Owen ("Old Mortality").
subject of my paper, received his education at home, under his father's tuition, from whom he inherited his fine penmanship. The Rev. R. Loxham* confounds him. with William, son of John Green, calenderman, who was admitted on 15th January, 1776, to the Grammar School. The accepted belief, that he was a boy of this school, is therefore erroneous. We know from another source+ that William was sent to the mathematical school of the erudite Dr. Henry Clarke, who kept his classes in Salford, and that in 1775 he answered four mathematical questions and three again in the next year. He seems to have evinced an early aptitude for geometry and drawing, and there can be no doubt that his love for these studies was fostered by the doctor, himself a first rate mathematician. The latter had also done practical work in the town in 1765 as a land surveyor, and he drew the various plans for Whitaker's History of Manchester.‡ In addition to surveying, Dr. Clarke cultivated the art of perspective and drawing, and for examples of good work his neatly-executed drawings during 1765 and 1771 may be referred to in the same history.
After finishing his mathematical studies with Dr. Clarke, he appears to have gone to Christopher Woodroofe,§ a local surveyor and planner, with whom he remained from 1776 to 1777. That Green's abilities were of an exceptional order is evident. Both his
* Admission Register of the Manchester School, vol. ii., p. 6. The School Candidates, by J. E. Bailey, 1877, preface, xli.
Whitaker, in "The Principal Corrections made to the History of Manchester," book I., 1773, 4to, p. 83, says of him: "That example of a strong and extensive genius, un-deprest by poverty and yet almost lost in obscurity, the modest Mr. Clarke, of Salford." Clarke also drew the "Lancaster hound" for Whitaker's book.
§ Woodroofe is described in the directory of 1788 as surveyor, planner, and agent to the Sun Fire Office, Fountain Street. He still lived in 1797 at 6, Red Cross Street.
own employer and Dr. Clarke brought him under the notice of William Yates, of Liverpool, as a person suitable to assist him in his projected survey of the County Palatine of Lancaster. Green eagerly accepted this appointment and his field work took him to north Lancashire, which he traversed during the years of 1778 and 1779, at a period when he was only eighteen. This survey was begun by Yates in 1778 and published in 1787, taking ten years for its completion. The survey has an interest of its own. I give a short account of it:
SURVEY OF LANCASHIRE: The public are respectfully acquainted that Wm. Yates' survey of the County Palatine of Lancaster is ready for publication, wherein is laid down the true geometrical situation of all the market-towns and villages, the seats and parks of the nobility and gentry, all the main and cross roads with their measure by the perambulator, the woods, lakes, mountains, landmarks and beacons, the rise, course and confluence of each river and brook, the tracks of the navigable canals, with their locks and wharfs particularly specified, the latitude, longitude, and meridian lines are accurately ascertained by astronomical observation. The survey is elegantly engraved by Thomas Billinge of Liverpool upon a scale of 1 inch to a Mile in 8 large sheets at one Guinea & a Half, or pasted upon canvass & neatly coloured @ £2 7/-.
This map was issued in December, 1787, and "subscribers may be supplied also by Mr. Green, Manchester, who was an assistant in this work," etc. Late in life, looking back to younger days, Green alludes to that happy period. Personal reminiscences are interwoven in his Tourists' New Guide, 1819, and give us new glimpses of the man and add to the charm of his book. In his New Guide (p. 4) he says:
* See Harrop's Mercury, January 16th, 1787, No. 1,858.
For a copy of this survey I have searched in vain in Manchester and Liverpool.
See Harrop's Mercury, December 12th, 1787, p. 1906.
The writer being engaged by Mr. Yates of Liverpool in his survey of Lancaster made Ulverston his primary station for that part of the county which is north of the Sands and here he had the happiness to be noticed by the worthy Mr. West* who with a fatherly care not only tempered his wild feelings, but taught him how to see and appreciate the lovely wilds of Furness. Were a county-surveyor at the same time a landscape draftsman, how great must be his advantages, for traversing every road and climbing every mountain, scenes must be presented to his eye which would rarely be discovered by a professional artist. The writer was encouraged to the pursuit of painting by Mr. West, but why he knows not, his few sketches were humble, his mind untutored and he knew none of the requisite theories, but geometry, perspective and architecture.
FURNESS ABBEY: The writer has always surveyed the venerable ruins with sensations of unbounded delight. When yet a boy, though he had not the hand to execute, yet he had the mind to feel those solemn pleasures which result from the contemplation of the beautiful works of art when aided by all that is lovely in nature. It was in 1804 that the writer first visited the ruins as an Artist.
SEATHWAITE TARN: Here he met with one of the daughters of Mrs. Dawson, of Throng, "where the writer, not as an artist, but as a countysurveyor, with one of his brothers, had lodged several nights in the year 1778." t
WARTON CRAG was one of Mr. Yates's primary stations for his survey of Lancashire, and from this place the writer angled to all the surrounding country."
Here we have Green's recollections of the beginning of his ever-growing pursuit of art-his aspirations to delineate the beauties of nature. In the wild and imposing scenery of north Lancashire he began to realise the loveliness and blending of form and colour, revelations to his young imagination, which opened his eyes to new sensations.
In Manchester in September, 1779,§ “he acquaints the gentlemen of the town, etc., that he practises the art of land surveying, as measuring and planning estates, setting out land for building on, dividing of ground, levelling, etc.”
* Thomas West was a native of North Britain. He wrote the Antiquities of Furness, 1774, and A Guide to the Lakes, 1778.