A Royal ‘favourite’ is remembered in Horncastle

Annie Dixon. EMN-181123-111050001
Annie Dixon. EMN-181123-111050001

The remarkable career of one of the most famous women in Horncastle’s history was brought to life last week.

Annie Dixon, who was born in Horncastle in 1817, is renowned as one of Britain’s most successful miniature portrait artists.

Mary Silverton with the Society's new chairman  Doctor Ian Marshman

Mary Silverton with the Society's new chairman Doctor Ian Marshman

She was a firm favourite of Queen Victoria and other members of the Royal Family.

More than 200 of her paintings are still exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Her links with Horncastle were largely overlooked for many years but were highlighted by members of the town’s History and Heritage Society.

They were approached for information about Annie and details of of her life in Horncastle began to emerge.

And last Wednesday, local historian Colin Gascoyne presented a talk about Annie’s life at the monthly meeting of the society.

The evening feature some of Annie’s works which had been made specially available by the Royal Academy and the Royal Collection.

Annie was the eldest daughter of seven children (two sons, five daughters). Her father was a corn chandler.

Early in her career, she painted a miniature of Harriett Anne Palmer (of Horncastle) and another of George Harwood Browne, a farmer and landowner from Farforth, near Horncastle.

She worked in Hull with Ann Cooke, thought to be the first female commercial photographer in Britain.

Annie’s career was transformed when she received her first Royal commission in 1859.

She went on to paint portraits of most of the Royal Family, especially Queen Victoria’s children and grandchildren.

Annie visited a number of Royal residences.

Her success meant she had a home in Belgravia, London she always found time to visit her family home in Horncastle.

Her work with the Royal family meant she was in demand throughout Europe.

Annie was 76 and suffering from failing eyesight when she exhibited at the Royal Academy for the final time.

She died at her home in Belgravia on February 12 1901 but chose to be buried in Horncastle.

On February 15, her remains were conveyed by train to Horncastle and interred in the town’s Boston Road cemetery.

Her grave can be found adjacent to that of her sisters Frances and Emily.

•Earlier this year, the society arranged for a blue plaque to be placed on the wall of the Dixon family home at 40 East Street.

Mary Silverton has stood down after seven years as chairman of the History and Heritage Scooety.

She has taken over as treasurer and Dr Ian Marshman was elected as chairman.

Dr Marshman, who lives in Horncastle, is an archaeologist with a special interest in the Roman period - though his job with Lincolnshire County Council as an archaeological planner covers all eras.

Horncastle History and Heritage Society now has a membership approaching 100 which meets every other month at the Admiral Rodney Hotel for talks given noted speakers.

In addition, members take part in social events and outdoor trips.

Of particular importance is the Town Archive where over a century of Town history is collated and filed.

The archive at Watson’s Yard on West Street and is open to members on Wednesday mornings.

• For more information contact Mary 01507 622749.