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Allerston's Legacy

Local Author and Historian Mike Wilson

John Taylor AllerstonMr John Taylor Allerston, one of Bridlington's foremost artists, died in 1914. Mr Allerston's name lives on in Bridlington for his pictures of the Great Gale of February 1871, many of which have become synonymous with that event.

The son of a draper from Old Town, he died at 86 years of age. He had been an apprentice to his father.

The Bridlington Chronicle of February 6, 1914, records that he enjoyed drawing when a boy and was often punished at school for drawing ships on scraps of cardboard.

Later in life, he left the drapery business and took an interest in photography. He had a wooden studio on the site of Wellington Gardens, on Quay Road, now the site of the Cenotaph. When Wellington Road was built, Mr Allerston constructed Wellington House, the first house on that road. It stands next to Christ Church, separated by Wycliffe Lane.

When photography advanced too quickly for him, he made a name for himself as a nautical artist, recording the Great Gale. The drawings made of the storm were photographed by him and, although only "carte de visite" size, they sold readily at 1s. (5p) each.

He left photography and took to painting watercolour and oil marine pictures, which sold from 2s. 6d. (12.5p) to £30. His pictures ranged in size from small postcard size to 36in. x 24in. (9x6cm), but he painted some even larger views. Very methodical, Mr Allerston carefully numbered each picture he created, eventually totaling over 2,400. Many of the larger paintings were often on view in the town, especially in Lowson's jewellers in Prince Street and Cliff Street.

He painted views from all along the East Yorkshire coast, many of Flamborough Headland, the bays and caves. His pictures of the Great Gale became regarded as a true representation of the events of that dreadful day. Many of the shipwrecks and storms of the following years were painted by Mr Allerston.

Mr Allerston's only son, Mr W. P. Allertson, was in Australia at the time of the funeral. Mrs Allerston had died some time before his death. Mr Allertson is interred in Bridlington Cemetery.

Although his estate was valued at only £593, his work continues to bring high prices whenever it appears at auction in Bridlington.

I am fortunate to own this small J. T. Allerston painting of the Great Gale. He painted many versions of this tragic event.