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Louth Museum

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William Brown

by Ruth Gatenby

Photo of portrait

Photo of portrait



William Brown (1788-1859), housepainter, newspaper reporter, nonconformist, self-taught artist and creator in 1844-47 of the internationally acclaimed Louth Panorama.

William Brown painted the Louth Panorama, a major work of art that provides a unique record of life in the town and surrounding countryside in the mid-19th century. Born in 1788 in Malton, East Yorkshire, Brown moved to Louth where he lived in Vickers Lane and worked as a house painter.

In 1844 the spire and tower of St James’ Church were being repaired so William Brown took advantage of the scaffolding, and sketched the view from the level of the weathervane, on seven panels. He subsequently painted the Panorama on two large panels, oil on linen, each measuring 1.83 m x 1.08 m.

The Panorama shows streets, buildings, gardens, windmills, straw stacks and many other minute details of Louth, with people undergoing their everyday activities. You can see a funeral procession heading towards St Mary’s churchyard, and the water carrier filling his cart in the River Lud. The Louth Panorama includes the surrounding countryside, and you can even see Spurn lighthouse and shipping vessels on the Humber estuary.

William Brown was a staunch Wesleyan Methodist and local preacher. He was the correspondent for the Stamford Mercury newspaper for twenty years, and contributed weekly detailed reports so that today in the newspaper archives we have an excellent record of the events happening in Victorian Louth. He married three times, having 14 children by his first wife. He died in 1859.

The Louth Panorama may be viewed in Louth Sessions House in Eastage, and a back-lit copy of both the Panorama and the preliminary sketches are on display in Louth Museum. Also in the Museum are copies of several other works of art by William Brown, a bible and a commonplace book thought to belong to him, and various other books relating to him and the Panorama.