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Old Photographs & Drawings of Chester

The Works of Arthur Godwin 1

A. Godwin: The Old Dee Bridge, Chester

We're very grateful to reader John Ziewacz of Simsbury, Connecticut USA for sending us this beautiful view of Chester's Old Dee Bridge. It's an etching signed by the artist Arthur Godwin- of whom we knew little until we received the following from Ray Godwin:

"My grandfather was Arthur Godwin. He died in 1989 aged 89. He lived in Prestatyn, North Wales but came from Chester where he worked in the Assay Office and became a Freeman of the City of Chester for his work. He painted scenes of Chester and North Wales well into his eighties and also cleaned and restored paintings. Hope this is of some help to you".

Indeed it is. The view is particularly interesting in that it seems to show the riverbank in the foreground before it was laid out as a promenade by Alderman Charles Brown in 1880-1. However, the tall spire of the church of St. Mary-Without-the-Walls, across the river in Handbridge, may also be seen and this was not built until 1887. Thus, it would seem that Mr Godwin utilised a degree of artistic licence in his composition. Perhaps he was remembering and recording the more romantic appearance of the riverbank as it once was.

On the right may be seen the ruined base of a vanished- and apparently nameless- watchtower which once guarded the fortified Bridgegate, for centuries the main entrance to the city from North Wales. The waters of the River Dee roar over the weir just as they have done since Norman times, and conttinue to do to this day.

Strangely, just a few days after receiving the etching, we were sent this (much less accomplished) old drawing of the same scene as viewed from the other side of the river! The sender was Seth Bendfeldt of Oakdale, Montville, Connecticut USA and yet again, we have an unknown artist to identify! He tells us that "the picture hung on the wall of my Aunt's house for as long as I can remember. Her names was Stevens, but her grandmother was a Reynolds, who came from Hadlyme CT, which is close to Chester CT".

Another coincidence... The drawing is just 4.5 inches wide. We've enlarged the artist's signature here- any ideas?

In October 2004, we received the following- "I have just been on the Black & White Picture website, where I saw the write up about your Arthur Godwin piece called Chester's Old Dee Bridge.  I was wondering if you have ever been able to find anymore information regarding Mr. Godwin and his works? Were you ever able to locate Mr. Ray Godwin, his grandson?
The reason I am asking all of this, is that I too own an Arthur Godwin work; it is called The Seven Sisters On The Chester River, dated 1931
(reproduced left).
So I am trying to learn more about this artist and his work (and of course valuation). If anyone has any information on how I might be able to contact Mr. Ray Godwin, would you please send me the information to my e-mail address.
Thank you for any help you can give me".
 Marie-Anne Morrison, Saskatoon, Canada. mamdsm@sasktel.net

Compare the above illustrations with this fine watercolour from approximately the same viewpoint dating from the 1930s- as does this fine railway advertising poster from 1938. This photograph, contemporary with the etching, shows the scene from the other side of the river- complete with a barge stuck on the weir!

In April 2008, reader Malcolm Coppack wrote to us, "I read with interest your information on the artist A. Godwin. I have two watercolours by this artist dated 1921 showing scenes of the Old Dee Bridge and Nowhere with St Mary's Church in the background. They belonged to my Grandmother".

Malcolm kindly supplied us with these (somewhat unsharp) scans of his paintings...

And be sure to visit the Bridgegate chapters of our Chester Virtual Stroll to learn much more about the area...

On the next page is Arthur Godwin's watercolour of Chester Cathedral...

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