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Grantham Civic Society Column: Ruth Crook looks at 19th century depiction of mid-Lent fair

(c) Grantham Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Grantham Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Manuel Immanuel was thought to have been born around 1763. He may have been the son of a painter and illustrator of manuscripts of the same name in London.

He was an immensely talented artist, and designed scenery and interior designs of theatres. He used transparencies and lamps to illustrate his work, often illustrating full-size animals.

Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.
Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.

In 1805, The New Street Theatre on Red Lion Street in Boston was built to house Robertson’s touring company. When it was completed in January 1806, it could accommodate 1,079 people. It was reported that the interior decorations from ‘the Masterly pencil of Mr Immanuel, evince a taste and genius, which add to the reputation he already acquired as an artist’.

In 1809, there were celebrations to commemorate King George III, who had acceded to the throne nearly 50 years before. At St Ives in Cambridgeshire, Mr Immanuel, then living in Bedford, painted a large transparency and was given huge acclaim for his work.

By 1814 he was living in Grantham, when he subscribed to a book called A genealogical history of the English sovereigns, from William I to George III inclusive: Accompanied with a brief statement of the principal events ... and illustrated by genealogical tables, by William Toplis.

On March 27, 1815, his one-man panoramic exhibition opened at the Lyceum Theatre in London and lasted until mid-May. His paintings were in oil, painted on velvet, and occupied 2,160 square feet. The display space was a segment of a circle, and so it was described as panoramic. Some paintings were copies that he made of a variety of famous paintings, such as Ruben’s ‘Daniel in the Lion’s Den’, while others were his own composition such as ‘Rural Scene’ and ‘African Wilderness’. The entrance of the theatre from the Strand was newly painted, and the royal family visited the exhibition in April.

The painting of Grantham Market Place circa 1815, showing the opening of the mid-Lent fair, was thought to be by Immanuel. The painting appears to show an exhibition of paintings and may have illustrated his work. He is also thought to have painted Swinegate at a similar date. These paintings now form part of the Lincolnshire Collection.

Manuel Immanuel continued to live in Grantham, in his house in Market Place, where he had established an academy and taught drawing.

In July, 1821, Grantham celebrated the coronation of George IV. The church tower was draped with a flag, and the bells were rung from 7am until the evening. The corporation processed in their robes to church, where a service was held. Over 500 children from local Sunday school also attended. A meal was served afterwards in the Town Hall and local hostelries, of roast beef, plum pudding and strong beer. Women and children were given money to enjoy themselves at home.

In the evening a large bonfire was lit in the Market Place and a general illumination of transparencies and exhibitions took place. Many shopkeepers also had transparencies in their windows, including Mr Immanuel. Over the next few years, Immanuel stayed in Grantham and is mentioned as subscribing to several books. He continued to teach at his drawing academy until his death in 1834, aged 71.

n Some of the material for this article was reproduced by kind permission of Mr Steel.


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