Samuel and Nathaniel Buck were brothers who specialised in Roman and Medieval castles and architecture in Britain. Out of the two more is known about Samuel than Nathaniel. Samuel, the eldest, was born in Yorkshire but later moved to London to embark on a series of prints of antiquities including ruined castles and former religious buildings in England and Wales following the support and encouragement of the Yorkshire Antiquaries Ralph Thoresby and John Warburton. Consequently both brothers travelled around England and Wales from 1724 to 1742 and completed a series of print known as Buck’s Antiquities. They then worked on a series of 400 prints entitled Cities, Sea-Ports and Capital Towns which was completed by 1751 and was immensely successful. After Nathaniel’s death in 1753, Samuel spent the rest of his life in poverty. He died on the 17th of August 1779 in London and is buried in the churchyard of St Clement Danes.
The earliest interest in Britain’s antiquities was stimulated by antiquarians connected with the University of Oxford. Discoveries of Roman mosaics such as Stonesfield in Oxfordshire caused great excitement and were published in graphic form to keep a record in case they would vanish. Samuel Buck’s proposal for his series of prints supported this theory declaring that it was a ‘valuable undertaking’ and a way ‘to rescue these venerable edifices from the inexorable jaws of time.’ He was supported by the Society of Antiquaries, founded in 1717, which made considerable efforts to ensure the distribution of the best visual information about Roman and Medieval Britain. For the first time objective and sound visual records of historical facts were being kept and published.
This particular print is part of a series entitled A Collection of engravings of castles, abbeys and towns in England and Wales and illustrates the town of Colchester. It includes figures and incidents which add a human dimension to the picture. The view of Colchester from the South East shows houses grouped around the castle which is hardly visible as it was a ruin at the time. The town dominates the busy river Colne and is surrounded by prosperous fields. The text under the picture gives an historical account of the town which had earlier been described by Daniel Defoe as large and populous with ‘streets fair and beautiful with many very well built houses’. The topography of Colchester also shows the town’s immediate surroundings which were affected by the bay industry. Many water mills were being used for fulling, adding extra support to the windmills around the town, and tenter frames, on which finished bays were stretched and dried, were grouped in meadows and pastures within and outside the town walls.
- Buck, Samuel & Nathaniel, A Collection of engravings of castles, abbeys and towns in England and Wales , 5 volumes, London 1726-52
- Russell, Ronald, Discovering Antique Prints, Shire Publications, 2001
- Russell, Ronald, Guide� to Topographical Prints , Newton Abbot, 1979