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Research Spotlight – William Millington

William Millington

William was the second son of Peter Millington who had served as a regular soldier in the Napoleonic Wars and fought at Waterloo.  The Peninsular and Waterloo campaign medals won by his father are in the museum.  As a boy, William showed a talent for drawing and he was encouraged in this by the Rector of Trowbridge, the poet George Crabbe.  William produced sketches and a portrait in oils of the Rector.  He also painted his father, Peter.

Having worked in Bath for Hollway’s, publishers of topographical lithographic prints, William returned to Trowbridge in about 1840 and set up as an independent portrait painter, lithographic draughtsman and printer.  He published his own prints of local scenes and carried out any draughtsman’s work that was needed in the town.  The museum has a splendid collection of his lithographs together with a fine self-portrait in oils.

William Millington died, aged 80, from pneumonia which he contracted when he was sketching outside in freezing weather.  He was drawing the canal bridge at Bradford-on-Avon “for use in litigation”.

William Millington was one of the first provincial printers to use a Senefelder litho printing press.  In 1835 he appears to have been employed by J. Hollway, a Bath printer of 10 Milsom Street but within ten years he was preparing and lithographing his own work.

He painted in both oils and watercolours and taught drawing as well as being engaged as an architectural draughtsman.  Family tradition has it that he ‘ghosted’ architectural designs for William Smith, the Trowbridge “architect and builder”.  Smith’s buildings include Conigre Chapel;  St. Thomas’s Church’  the little Gothic chapel at Islington, formerly Methodist now New Testament Church of God;  Bolloms building in Silver Street;  Bowyers’ range of offices in Stallard Street;  “Reels”, Fore Street (formerly Knees);  and the former Roundstone Hotel (site of present Post Office).  William’s print of the National and Sunday Schools (undated) carries the name of G.P. Manners, Architect, and his New Alms Houses (1860) that of H. Blandford, Architect.  His print of Market-Place, Trowbridge  is somewhat earlier.  He certainly designed the exterior of Southwick church school (now Scouts H.Q.) built by Lemuel Moody.

In 1903 his historic press was purchased by the St. Bride Foundation Institute Fleet Street, London for the sum of £5.  It was shown in working order at an international printing history exhibition in 1904.  It is believed that this remarkable and almost certainly unique example of an early star-wheel press has since been lost or destroyed.  It was photographed by Houlton Brothers of Trowbridge before leaving the town.

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Self portrait of William Millington
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