View of St. Brides Church by Neale, 1815
View of St. Brides Church by John Preston Neale, engraved by T. Matthews, from The Beauties of England and Wales, 1815.
St. Bride's Church was founded in the seventh century and is one of the oldest parishes in England. At least seven different churches have occupied the site since it was established. The current St. Bride's Church was built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London destroyed the previous structure in 1666. However, much of Wren's building was damaged during the London Blitz of World War II, on December 29, 1940. St. Bride's spire has four octagonal tiers topped with an obelisk and is the second highest spire in London. The church has had a strong connection to the print industry since 1500, when Wynkyn de Worde open a printing press next door. There is a bust of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America, at St. Bride's since that is where her parents were married before setting sail for Roanoke.
John Preston Neale (1780-1847) was an English draftsman known primarily for his architectural pen and watercolor drawings. His work was often copied by engravers for publication. Neale also painted in watercolors and in oils on occasion. In 1796 after meeting John Varley the pair decided to collaborate on publishing The Picturesque Cabinet of Nature. However, only the first part of the project was ever published. The following year Neale exhibited two drawings at the Royal Academy. He continued to exhibit work there until 1844. Other venues that occasionally showed his work were the British Institution and the Society of British Artists. In 1816 he began publishing the History and Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St. Peter, Westminster, which was completed in 1823. Another of his major publications was Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, the first series of which was printed in six volumes between 1818 and 1824. The second series comprised five volumes and was published from 1824 to 1829. The total work contained seven hundred thirty-two plates.