New Inn at Steeple”
The New Inn at Steephill (the spelling of Rowlandson's title reflects the local pronunciation), was situated in the Undercliff in the south of the Isle of Wight between Niton and Ventnor. It was in an elevated position with fine views over the sea. The inn was on the Earl of Dysart’s Steephill Cottage estate and at the time Rowlandson visited it was run by Mrs Mary Groves. It was one of the most popular inns and stopping points on the Island for those touring to explore the romantic and dramatic landscape
Hassell, in his Tour of the Isle of Wight published in 1790, wrote "parties frequently come to the New Inn at Steephill to dine; where though they may not find the sumptuous entertainment of a modern hotel, they will meet with every convenience for serving up a cold collation. Even in this recluse and humble situation a ray of taste is visible. The house being small the proprietors have encouraged the irregular branches of a fig tree to repose itself on an artificial support, thereby forming a kind of canopy which, spreading over a daisy mottled carpet, serves as a pleasing and agreeable spectacle, in which parties dine al fresco. On opposite side a prouder walnut spreads its branches over the seats, and likewise shelters the guests from the searching rays of the sun"
This old inn was not actually demolished until 1828 when John Hamborough bought the site for the erection of Steephill Castle. The fig tree, on the right of this picture, was spared and is mentioned in early descriptions of the Castle and its grounds
The seated gentleman on the far left of the picture, at the table under the walnut tree, is Rowlandson’s friend and frequent travelling companion Henry Wigstead (1760-1832), who was an amateur artist. The other two gentlemen at the table are probably Rowlandson himself, and his brother-in-law, the artist Samuel Howitt (1756-1822)
Pencil, pen and black and grey ink and watercolour .
Image size: 9 x 12 ¾ ins (22.9
x 32.4 cms) approx
Price (mounted): £100
Original purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Art Collections Fund
Published by Maritime Prints & Originals at www.thomasrowlandson.com and www.thomasrowlandson.co.uk