Adam’s First Sight of Eve – Provenance

The oil painting Adam’s First Sight of Eve (2570) by John Martin was presented to Glasgow on 4 October 1946 by the Imperial Chemical Company, Ardeer, through Lord McGowan and the Local Secretary Ms. Pitceathly. 1 It had been discovered in the Kilmeny Hotel in Ardrossan by Evelyn Waugh when he was stationed there during WW2.

Figure 1. Martin, John; Adam’s First Sight of Eve. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

Since the donor’s history is well documented it seemed more interesting to research the provenance of the painting and how it came to be in a hotel in Ardrossan, Ayrshire.

What Was Known?

            Adam`s First Sight of Eve was completed in 1812 by John Martin. It is signed J. Martin, 1812. He sent it to the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1813 where to his delight it was displayed in the Great Room. It was accompanied by a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost,

                        ‘Nature herself, though pure of sinful thought,
Wrought on her so, that, seeing me, she turned’.

            It was purchased, probably from the exhibition, by ‘Spong, a rich Kentish collector’ for seventy guineas. 2, 3, 4

What Is New?

A search of the census records suggested that the ‘Spong’ in question was Thomas Spong who was born in Aylesford, Kent in 1780/81. He was christened on 6 January 1781. 5 He is recorded in three census records where he is described as a ‘merchant’ aged 60 (1841), a ‘coal merchant’ aged 69 (1851) and a ‘retired gentleman’ aged 80 (1861). In 1861 he was living at 2 Albion Terrace, Faversham next door to his son William. 6

The painting seems to have remained in the possession of Thomas Spong for forty years as the next we hear of it is when it was advertised for sale by Christie and Manson in a collection of English pictures which was held at their Great Room, 8 King Street, London on 30 June 1853. 7 The sale catalogue listed

‘Lot 81, Adam’s first sight of Eve. The celebrated work, exhibited at Somerset House about 1813’.

   Unfortunately, the painting failed to sell. (No buyer to take the story forward!) The reserve on it was £50 and the bidding went up to £47. The seller, whose name was not disclosed at the time of the sale was a Mr. Walter Tebbitt, of 3 Union Crescent, Wandsworth Road, London. 8 Walter Tebbitt was born in 1827/8 in Surrey. On 5 February 1850 he was elected to the Linnean Society. Their records give his address as Cottage House, Clapham Common, London. His main interest was botany. On 5 May 1850 he co-presented a portrait of Edward Stanley (1779-1849) to the Society. 9 In the 1851 census for St. Giles in the Fields he is listed as aged 23, unmarried with his occupation ‘Mother of Pearl Works Ornamental’, born Surrey and employing one servant. His address was 4 North Crescent. 10On 28 April 1852, in Aylesford, Kent, Walter Tebbitt married Grace Nash Spong who was 19 and the daughter of Thomas Spong. 11

            Walter Tebbitt left the Linnean Society on 1 November 1860. On the 1861 census he and Grace and their two children were living at Martinhoe, North Devon, Wooda Bay. He was now a ‘fundholder’. 12 Thomas Spong died at Canterbury on 15 August 1865. He was survived by his wife, Mary Eliza Spong who inherited most of his effects. There was no mention of the painting in his will. 13 Walter Tebbitt died on 24 March 1893 at Marlborough House, Tunbridge Wells. The painting is not mentioned in his will, but he did leave his pictures to his widow. 14 Grace Tebbitt died on 4 December 1924 in Tunbridge Wells. 15 It seems that she did not leave a will. From 1853 to 1942 the whereabouts of the painting are unknown.

            In April 1942 Evelyn Waugh, then a captain in the Royal Marines, was posted to Glasgow and then to the Special Services Brigade in Ardrossan. He had earlier undertaken commando training on the Isle of Arran. Later in the year, on 28 September, when visiting Diana Cooper in Bognor Regis he told her that there was a small painting by John Martin in the Kilmeny Hotel in Ardrossan. 16

Kilmeny Hotel

            Kilmeny* House (later the Kilmeny Hotel) was built in South Crescent, Ardrossan for John Galloway between 1885 and 1888. John Galloway was born in Glasgow in 1829. In the census of 1861, he was aged 31 and living at 55 Clarence Street, Glasgow with his wife Margaret and two daughters. He was a ‘Clerk Cashier in a Shipping Insurance Broker’s Office’. 17 He moved to Ardrossan shortly after and in 1865 was the tenant occupier of a house in Countess Street. 18 He was employed by the firm of Patrick (Paddy) Henderson ship owners and eventually was appointed its managing director. In 1874 he became a member of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. The following year he was the proprietor/occupier of a house and offices in South Crescent and the occupier of a house in Raise Street, Ardrossan. 19 In 1885 he was elected a Director of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. The first mention of Kilmeny appears on 22 September 1888 when an article in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald notes that ‘Mr. John Galloway (of Messrs P. Henderson Ltd.) who resided at Kilmeny, Ardrossan, placed a memorial stone in the Free Church’. In the 1895 Valuation Roll for Ardrossan, he is listed as Proprietor, Kilmeny House Offices and Garden, South Crescent. He was also a tenant at 2 Manse Street, Church Place suggesting that he may have been using Kilmeny House as offices only. He was re-elected Chairman of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce in January 1899. In the census of 1901, he is listed as a ‘retired shipowner’. John Galloway passed away on 25 September 1904.

       ‘John Galloway, Homehill, Bridge of Allan, (formerly of Kilmeny Ardrossan), died. He was head of Patrick Henderson shipowners before his retirement. His estate was valued at £53,613, 16s. 6d.’20, 21

His death and an appreciation of his service was noted in the minutes of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. 22

From his death certificate his father George Galloway was an artist. Could he have acquired the painting?

   The next proprietor of Kilmeny House in 1905 was James Cant, a timber broker with premises at 52 St. Enoch Square, Glasgow. 23 On 4 October 1907 he was elected president of the local branch of the National Bible Society. 24 He was still proprietor in 1915 but by 1920 ownership had passed to Major Frederick Charles Gavin. On 12 April 1922 North Ayrshire Licensing Court granted a certificate by 7 votes to 3, for an inn and hotel for Kilmeny House, South Crescent, Ardrossan. The licensee was Charles F.O. Lee the keeper of the nearby Eglinton Arms Hotel. ‘Kilmeny House is a private residence, containing 30 apartments, and had not previously been licensed, and objections were stated against granting a licence, on behalf of a number of persons owning and occupying property in the vicinity’. 25


Following his invention of ‘dynamite’, Alfred Nobel formed the British Dynamite Company Ltd. In 1870. He purchased land on the Ardeer Peninsula in Ayrshire to set up a plant to manufacture dynamite. Its relative remoteness and substantial sand dunes made it suitable from a safety point of view. The company, renamed as Nobel’s Explosives Company Ltd. In 1877, became the largest explosives factory in the world. 26

Harry Duncan McGowan was born in Glasgow on 3 June 1874. He attended Hutchesons’ Grammar School and Allan Glen’s School, Glasgow but left at age fifteen to join Nobel’s Explosives Company eventually becoming manager. During the First World War he was able to merge most of the British explosives industry, and by 1920 he had become Chairman and Managing Director of the resulting Nobel Industries Ltd. In 1926 this company merged with other chemicals-based industries to become Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). McGowan became Chairman and Managing Director in 1930 and remained Chairman until 1950. He was made Baron McGowan of Ardeer in 1937. Ardeer, which is about three miles from Ardrossan, became the Nobel Division of ICI after the merger in 1926. 27

    ICI began using the Kilmeny Hotel to entertain and accommodate guests from 1929 28 and Charles Lee remained the proprietor until at least 1940 and probably till 1945 when it was taken over by ICI. The painting was found in a dirty state and was cleaned and restored under the supervision of Mr. F. C. Speyer who was the Controller of the Industrial Ammonia Division at ICI. 29 On 4 October 1946, the painting was donated to Glasgow. When ICI moved out of Kilmeny in 1949 a report in a local newspaper opined that ‘in the last twenty years it has looked more like a mausoleum than a hotel’. 30 This might account for the state of the painting.

(In the Object File there are two references purporting to be referring to the sale of the painting.

A Christie’s sale on 7 August 1855. Christie’s could find no trace of this sale. In fact, the date in incorrect. It should be 7 August 1875 – The Hooton Hall Sale.

Lot 850 – Adam and Eve Praying at Sunset by John Martin- sold by Naylor and bought by Fitzhenry 

On 3 May 1879 – Nield Sale – lot 59 – Adam and Eve with an angel in the Garden of Eden by John Martin, bought by Fraser.

Both refer to different John Martin paintings).

          * Kilmeny may derive from a poem by James Hogg.

.. Bonnie Kilmeny gaed up the glen;
But it wasna to meet Duneira’s men,
Nor the rosy monk of the isle to see,
For Kilmeny was pure as pure could be.
It was only to hear the yorlin sing,
And pu’ the cress-flower round the spring;
The scarlet hypp and the hindberrye,
And the nut that hung frae the hazel tree;


  Figure 2. Bonnie Kilmeny by John Faed. Public Domain.


  1. Glasgow Museums, List of Donors, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
  2. Equivalent to about £5,500 today
  3. Pendered, Mary, John Martin, Painter – His Life and Times, Hurst & Blackett, London, 1923 pp 61, 77, 79,
  4. Balston, Thomas, John Martin 1789 – 1854: His Life and Works, Gerald Duckworth, London, 1947  p36,
  5. Old Parish Registers, Kent, Family Search
  6., Census Records, England
  7. The Morning Post, 20 June 1853
  8. Information from Lynda McLeod, Archivist, Christie’s Archives, transcribed from sales’ catalogue and sellers’ list
  9. Information from Luke Thorne, Assistant Archivist, Linnean Society
  10., Census Records, England
  11. Old Parish Registers, Family Search
  12., Census Records, England
  13. Will proved at HM Court of Probate, Canterbury, 8 September 1865
  14. Will probate granted to his widow and three other executors. 27 May 1893
  15., Grace Nash Spong family tree
  16. Page, Norman, An Evelyn Waugh Chronology (Author Chronologies), Palgrave Macmillan, London, September 1997 (also on Google Books)
  17. Scotland’s People, Census 1861
  18. Scotland’s People, Valuation Roll, Ardrossan, 1865
  19. Scotland’s People, Valuation Roll, Ardrossan, 1875
  20. Glasgow Herald, 27 September 1904
  21. Confirmations and Testaments, Mitchell Library, Glasgow
  22. Minutes of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, 10 October 1904
  23. Scotland’s People, Valuation Roll, Ardrossan, 1915
  24. Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 4 October 1907
  25. Glasgow Herald, 19 April 1922
  28. Catalyst, ICI Magazine 1929, information from Judith Wilde, archivist
  29. Hansard, Volume 391, 14 July 1943
  30. Kilmarnock Herald and Ayrshire Gazette, 7 October 1949 (Getting Around and About by The Coaster) also posted in

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