Museum News 

Watercolour of Tresco Church

An Important Acquisition for the Museum

Many years ago the Museum acquired an album of watercolour paintings of the islands by Lady Sophia Tower. The trustees are pleased to announce the purchase at auction of a second album. It is proposed to display both albums in the new accessions case throughout the coming season.

Lady Sophia Tower was the daughter of Earl Brownlow and was born in 1811. At the age of twenty-five she married Christopher Tower who had been a school friend of Augustus Smith at Harrow. In August 1847 the Towers first visited Scilly. A three day journey from London (the railway from Paddington to Penzance had not yet been completed) and fifteen hours in bad weather on the ferry from Penzance failed to prevent Lady Sophia from falling in love with the islands. Whilst her husband was out shooting, she was out with her sketch pad and pencils. She became a friend of the Reverend Isaac North, author of "A Week in the Isles of Scilly", frequently staying at his "comfortable house" on St Maryís and provided him with sketches for his important book.

Over the years she was Smithís most frequent visitor to Tresco Abbey and when she was away, there was a regular correspondence between them. There is no doubt that Sophia was besotted with the islands and Augustus Smith. When he died in 1872, she threw herself into the task of commemorating his memory.

Out of her own resources she paid for the building of the new church on Tresco as a memorial to him. The Museumís album includes her watercolour of the church, together with one of his obelisks in Old Town Churchyard and pencil sketches of his monument overlooking Tresco Channel and of his tomb at St. Buryan in Cornwall. After the death of Augustus, Sophia was invited to Balmoral by Queen Victoria and threw herself into sketching and surrounding landscape in rather sombre and dramatic colours. This was followed by a visit to Jersey which resulted in several bright watercolours, much more reminiscent of her early pictures of Scilly.

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