Martin Snape was born at Spring Garden Cottage, just a stone’s throw outside of the historic town ramparts, on 31 December 1852. He was the first of six children born to Alfred and Sarah Snape who are each listed in the 1851 census as “painter and teacher of drawing”. One of his brothers, William, born ten years later in 1862, was an artist of equal ability whose life was cut short in tragic circumstances in 1904 aged just 42 years.
Most of Gosport’s population at this time, less than 20,000, lived within the old ramparts, designed to protect the town and harbour from landward attack, construction of which began in the 17th century. The historic old town bustled with life and would certainly have been very overcrowded. In 1851 there were 104 courtyards and alleyways recorded. An event of significant importance to Gosport was the opening of the railway station on 29 November 1841. It would serve the residents of the town until 1953 and freight traffic until 1969.
It was just nine years after the opening of the Gosport railway line, that Martin’s parents moved to Spring Garden Cottage, just a few paces along from the station. In years to come the railway line would open up the Hampshire countryside for Martin, who would set off along the Meon Valley line with his easel and brushes.
Martin was educated at Burney’s Academy, where his father taught art, housed within a fine Georgian building a short walk from the family home. Founded in 1791 by Dr.William Burney, the Academy was situated near the water’s edge in Clarence Square.
An early prospectus states:
“The establishment is of large extent and eligibly situated in a fine open square, opposite the dockyard and adjoining Portsmouth Harbour. At the Academy, delightfully situated in Coldharbour, Gosport, a limited number of young gentlemen are genteelly boarded, tenderly treated and instructed in every branch of useful and polite literature.“
Sadly, the infamous “Gosport Wrecking Ball” of the mid-20th century demolished much of the historic old town and its environs, including the Academy and the fine square in which it proudly stood.
Fortunately, Martin was to become a very fine and prolific artist and many of his paintings survive in museums, local council offices and private collections to form a remarkable record of how the historic old town once looked.
Richard Martin Gallery, founded in 1980, has examined, authenticated, restored, framed, valued, purchased and sold hundreds of his paintings and, although several decades have elapsed since his death, the interest in Martin Snape and his work remains undiminished today.
Click here to book your space on a guided walk from Snape’s house to see where he painted. https://www.gosportheritage.co.uk/martin-snape-2022/
Don’t forget to sign up to our email list for latest news and programme.