Alice Lisle Being Arrested by Colonel Penruddock After She Had Given Refuge to Fugitives from the Battle of Sedgemoor. Edward Matthew Ward (1816−1879). 1878. Oil on canvas. 33.5 x 43.5 cm (13 3/16 x 17 1/8 inches). Signed lower left: "E M Ward RA." Provenance: bought as Lot 163, Chorley's, 7th March 2013. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by Paul Crowther

The original version of this subject-matter is a much larger work exhibited as no. 488 in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1858. It is a complete study for one of the frescoes in the Houses of Parliament, and is entitled The Concealment of the Fugitives by Alice Lisle (After the Battle of Sedgemoor in the Reign of James II). This large work is now in the Sheffield City Art Gallery. The present work is a reduced version of it, and is an example of the tendency of artists to do smaller versions of large works to supplement their income. At least one colour sketch of the same subject is also in existence.

The R.A. picture was accompanied by the following quotation:

John Hickes, a Nonconformist divine, and Richard Nelthorpe, a lawyer who had been outlawed for taking part in the Rye House plot, had sought refuge at the house of Alice, widow of John Lisle.... The same womanly kindness, which had led her to befriend the Royalists in their time of trouble, would not suffer her to refuse a meal and a hiding place to the wretched men who now entreated her to protect them. She took them into her house, set meat and drink before them, and showed them where they might take rest. The next morning her dwelling was surrounded by soldiers. Strict search was made. Hickes was found concealed in the malthouse, and Nelthorpe in the chimney. [See Graves 131−32]

The quotation was unsourced, but we have identified it as taken from Thomas Babington Macauley, The History of England from the Accession of James II. vol. 1, chap. 5, Cosimo Inc., New York, 2009, p. 503. Alice Lisle was subsequently the first to be tried before the infamous Judge Jeffries’ travelling assize courts and was executed for harbouring the men on September 25th 1686. Interestingly, the arresting officer—Colonel Penruddock—is not mentioned in Macauley’s account which suggests that Ward’s narrative also draws upon another description of Alice Lisle’s arrest.

You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Crowther-Oblak Collection of Victorian Art and the National Gallery of Slovenia and the Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway (2) and link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.


Crowther, Paul. Awakening Beauty: The Crowther-Oblak Collection of Victorian Art. Exhibition catalogue. Ljubljana: National Gallery of Slovenia; Galway: Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, 2014. No. 127.

Graves, Algernon. The Royal Academy of Arts. A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work from its Foundation in 1769 to 1904. London: Henry Graves and Co., and George Bell and Sons, 1906. Vol. 8.

Created 9 January 2015