Although not dated The Queen's Highway probably dates from the 1880s when Grimshaw painted a series of autumnal street scenes, predominantly painted in and around the suburbs of Leeds. In these images of roads and lanes between high stone walls hiding mansions and villas from prying eyes, the scenes are deserted except for a solitary female figure making her way down a leaf and puddle strewn road. These paintings are perhaps the most evocative and typical of the artist, who was unrivalled in his depiction of the evening gloaming and the first light of the morning. The busy traffic of horses and carts bringing goods into the city from the outlying farms have left their impressions in the damp soil of the road the day before. The gateways of the large villas remain closed to the outside world as the households within begin to stir. There is an emotive sense of stillness and calm which pervades these golden images of morning light. The subject is probably not a specific locality, but the effects of light upon a generic suburban street and the houses are probably an amalgam of different buildings. Unlike the pictures of the great cities of Britain and the fishing villages that Grimshaw painted, there are no landmarks in The Queen's Highway to place the exact location and the picture is therefore a more abstract summary of glorious light and autumnal splendour. The sense of mystery evoked by the appearance of the lonely road is further enhanced by the anonymity of the scene with the exact location withheld. The Victorians had a huge appetite for such romantic intrigue and it was a prevalent theme in the novels, plays and poetry of the age. Grimshaw himself was inspired by the writings of Wordsworth, Browning, Shelley and in particular Tennyson.
'The climbing street, the leafy lanes,
The Peacock-yew tree and the lonely Hall,
The horse he drove, the boat he sold,
The chill November dawns and dewy glooming downs,
The gentle shower, the smell of dying leaves.'
Alfred Tennyson, Enoch Arden, 1864