Painting by A.R. Woods found

Joan has been in touch, from Ontario in Canada, with details of a painting she thinks may be by the same painter as the mural at the Ness Gun Battery in Orkney.

Tower Bridge - by AR Woods

Tower Bridge - by AR Woods

You may remember that towards the start of 2011, a worldwide search was launched to find more information about a World War II mural in Orkney.

Depicting rural England and painted on a mess hall wall, it is believed  to be a reminder of home and is signed AR Woods.

Also signed by AR Woods is this picture of Tower Bridge in London. Joan wonders if this could have been painted by the same artist.

Finding the Tower Bridge painting

Joan moved to Ontario, Canada, from the US, a few years ago.

Being a purveyor of fine and not so fine used goods, she began attending auctions.

At a small farm auction, she purchased the Tower Bridge painting,  initially for the frame and not for the painting.

AR Woods signature on the painting of Tower Bridge

AR Woods signature on the painting of Tower Bridge

Joan said: “The artist didn’t look like he/she had formal training at all, but clearly was fascinated with ships/boats”.

The signature AR Woods can be found on the bottom left hand side.

Similar painting style

Having a university degree in art and having studied art history, Joan thinks that the mural and the Tower Bridge paintings have been painted in a similar style.

One final comment

Any relationship between the paintings can not at this time be proved. However, having two painters with exactly the same name must be quite unusual.

If it helps any readers, Joan adds that written in pencil on the bottom of the inside of the frame is the following: ‘7 BW 1949’.  She has no idea to what this refers or what it could mean.

Further information

BBC News – Search to find Ness Battery artist

Island Blogging – Inside the Mess Hall


UPDATE – 20:17 BST – 3 July 2011

Since posting the article a few hours ago we have had a lot of interest from the internet and Twitter.

We have become aware of an article posted on a website called Mercantile Marine that sets out a little bit of background to the Orkney AR Woods.

This suggests that AR Woods was connected to the River Thames, and so could indeed be the same as the Orkney painter. However, little is know as to how he came to be in the north of Scotland.

If you can add to the story then please use the comments area below or via the contact us form

Here is the article
Albert John Rycraft Wood a.k.a A.R. Woods – WWII service? – from user Ness Battery

We are now fairly certain that this is the same man as the author of the autobiography “I Guarded The Waterfront” published in 1942. Different editions have him as A.P.Woods or A.R.Woods.

Here is a summary of what we know.

A.R.J. Wood b. Gravesend 1877

Descended from a long line of Thames watermen, he was a piermaster for the Port of London Authority, after serving in the Merchant Navy on ships including the Ophir.

He enlisted in a volunteer regiment and became a TA machine gun instructor while still working as a piermaster in WWI.

Looking for help finding out about possible service during WWII which might have taken him to Scapa Flow and the Ness Battery. I wonder if he might have had something to do with any of the vessels, floating cranes, barges etc which we know originated on the Thames and ended up in Orkney.

He makes no mention of service during the second war, but we have to bear in mind his autobiography was written no later than 1942 – and we do not have a date for the mural, so still possible he saw service later than that. Also, he may not have been at liberty to refer to his service.

I have found many Albert Wood[s] from various sources but none quite match.

If you can add to the story then please use the comments area below or via the contact us form


UPDATE – 14:03 BST Mon 4 July 2011

We have just received the following note from the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

This is so exciting. This is certainly by the same AR Woods that is our prime candidate for being painter of the Ness Battery mural.

The signature of this work is near-identical to that of the other painting by the AR Woods that worked for the Port of London Authority until 1947, and the painting is of a view he knew very well – he was Piermaster at Tower Pier in London.

We have not yet definitively linked him with Orkney during WWII, but seeing another work by this fine amateur artist takes us a step closer to solving this mystery.

It is wonderful to get this help from Canada! Thank you ever so much.

Julian Branscombe, Manager, Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

julian.branscombe@orkney.gov.uk