Nesfield, William Andrews (DNB00)

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NESFIELD, WILLIAM ANDREWS (1793–1881), artist, born on 19 Feb. 1793 at Chester-le-Street, was the son of the Rev. William Nesfield, rector of Brancepeth, Durham, by his first wife, a Miss Andrews of Shottley Hall. He entered Winchester School as fourth scholar in 1806, proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1807, but left without taking a degree, became a cadet at Woolwich in 1809, and subsequently obtained a commission in the old 95th regiment. He joined his regiment in the Peninsula and served in the campaign of the Pyrenees and at St. Jean de Luz; in 1813 he exchanged into the 89th regiment, and, proceeding to Canada, became junior aide-de-camp to Sir Gordon Drummond, and was present at the siege of Fort Eric and the defence of Chippewa. He retired lieutenant on half-pay in 1816, and henceforth devoted himself to an artistic career, which he pursued with deliberation, but with few other characteristics of the dilettante. He was elected an associate exhibitor of the Society of Painters in Water-colours in February 1823, and a member of the society on 9 June in the same year. Though never prolific, he was a regular exhibitor at the society's rooms in Pall Mall from 1820 to 1850, and became specially famous for his cascades, seeking subjects in Piedmont and in the Swiss Alps, but more often in Wales, Killarney, the Isle of Staffa, and North Britain generally. Ruskin, in ‘Modern Painters’ (i. 344), wrote that Nesfield had shown ‘extraordinary feeling both for the colour and the spirituality of a great waterfall,’ describing his management of ‘the changeful veil of spray or mist’ as ‘exquisitely delicate.’ His ‘Falls of the Tummel’ fetched 310 guineas at the sale by the executors of W. Leaf in 1875, and this is the highest price that a single drawing of his has obtained; but many of his finest pictures descended to his son William Eden Nesfield [see below], and are now in the possession of the latter's widow. He is represented at South Kensington by ‘Bamborough Castle.’ Several of his drawings were engraved for Lawson's ‘Scotland Delineated.’ Nesfield resigned his membership of the Water-colour Society on 14 June 1852 at the same time as Cattermole, whom he numbered, with Turner, Copley Fielding, Prout, and Stanfield, among friendly acquaintances within the society. After relinquishing water-colours, Nesfield took to landscape gardening as a profession, and in this capacity was frequently consulted about improvements in the London parks (particularly St. James's) and at Kew Gardens. He was also consulted by noblemen and provincial corporations, and he planned in 1860 the Horticultural Gardens at South Kensington, which were dismantled in 1887. The grounds at Arundel Castle, at the Duke of Sutherland's seat at Trentham, and that of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick, were also mainly planned by him. Nesfield died at 3 York Terrace, Regent's Park, on 2 March 1881. He was one of the oldest survivors of Wellington's army in the Peninsula. A portrait by John Moore is in the possession of the family. By his wife Emma (d. 1874), daughter of the Rev. Henry Foster Mills and Alicia, daughter of William Markham [q. v.], archbishop of York, he left issue.

His eldest son, William Eden Nesfield(1835–1888), architect, born in Bath on 2 April 1835, was educated at Eton, and served his articles to William Burn [q. v.], architect, of Stratton Street, Piccadilly, and subsequently studied under his uncle, Anthony Salvin [q. v.] He published in 1862 as the result of professional travel ‘Specimens of Mediæval Architecture, chiefly selected from Examples of the 12th and 13th Centuries in France and Italy, and drawn by William Eden Nesfield.’ The work, which is dedicated to William, second earl of Craven, comprises a large number of careful drawings of some of the finest French cathedrals, such as Chartres, Amiens, Laon, Coutances, and Bayeux. Among Nesfield's more important works were Kinmel Park, Denbigh; Cloverley Hall, Shropshire; the hall and church at Loughton, in Essex; Gwernyfed Hall, Brecknockshire; Farnham Royal Church, and lodges at Kew Gardens and Hampton Court. Nesfield was also a great connoisseur and expert designer of all kinds of furniture. He was an admirable draughtsman, and, like his father, of an exceptionally versatile talent. He married, on 3 Sept. 1885, Mary Annetta, eldest daughter of John Sebastian Gwilt, and granddaughter of Joseph Gwilt [q. v.] He died at Brighton on 25 March 1888, and was buried there. A portrait was in the possession of his widow.

[Times, 5 March 1881; Roget's ‘Old Water-colour’ Society, passim; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers; Men of the Reign, p. 667; Kirby's Winchester Scholars, p. 294; private information.]

T. S.