Former home of art publisher John Boydell, Hawarden

Former home of art publisher John Boydell, Hawarden

The house now named Kentigern was built in 1767 for John Boydell, a pioneer of British art publishing who later became Lord Mayor of London. It was known as Church House until the 1960s. It’s a private residence – please enjoy the view from the street but don’t enter the grounds.

The vaulted cellars of the current building may have survived from an earlier building on the site, possibly built in the 17th century. One of the new house’s first residents was Chester surgeon Honoratus Leigh Thomas, who employed Emma Lyon (later Lord Nelson’s mistress) as a maid here for a while.

Hawarden Post Office was built onto the south gable in 1907 with identical window apertures facing Rectory Lane.

John Boydell’s father Josiah was an agent for the Glynne family of Hawarden Castle. His mother Mary helped to raise some of the children of Sir John Glynne (the 6th baronet) and his wife Honora.

John was born in 1720. It’s said that an engraving of Hawarden Castle inspired him to become an artist. He achieved fame as a seller of prints in London. Prints enabled artworks to be reproduced at affordable prices. When he started out in business, British art was not widely respected and prints were generally imported. John employed talented artists, including some from overseas, to produce engravings in London.

By the 1770s he was exporting pictures – an indication of how his work had transformed attitudes to British art overseas. In the 1790s he opened a “Shakespeare Gallery” in London and began to display and publish pictures of scenes from William Shakespeare’s plays. He became an alderman in 1782 and London’s Lord Mayor in 1790.

John’s son Josiah, born in Hawarden in 1752, helped in the business and became a noted painter, exhibiting in the Royal Academy. Political upheaval in France cut off a major source of income for the business. In 1804 the family disposed of assets through a lottery, which raised £78,000. John died shortly before the winning ticket was drawn.

Postcode: CH5 3DG    View Location Map