Anne Langton - Gentlewoman, Pioneer Settler and Artist: Peterborough and Toronto, 1852-1859 - Page Banner

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John Langton, active in local politics since the 1830s, as Councillor and at times Warden, ran for election to the Provincial Legislature in 1851, winning the seat for Peterborough and District. In 1852, the Langtons rented out Blythe Farm and moved to Peterborough, where two more children, Agnes and William, were born. Anne Langton continued to devote herself to family and community, thus facilitating John's public career. She became organist at St. John's, led the church choir and assisted an emigré professor in organizing "Patriotic Concerts" to raise funds for the Crimean War effort. In addition, she hosted English visitors: nieces, nephews, friends, taking them on tours to Canadian beauty spots and famous sites: Niagara, Toronto, Montreal, always sketching as she went.

On the Otonabee near Peterborough, [ca. 1852]
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On the Otonabee near Peterborough, [ca. 1852]
Anne Langton
Watercolour
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-2-27
Archives of Ontario, I0008399

As these sketches reveal, Langton's style was developing in new directions. She employs a broader, though still somewhat limited, palette range: blues, creams, greys, browns.

Langton also worked a full watercolour series of her major Peterborough views. Some of these were presented to Peterborough Library in the 1930s by John Langton's surviving children.


[Blythe] Mills near Peterboro, [ca. 1852]
[Blythe] Mills near Peterboro, [ca. 1852]
Anne Langton
Watercolour, graphite, pen and ink
13.8 cm x 23.5 cm (5¼" x 9½")
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-2-28
Archives of Ontario, I0008400

John Langton purchased flour mills at Peterborough as a commercial enterprise to augment his parliamentary salary. These mills were the last place that the Langtons named for their beloved English home. But John, like his father, had limited business success. He was about to give up the mills when, in 1855, the Hon. (later Sir) John A. MacDonald wrote inviting him to allow his name to be considered for appointment as first Auditor of Upper and Lower Canada. So, in 1855, the mills were sold and the family prepared to move to Toronto.

[NB. Before the erection of permanent parliament buildings in Ottawa (completed in 1865), the seat of government moved every four years.]


American Fall, Niagara, [ca. 1854]
American Fall, Niagara, [ca. 1854]
Anne Langton
Watercolour, pen and ink and
graphite on cream wove paper
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-2-31
Archives of Ontario, I0008403

Horseshoe Fall, Niagara, [ca. 1854]
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Horseshoe Fall, Niagara, [ca. 1854]
Anne Langton
Watercolour, pen and ink and
graphite on cream wove paper
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-2-30
Archives of Ontario, I0008402

In 1854 Anne Langton returned to Niagara almost certainly as part of a tour that she took with her visiting English niece, Ellen, daughter of William (the first English relative to visit the Langtons in Canada).

These two images are part of a series of Niagara views that Langton executed with confidence in contrast to her first sketch of the falls in 1837.



The Langtons lived in Toronto for four years. In 1856, John was elected to an additional role as the Vice Chancellor at the new University of Toronto and became a leading advocate for the emerging institution. Anne produced very little art while in Toronto, no doubt because she was preoccupied with assisting Lydia to raise the children and run the household.

Langton has squared up the image to the right in preparation for making an enlarged version.

The house was situated on the north side of Bloor Street, almost opposite Huntley Street. This single-storey front elevation is typical of what came to be called the Ontario Regency Cottage style. At the back, the house was two-storey and overlooked the Rosedale ravine.

[Langton Family] Home at Yorkville, Toronto, [1857 or 1858]
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[Langton Family] Home at Yorkville,
Toronto, [1857 or 1858]
Anne Langton
Pen and ink and graphite on cream wove paper
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-2-50
Archives of Ontario, I0011267

A full watercolour version exists in oval format, the only instance that has come to light of Langton actually working in that format.


In 1857, the Langtons moved into their second Toronto home. In her memoir, Langton later wrote:

"In the spring of 1857, we moved up to Yorkville, and here, besides breathing purer air, we were brought into very agreeable society. Many of the Professors connected to the University were residents, and also families belonging to the Civil Service who, moving like ourselves with Government, were numbered amongst our associates as long as we remained connected with it"

Anne Langton
(SOF, 161)

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In 1859, the seat of government moved to Quebec City and so the Langtons uprooted themselves once again.