Eighteen Acres of Wheat

Eighteen Acres of Wheat

25 March 2023 Off By Michael Daniell

How two newly-acquired oil paintings shed light on Wolvercote’s agricultural and industrial heritage.

Our community has recently acquired two oil paintings: a portrait of Wolvercote farmer John Rowland who died in 1875, and a painting of the 1956 paper making machine at Wolvercote Mill. The portrait of Wolvercote farmer John Rowland was given to the Local History Society.
The painting was in poor condition, smoke-damaged, and with flaking paint. But with grants from the CIL fund and the Greening Lamborn Trust it has been expertly restored and is ready to go on public display.
John Rowland (1793-1875) owned land in various parts of Wolvercote and also had a bakery business. The range of his agricultural interests, including his eighteen acres of wheat, can be seen in a sale advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal that followed his death (see below).
‘The main and almost only topic of conversation at Wolvercote during the past year has been “The new mill”.’ So began an article in the Oxford University Press in-house magazine in 1956. The OUP had just installed a new paper making machine in Wolvercote Mill. Two hundred feet long and made of 2500 tons of steel, it could produce reels of paper at 800 feet per minute.
Twenty new employees were recruited just to work the machine, adding to the existing staff of 142.
In 1957 the artist Lawrence Toynbee (1922-2002) was commissioned to paint a picture of the new machine.
At the time he taught art at St Edward’s School and at the Ruskin School. He was best known for painting portraits, landscapes, and sporting subjects, and his work is represented in the Government Art Collection, the Royal Academy, and the National Portrait Gallery.

Toynbee’s painting has been given to the community, and Cala Homes have generously paid for its restoration.

Left: Wolvercote Mill, by Lawrence Toynbee, gifted to the Wolvercote community.

Right and below: advertisements in Jackson’s Oxford journal, 1875.