Rayner lived in Chester, on the outskirts of Manchester, from 1870 until 1910 and some of her most detailed and colourful watercolours depict the cathedral and its environs. Watergate Street runs west, south of the cathedral and at a right-angle to Bridge Street, which forms the verticle backbone of the city.
The pretty gabled façades of the timber-framed buildings remain intact today. One of the most ornate buildings in Watergate Street was nick-named 'God's Providence House', as it was the only house left untouched by the plague. In the foreground of this watercolour is London House. Its aspect made it attractive to artists who wished to represent the picturesque character of their city; T. Catherall depicted it in his lithograph of 1840.
The intriguing poster (lower left), with its inscription 'NOTICE/WEST CHESHIRE ELECTION/1881/VOTE FOR TOLLEMACHE' relates to the parliamentary elections held in that year. The Tollemaches were a long-established Cheshire family. After the Reform Act of 1832 the county was split into a Southern division and a Northern division, and after 1865 electoral changes resulted in there being two MPs each for East, Mid, and West divisions. Records suggest that the Hon. Wilbraham Tollemache and Sir Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton, Bart., represented West Cheshire throughout the 1870s, and J. Tollemache of Dorfold replaced Sir Philip upon the latter's death in 1881. The electoral poster is presumably canvassing support for J. Tollemache, the eventual victor.
A comparable view of Watergate Street, Chester, sold at Christie's, London, 25 March 1994, lot 259 (£20,125).