The name ‘A.R.Woods’ has hit the headlines in recent months, following the start of a project to restore and protect a former military installation in Orkney, Scotland.
A mysterious World War II mural at the Ness Gun Battery in Orkney is signed by A R Woods, however little is known about the person behind the painting. This has led to a worldwide search for the artist.
AR Woods in London
One theory has emerged, following a large amount of research, that points towards a man born about 1876 in Gravesend, Kent, England.
It is thought that Albert John Rycraft Woods worked as the piermaster at Tower Pier on the River Thames. He retired in 1947 and died in 1950.
The discovery of picture by AR Woods, of the Pool of London, possibly points to AR Woods the piermaster, being an artist.
This painting was recently sold by a Birmingham auction house.
A military connection – I Guarded the Waterfront
Finding the elusive Orkney link is a puzzle for researchers, who have even turned to an autobiography by A.P. Woods called ‘I Guarded the Waterfront’.
It is thought that AP Woods and AR Woods are the same person.
Published 1942 by Stanley Paul in London and Melbourne, the 192 page book has a subtitle of ‘Memoirs of a London pier master’ .
On page 93, there is a tantalising military connection concerning the authors role in WWI:
‘It was at this time that I joined the Volunteers. I became a member of the Deptford Battalion, 16th Company, County of London, and before long was made a platoon sergeant. I then went to Albany Street Barracks and there, with the 2nd Life Guards, I underwent a course of training in machine-gunning. I passed out as an instructor.’
One link is made as a result of reading the autobiography. Buried within the cover is a photograph exactly like the image depicted in the Pool of London painting.
The autobiography has one other piece of information that may be of use:
He talks of mounting guns (French .75) on the top span of Tower Bridge and firing 140 rounds to help deter a Zeppelin attack
This could prove that AR Woods was indeed the piermaster of Tower Pier, that he was an artist and that he had military training. However, the Orkney link is still missing, as it is not mentioned in the book.
In trying to explain why Orkney is not mentioned in the autobiography could be as simple as the mural painter and the London painter are two different people.
Other theories could be that AR Woods was prevented from writing about Orkney due to the Official Secrets Act or maybe, he felt his time in Scotland was not worthy of his autobiography.
AR Woods in Orkney
The missing part is still, who painted the very large mural in the Ness gun battery mess hall?
Commentators have reported that the scenes appear to be in the style of an idyllic village in Kent. So could they have been painted by someone longing for home.
If you then add to the mix that a number of auxiliary vessels such as barges, tugs, floating cranes etc. were used in support of the Royal Navy in Scapa Flow, and some were brought from the Thames.
Could all this point towards AR Woods the pier master?
AR Woods in Canada
As with all good detective stories this one has a twist, to cause some new questions to be asked.
Recently discovered in an auction in Ontario, Canada is a painting of Tower Bridge.
It is signed A.R Woods and appears, to the uneducated eye, to be in a similar painting style to the Orkney mural and the pool of London image.
The signatures on the Pool of London and the Tower bridge paintings certainly seem to match.
How did this painting come to be in Canada and is it by the same A.R.Woods as the Orkney mural and the Pool of London painting?
Who was A. R. Woods ?
Can you add to the history of AR Woods? Maybe you have the Orkney link or can confirm any of the story?
Please let us know via the comments area below or via the contact us page.