Picturesque views on the River Thames

by Samuel Ireland

Map of the River Thames c1792
Samuel Ireland

Samuel Ireland (May 21 1744 – July 1800), British author and engraver, is best remembered today as the chief victim of the Ireland Shakespearean forgeries created by his son, William Henry Ireland. He started life as a weaver in Spitalfields, London, but soon took to dealing in prints and drawings and devoted his leisure to teaching himself drawing, etching, and engraving.

In 1790 Ireland resided in Arundel Street, Strand, and a year later removed to 8 Norfolk Street. His household consisted of Mrs. Freeman, a housekeeper, a son William Henry, and a daughter Jane. He had also a married daughter, Anna Maria Barnard. The Ireland family Bible shows that all three children were illegitimate, and that Mrs. Freeman was their mother. Mrs. Freeman’s original name was Anna Maria de Burgh Coppinger.

Ireland was a fervent admirer of Shakespear, and in 1793, when preparing his ‘Picturesque Views of the Avon’, he took his son with him to Stratford-on-Avon. They carefully examined all the spots associated with the dramatist. Ireland recorded many village traditions, which he accepted as true, including those concocted for his benefit by John Jordan, the Stratford poet, who was his chief guide throughout the visit.

Late in 1794 his son, William Henry, claimed to have discovered a mortgage deed signed by Shakespear, in an old trunk belonging to a mysterious acquaintance of his, whom he designated only as Mr H. In fact he had forged the deed himself, using blank parchment cut from an ancient deed at his employer’s office.

Ireland never recovered from these disappointments. Although his son admitted to the hoax in his ‘Authentic Account’ (1796), many blamed Ireland Snr. He published in November 1796 A Vindication of his conduct, defending himself from the charges of having willfully deceived the public.

Extracts from Wikipedia

Samuel Ireland’s book ‘Picturesque Views on the River Thames’ was published c1792. His pictures are mainly of bridges through the length of the Thames and the pictures are very plain. He does not give anything illustration for the lower river or the Estuary and only the following brief glimpse in the text of Canvey Island.

‘At the Isle of Canvey on the Essex shore, we cannot help noticing the singular appearance of empty cockle-shells that cover the strand for a considerable distance, and have been observed as long as can be traced by the memory of man.

At the extremity of this isle a branch of the Thames forms what is called Lea Road, on the bank of which is affixed a stone denoting the boundary of the city jurisdiction on the Essex shore; it is dated anno 1285.

Below this place the beacon called Nore Light, appears full in view, it is fixed in the hulk of a Dutch Vessel, stationed nearly in the centre of the Nore, between what is called Shoebury Ness, and the Isle of Sheppey.’

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