Friday, November 23, 2012

William Daniell's "A Voyage Round Great Britain"

A couple of months ago, I wrote about an early view of Tobermory showing that the familiar seafront streetscape was actually built in two phases - the first as far as the old pier in the 1780s and the second along to Mishnish Pier in the 1820s. Here's another picture - from 1815 - showing Phase 1 before Phase 2 began:-

Here's the same view today (or the nearest I could get to it on Google Streetview):-

The old picture is from William Daniell's "A Voyage Round Great Britain", a monumental work of eight volumes published between 1814 and 1825. Though entitled "A Voyage ..." [singular], it was undertaken in six stages over a total of ten years. The Scottish section - from Wigtown round to Dundee - was done in 1815. It was very much the early 19th century equivalent of the BBC's Coast series!
William Daniell by R Westall
Daniell's images are not water colours painted during his journey as you might expect. Rather, they were aquatint engravings which means (I think!) he made sketches which, once he got back to London in the breaks in the voyage, he worked up into engravings (?) which could be printed. Anyway, considering he did 308 pictures from the voyage (168 in Scotland), that seems like quite an effort. You can see all of Daniell's prints here and read Volumes I to III of "A Voyage" as far north as Balmacara on Loch Alsh here. (I've not yet found online Vols. IV-VII but Vol. VIII, Portland to Land's End, is here)

Daniell's work constitutes a uniquely valuable pictorial record of an era before photography. Each one of his images deserves a blog entry of its own but I'll finish this one with "a Daniell" which reads back to my last post - the lighthouse on Scalpay:-

Compare that with a present day view of the lighthouse from roughly the same angle:-

Picture credit Scalpay Community Land Steering Group
The Eilean Glas lighthouse (to give it its correct name) was one of the first four lighthouses built by the Northern Lighthouse Board in Scotland. As I type this I realise I don't know what the other three were (note to self to find out) but Eilean Glas was first lit in the building depicted in the Daniell print in 1789. The present red and white striped tower was built in 1824.


  1. The first three lighthouses in Scotland? It depends on the interpretation of lighthouse but I'll offer;

    Isle of May (1635)
    Southerness (1749)
    North Ronaldsay (1789

  2. Thanks Roy. I've edited the post to make it clearer that I was meaning the first four lighthouses built by the Northern Lighthouse Board. As I recall, the NLB was originally incorporated with powers to build just four specific lights. It's powers were later widened to built further lights at its discretion. I've since discovered the other three of the original four are North Ronaldsay, Mull of Kintyre and Kinnaird Head.