Thomas Atkinson was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy Summer exhibition, a fact that can be checked easily using the online index recently made available here. Between 1830 and 1842 Atkinson exhibited a total of nine pictures and one model at the prestigious exhibition held at Burlington House in Piccadilly, London. Most of works he exhibited are now lost and known only from the entries in the catalogue or from similar drawings held in other collections.
Those that are known include Atkinson’s View of the East Front of Hough Hill Priory, erected at Staly Bridge, Cheshire for David Cheetham, Esq, which was exhibited in 1832. The original is held by Tameside Archives. A view of the front of the house is also held by the RIBA Library in London. Cheetham was the brother of John Cheetham, the MP, for whom Atkinson also built a large mansion in the same town.
Less well known is the View of the crescent proposed to be erected on the terrace, Beulah Spa, Norwood, exhibited in 1836. A version of this is currently held by the local archives in Streatham, south London. Atkinson was engaged at this point as general manager and designer for the very popular Beulah Spa – a kind of mid-Victorian theme park lying to the south of London, close to what became Crystal Palace.
Atkinson’s design for a tomb in memory of Walter Spencer Stanhope (on whose estate Atkinson had been raised) is known from a surviving drawing held by RIBA, as well as other near-contemporary drawings. The tomb itself still exists, although part of it has been obscured by more recent building work.
St Nicholas Church in Tooting – which is still standing – is known from the aquatint published by the church elders as a gift to benefactors and about which I have written previously. However, the existence of a model of the church – and its present whereabouts, if it survives – are unknown.
The two drawings of the palace at Moorshedabad exhibited in 1842 are known from the fact that they were sold at auction by Christie’s as recently as 1979. Both are signed by Atkinson, who also added his title of ‘Architect’ to the drawings. The fact that he wrote ‘architect’ on the drawings cannot refer to the fact that he designed these buildings, which were begun in 1829 and finished in 1837. He was in England during these years. Even the title says the palace was “designed by and executed under the superintendence of Lieut. Col. McLeod.”
There is something of a mystery surrounding these drawings – and a number of others listed amongst Atkinson’s possessions from such locations as Athens, Egypt, Aden, Persia and India – which illustrate locations that are consistent with a journey to India. However, no evidence of such a journey – which must have taken place in the early 1840s – has yet come to light.
There are a number of architectural drawings of St Luke’s Church, Cheetham Hill, held in the Manchester Archives, although these do not include the interior views or a south-west view of the church, which is widely regarded as Atkinson’s greatest architectural achievement.
Unknown – and possibly lost – pictures from the Royal Academy include his interior views of a Catholic Church in Manchester exhibited in 1840, and the proposed church for Camberwell shown in 1842.
Several of the pictures are wrongly attributed in the original catalogues to ‘J Atkinson’ or ‘J W Atkinson’, errors that probably result from clerks misreading Atkinson’s handwriting.
The full list of Atkinson’s pictures/models exhibited at the Royal Academy:
1830 – Address given as 8 Upper Stamford Street, Blackfriars Road.
Catalogue No: 1049: A tomb erected in Cawthorne Church, Yorkshire, to the memory of Walter Spencer Stanhope Esq.
1832 – Address given as 8 Upper Stamford Street, Blackfriars Road.
961: Model of St Nicholas Church, Lower Tooting, Surrey, erected under the direction of TW Atkinson.
989: View of the east front of Hough Hill Priory, erected at Staly Bridge, Cheshire for David Cheetham, Esq, under the direction of T W Atkinson.
1836 – Address given as Beulah Spa, Norwood.
973: View of the crescent proposed to be erected on the terrace, Beulah Spa, Norwood J Atkinson.
1840 – Address given as Manchester
913: View of the altar, pulpit, reading desk, etc, in St Luke’s Church, Cheetham Hill, Manchester. T W Atkinson.
960: S W view of St Luke’s Church, Cheetham Hill, Manchester. T W Atkinson
1061: Interior view of a design for the Catholic church, Manchester, showing the high altar, side altars and organ gallery. T W Atkinson.
1842 – Address given as Rutland Cottage, Downshire Hill, Hampstead.
1027: View from the south-east of the palace of the Nawaub Nazim of Moorshedabad, the capital of Bengal, designed by and executed under the superintendence of Lieut. Col (Now Major-General) McLeod, late chief engineer, Bengal Establishment. J W Atkinson
1050: View of the north-east of the palace of His Highness the Nawaub Nazim of Moorshedabad, the capital city of Bengal. Designed by and executed under the immediate superintendence of Lieut. Col. (now Major-General) McLeod, late chief engineer, Bengal Establishment, exclusively by native workmen. J W Atkinson
1151: View from the S W of a church proposed for Camberwell designed by J Atkinson