Sweetland History - Bath Celebrities - Sweetland Music Festival & Exhibition

Sweetland History


William Sweetland born at Devizes, Wiltshire in 1822.

'At the classical school to which he was sent he was considered a dunce, probably because he was misunderstood. He was fond of sketching and heraldry. When four and a half years of age he essayed the making of a musical instrument - a May horn. Aged six he made a dulcimer, and at nine years of age, lacking the means to buy an accordion, he made one with eight keys. Then when he was ten he made a guitar. Not being satisfied with the tone of the instrument, he told his father (a carpenter and builder) that he would like a violin. The father, probably with a view to incite the boy to make one for himself, said that he would never have one brought into the house. Young Sweetland brooded over this remark; and, perceiving that his father had not said he should not make one, went to work and produced a facsimile of one he had seen.
As the violin progressed he hid it beneath the bench. One day, his father having dropped a tool, stooped to search amongst the shavings and discovered the violin then nearly finished. The boy of course expected severe punishment; but greatly to his relief it met with his father's approval, and he was allowed to complete it. Sweetland then learnt to play it, sacred music being the only kind permitted. He was 11 years of age when he made this violin. At 12 he made a cello and a harp at 13. Sweetland was in the habit of rising at six and working until two in the morning; and although his parents hid the candles, he managed to get others.'

Sweetland the Organ Builder

Sweetland set up in business on his own in the late 1840s and eventually retired in 1902. His first church organ was opened at St Michael's Broad Street, Bath in 1849 and thereafter he made instruments for churches and chapels in all parts of the country.  The Sweetland organ factory in Bath was built at the back of his house in Cleveland Place West around 1870. His organs were pronounced by W T Best, Sir Walter Parratt and Sir F A Gore Ouseley, Doctor of Music, to be the best in England of their size; and under the last gentleman's supervision he built a large number. Mr. Kendrick Pyne, of Manchester Cathedral, considered Mr. Sweetland to be the finest mechanist in England. Examples of Sweetland's work can still be found in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Kent, Somerset, Surrey, Warwickshire and Wiltshire - the county of his birth.  A few instruments remain in Wales, including the small organ at Ewenny Priory Church, previously housed at Wells Cathedral.
Sweetland the Artist

INSPIRED BY THE GREAT BATH ARTIST EDWIN LONG whose pictures are displayed in Bath's Victoria Art Gallery

 Sweetland's first interest in painting was during a business trip to Edwin Long's house in London when he saw the Bath artist painting 'The Pool of Bethesda and Jepthah's Rash Vow'  Sweetland consequently started painting in his early sixties and became an established artist. Sweetland’s first picture was of a Spanish monk, with book in hand, in the act of singing. The picture was judged to be a fine work of art and Sweetland went on to paint a number of other works including a picture of Broad Street, Bath in 1883. His most ambitious work was a painting with a subject of the Resurrection, painted at the age of 76 years. His conception of the Rising of the Dead occupied nearly the whole of a room and he was engaged on it for 12 years. It was not entirely completed but the press extracts were rapturous: 'The conception of a genius, 'Sweetland's most ambitious work, The most wonderful effect of realism we have ever seen and the spectacle of the opened Heaven is grand beyond conception, The picture in its present state is worth going a hundred miles to see; when it is finished, no pilgrimage would be too great.