Alfred Martin Snape, the Gosport artist, died in 1930 and his pictures are a beautiful window to Gosport’s past. He was the son of Alfred Charles Snape, who was an ‘Artist and Drawing Master’ according to the 1891 Census. Martin was one of five brothers and a sister. According to the 1861 Census Sarah Snape, his mother was a Painter and Teacher of Drawing. In the 1881 Census Wiiliam Snape, was an ‘Artist Student’ whilst Alfred Snape was a ‘Landscape Artist’. Alice was described as an ‘Artist’s Daughter’. George was 15 in 1881 and has not artistic description in his entry.
Martin and William became the better known of the Snapes, William for his portraits in oils and studies in still life, and Martin, initially, for his water colours.
Martin Snape was born at Spring Garden Cottage on the 31st December 1852. His father was sufficiently wealthy to enable him to send all of his sons were sent to Burney’s Naval Academy in Clarence Square where the fees were fifty-two Guineas a year. During the 1914/18 war Martin joined the Volunteer Training Corps.
Some of Martin’s pictures display his knowledge of the flora of Hampshire as he was a botanist of distinction and a brilliant speaker. His local pictures of Gosport show many areas of the town that have now been demolished such as this picture of Button’s Yard, which was close to the waterfront off Little Beach Street.
His pictures are numerous. So prolific was he that it is impossible even to try and estimate the number. Apart from his water colours they ranged from large oil paintings to on-the-spot illustrations such as the one of the big fire at Camper and Nicholson’s shipyard in 1911 when it is said that he sat on a wall in Coldharbour sketching away oblivious of the crowds. He was often stated that he designed the fresco over the present Public Library but documents in Gosport Museum indicate that it was designed by Schenck.
In 1922 he was commissioned to design the new Gosport Borough Seal. Originally the Seal was circular but in 1942, long after his death, it was decided to adopt Dr. L. F. W. White’s (White was the Area Education Officer for the Hampshre ‘excepted’ district of Gosport) suggestion and add the words ‘God’s Port Our Haven.’
Snape was Vice-Chairman of the Library Committee on which he was a co-opted member, a Governor of the then Technical School, and a Founder Member of the Rotary Club of Gosport. Late in life he married the widow of a Naval Officer and there were no children.
A number of Snape’s pictures are in the possession of the Gosport Borough Council with others in the collection of Gosport Museum. We no longer have a physical museum but the Reserve Collection still exists. Martin Snape died on the 24th November 1930, at the age of 77 and is buried in the Churchyard at Rowner.