WHEN news started to break about the human tragedy in the North Atlantic, following the sinking of RMS Titanic, local artist and illustrator Nancy Preston had her own painful connection to the disaster.

The Titanic, the world’s largest ocean liner, sunk in the early morning of April 15, 1912, four days into the ship’s maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. When the ship sank, over 1,000 passengers and crew were still on board. Almost all those who jumped or fell into the water drowned or quickly died in freezing temperatures.

As well as the poor souls who perished, thousands of items went down with Titanic - furniture, crockery, jewellery, ornaments, personal possessions. Among these items were paintings by Nancy, en route from Bradford to America.

Colin Neville profiles Nancy's work on his website Not Just Hockney, an illustrated guide to professional artists past and present who were born, worked or lived in the Bradford district.

Nancy Hammond Preston - also known as ‘Nannie’ Preston - was born in 1873. The 1891 Census records her as living in the family home at Littlebeck Hall in Gilstead, and her profession was ‘Artist, Landscape and Figure’.

She came from an artistic family; her father was a Director of Manningham's Cartwright Hall Museum and Gallery and her grandfather, John Preston a local landscape artist.

Nancy illustrated a book, The House of the Sleeping Winds and Other Stories: Some Based on Cornish Folklore, published in 1911 and re-issued in 2016. As well as book illustration, she was renowned for her original paintings for lantern slides.

She was commissioned to create sets of ‘magic lantern’ slides by the Riley Brothers of Bradford, a major national manufacturer and supplier of magic lantern equipment and slides. These illustrations, produced by Nancy between 1891-1911, were designed and used primarily for religious talks and sermons in church and other public meetings, with up to 60-plus colour slides to a set. Sets created by Nancy for the Riley Brothers included Ben Hur: a tale of the Christ, Life of Moses and Life of Joseph - which took months of detailed illustration.

In 1912, when the world learned about the Titanic, and the deaths of 1,503 people, Nancy was shocked to realise that a consignment of her original paintings for slides, bound for a printer in America, had sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic. The artwork, in the hold of the mighty ship, included a set of her illustrations of The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Says Colin Neville: "The loss of her slides, although, in the overall scheme of things minor in comparison with the huge loss of life on the Titanic, would have been a catastrophe for Nancy. This was original work, representing weeks of painstaking work by her. It was a competitive world for illustrators then, as now, and to satisfy the publishers she would have had no choice but to start again."

Nancy married Edwin Rosevear in 1914, moved to Harrogate and continued to paint. She died in 1950.

* Visit notjusthockney.info/preston-nancy-hammond

Emma Clayton