Cavalry embarking at Blackwall, 1793

This is an interpretation of an embarkation of cavalry from Perry's Brunswick Dock, Blackwall. The troops are thought to be on their way to Ostend, where they were ordered for foreign service and the event shown was previously said to be on 24 April 1793. The soldiers wear a uniform with red facings, and approximately 800 were embarked altogether, including the 11th and 15th Dragoons and Horse Guards. Their kit can be seen in the foreground. The transports were brought into the basin for the convenience of putting the horses on board and the painting shows them lined up, ready to be loaded. One horse is shown being hoisted aboard in a canvas sling. On the left people are peering to watch over the surrounding dock wall.

'The Times' for 25 April reported the embarkation of the 24th, which was attended by the Prince of Wales, Duke of York and Duke of Gloucester and a large assembly. The King and Queen were also supposed to go but other press reports show they were prevented by the 'indisposition' of one of the princesses. Perry had erected a special viewing platform for them and other 'persons of rank and fashion', and subsequent reports mention a 'canopy' and 'feasts' prepared for the King and Queen instead coming the following week for another embarkation - apparently of light dragoons - though this was in fact delayed to 8 May. By that time all mention of the King and Queen appearing had been dropped. A final embarkation of four troops of the 2nd (Queen's) Regiment of Dragoon Guards and two of the 7th (Queen's Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons took place early in the morning of 24 May, the former being commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Herbert and the latter by Major Osborn (Lloyd's Evening Post, 22-24 May 1793). Give the lack of any sign of royal presence here, Anderson's view is - at best and subject to further investigation - likely to be the second or third of these embarkations, though typical enough of the operations involved. The view looks south, up river towards Greenwich, with Greenwich Hospital for Seamen (now the Old Royal Naval College) in the background.

There is another, slightly squarer, version of this painting (464 x 610 mm), signed and dated 1793, in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. In its lower right corner, this includes a solidly built civilian couple standing on a low stack of boards, and another seated man behind them, all watching the scene. Given the elaborate, though frustrated, preparations that Perry had made for a royal visit he may have commissioned Anderson - a Scottish shipwright-turned-artist - to commemorate the event, the composition being changed according to the circumstances and instead perhaps including (in the Yale version) Perry and his wife as the couple watching the scene from lower right. Rather more of the ship on the far right is also visible in the Yale version and, through its rigging, the framework of the celebrated Blackwall mast house that Perry built at the west end of the Brunswick Dock. This suggests the mast house was still under construction in mid-1793, not completed with the Dock itself in 1790 as is usually assumed: it lasted as a prominent landmark there until 1862. There ia also a good and similar watercolour study of troops embarking at Margate about 1800 by John Augustus Atkinson (PAH3977).

Object Details

ID: BHC1805
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Anderson, William
Places: Greenwich
Date made: 1793
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Measurements: Painting: 483 x 610 mm; Frame: 606 mm x 768 mm x 70 mm

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.