A STUNNING Victorian oil painting bought by a wealthy Accrington-born cotton mill owner for £800 sold for almost £1million at auction.

The painting, called Waiting, by French-born London-based artist James Joseph Tissot, was bought by John Hargreaves on June 2, 1875.

It remained with the Hargreaves family until 1896.

And at Christie’s in London, on Monday, it was sold for £962,500, purchased by a US private collector whose identity has not been revealed.

John Hargreaves was born in Accrington in or around 1840 and he and his father, John Hargreaves senior, brothers William and Arthur and eight live-in servants lived at Broad Oak, Accrington.

In the 1851 Census, John Hargreaves senior described himself as a ‘calico printer and merchant employing 716 men, 343 women, 306 boys and 285 girls’.

John Snr built the Broad Oak Mill in 1834 for cotton weaving and also built the Hargreaves Arms pub in Manchester Road.

Mr Hargreaves Jnr, a justice of the peace and cotton factory boss whose mills boasted 460 employees, had built himself a new home on the outskirts of Reading around the time he bought the painting.

To add to the family’s rich history, Reginald Gervis Hargreaves married Alice Liddell, who provided the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland.

Auctioneers Christie’s said: “Waiting was painted at the height of James Tissot’s early London success.

“The picture combines a number of the artist’s favourite elements, a boat on shimmering water, autumnal chestnut leaves, a pug dog and a young woman in beautifully detailed fashionable dress with the enigmatic hints of narrative clues that have made Tissot a favourite with audiences worldwide.

“As described by The Graphic’s art critic when the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874, Waiting ‘contains one figure only, a young lady seated in a pleasure boat.

“The first, probably, of a pair of lovers to arrive at the place of assignation’.

“But look closely and you will see that the story may not be quite so simple.”