10th July 2017

My freeman history: Patrick Boswell

‘My ancestor William Boswell was admitted as a freeman in 1808’

Artist Patrick Boswell can trace his freemen links back more than 200 years. His ancestor William Boswell was apprenticed as a carver and gilder in Norwich in 1808 which earned him the right to become a Freeman of Norwich and pass the title through the generations to the present day.

The family connections to the art world are equally strong and go back to the Norwich School of Painters. William set up shop in Norwich, trading as Messrs Boswell and Son, where he framed and dealt in the art works of John Crome and John Sell Cotman.

Successive generations have carried on the artistic tradition with Patrick earning his living as an art dealer and now a painter and his daughter Natalie, also a freeman, who is display co-ordinator for Norfolk Museum Services.

“Being a freemen has always been important to me and I was aware of it from a young age. As a child my family rented one of the houses on the freemen’s Town Close Estate and I was admitted to the freedom age 21 along with my brother Roger,” says Patrick.

Picture shows Patrick being admitted to the freedom of Norwich at the Guildhall at the age of 21. Patrick, is sitting third on the right, wearing a light-coloured suit.

Advertisement for the Exchange Street shop the Norfolk Chronicle, Saturday 19 December 1863.

The Boswell shop was originally in Magdalen Street and Exchange Street, eventually moving to London Street.

“I’ve tried to work out where it was and I think it was a couple of shops down from where London Street joins Opie Street. There’s a newsagent there now,” says Patrick.

“An art shop was quite different from what we think of today and it also sold furniture, carpets and wallpaper as well as framing and selling pictures.”

“William, the first freeman, and his son James used to frame paintings for the leading artists and they would come into their shop and gallery so they had close links,” said Patrick.

The Boswells were also agents for Sir Alfred Munnings who describes their shop in his book An Artists Life. “Large plate-glass windows. The door in the centre with the name Boswell above, in gold letters. It is the most distinguished shop in London Street.”

Patrick’s grandfather Hugh James Boswell changed direction and opened an insurance and stock brokers in Norwich in 1906. Patrick’s father continued in the business. However, Patrick always felt a pull to work in the art world.

Patrick’s grandfather Hugh James Boswell

“I originally trained as a chef and hotelier but I painted all my life and always wanted to be an artist. I recreated my forbears business and opened a picture framing business in Orford Yard, in Norwich. Then I sold this business, became a picture dealer and finally around the age of 50 I became a full time artist,” says Patrick.

Patrick lives near Wymondham with his wife Christine, an interior designer. He works from a studio in his garden and also paints out on location, including from a boat on the Broads. He has written three books which combine his oil paintings of scenes from Norwich, the Norfolk coast and Broadland with diary entries and sketches from along the way.

“I paint on the spot and each painting takes a couple of hours. I chat to people while I am working and record my conversations, notes and sketches alongside the final painting in the final published books,” said Patrick.

Patrick at work painting on the Norfolk Broads

An old advertisement for the family business

Patrick’s art studio in Wymondham

Patrick’s daughters

Natalie (left) and Sophie at their admission as freemen of Norwich in 2010.

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