Author: Ancestors Blog

A gallery of artists

I was unable to find a collective noun for a group of artists. So may I suggest a gallery of artists. Why? Recently I was adding some distant leaves to my family tree and stumbled upon William Frederick Friend (1820-1891). William was husband of Elizabeth Mary Whiting (1816-1885), sister-in-law of my distant cousin Mary Alice Knight (1820-1873) who had married Elizabeth’s brother William George Francis Whiting (1817-1882) in 1863. The census returns revealed that Friend was an artist, and a Google search showed that he produced many admired watercolours in Britain and in North America. However I could find no significant biographical details for him. As ever my curiosity was aroused, so I dug a little deeper. It transpired that he was, by marriage, only one member of an extended family of artists working during the 18th and 19th centuries, some virtually unknown and others highly regarded. This is what I found :

William Frederick Friend was baptized in Canterbury, Kent on 11th June 1820, the second child and only son of Charles Alexander Friend (1789-c.1835), co-owner of a business transporting goods on a barge, and his wife Mary Austin (c.1793-1868) who after her husbands death ran a lodging house in Canterbury and later in Deptford. William’s surviving sister Marian, who lived with her widowed mother, was recorded as a Straw Bonnet Maker in 1841 ; a Bookseller and Stationer in 1861 ; and a Lace Maker after her mother’s death. She died unmarried in 1889. William must have displayed a talent for art from an early age, for it enabled him to marry well despite his humble beginnings. On 19th November 1848 at St.Pancras Parish Church in London he married Elizabeth Mary daughter of Joshua Whiting (d.1817) ‘esquire’ of Midhurst in Sussex by his wife Elizabeth Sarah Spencer (d. 1867). A witness to William and Elizabeth’s marriage was Martin Henry Lewis Gaetano Colnaghi (d.1851), a printseller and member of the well-known Colnaghi family of London art dealers. Less than three years later at the time of the 1851 census, William and Elizabeth were residing at 4 Robert Street near Regent’s Park in London. He gave his occupation as “Artist (Landscape)” and they had a one year old son born in London.

Three other children were to follow. A daughter was born near Regents Park in 1853, probably at 4 Robert Street, and another in Folkestone, Kent in 1857. However I could find no trace of this family in the 1861 census. As I mentioned earlier, Friend was active as an artist not only in Britain but also in North America, thus it is possible that he was working there and may even have painted his fine paintings of Niagara Falls (acquired by the Royal Collection in 1865) around this time. A son was born in Hastings, Sussex in 1863. And by 1871 the family could be found lodging on (Marine) Parade in Hythe, Kent. Elizabeth died aged 61 at 96 Lancaster Road in Notting Hill on 23rd December 1877. The widower William can be found lodging along with their elder daughter in South Terrace, Littlehampton, Sussex in 1881. It was there that he settled, and died at Frankfort House in his 70th year on 6th January 1891.

Now a look at William and Elizabeth’s four children :

The eldest child, William Charles Friend was born in London in 1850 and was an Accountant’s Clerk in 1871. He went on to be a Brewery Valuer by 1891 and a Chartered Accountant by 1901. He died unmarried at the ripe old age of 92 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent on 17th March 1942.

The second child was Elizabeth Ann Friend, born on 17th November 1853 at 4 Robert Street near Regent’s Park. After her mother’s death she appears to have taken care of her father in Littlehampton. Latterly she lived at 30 Arundel Road and died unmarried on the 2nd July 1897, being buried at Littlehampton Cemetery five days later.

The third child and younger daughter was Mary Margaret Friend, born in Folkestone, Kent and baptized there on the 30th August 1857. In 1878 in Lewisham she married Philip Henry Norman (1843-1894), a commercial clerk who latterly resided at Folkestone in Kent, where he died in 1894. Mary died in 1900 in Tunbridge Wells.

The youngest child was Francis Gregory Friend, born in Hastings on 13th March 1863. He was able to lead the comfortable idle life of a ‘fundholder’. On 28th June 1894 in Horsham, Sussex he married Kate Augusta (1891-1915) daughter of Mark Anthony Anscombe (1847-1928), variously employed as a draper, brewer’s traveller and self-employed greengrocer, by his wife Mary Ann Rowland (1850-1895). The couple had two surviving daughters, Olive Frances Friend born in Littlehampton in 1895 and Edna Augusta Friend, born in Worthing in 1906. Both daughters were to marry. Francis died in Littlehampton on 3rd January 1924.

A name that appeared on a couple of census returns concerning the Friend family was that of Blanche Annie Rosa Spencer (1853-1929). Described as a ‘cousin’, Blanche’s baptismal record from All Saints church in Camden Town, shows that she was a daughter of another artist, the virtually unknown William Frederick Spencer (1817-1890) by his wife Ann Eliza Davids (1813/4-1895). It would probably be fair to say that while Spencer may have been a capable artist, he was probably more of a gentleman who could afford to dabble in art rather than a gifted artist who laboured out of necessity. However, a look at his roots led me to uncover the most famous members of this gallery of artists :

William Frederick Spencer was the son of Henry Spencer (1785-1850’s) who was a brother of Elizabeth Sarah Spencer noted earlier. For the record, Henry and Elizabeth Sarah’s parents were the oil merchant Christopher Spencer (c.1737-1807) and his second wife Elizabeth Collier (d.1826). William Frederick’s mother was Ann Phillis Beechey (c. 1794-1883), a sister of the famous Naval Officer and Hydrographer Frederick William Beechey (1796-1856) ; the portrait painter George Duncan Beechey (1797-1852) ; and the Naval Officer and Marine Painter Richard Brydges Beechey (1808-1895). And let us not forget her eldest half-brother the Painter and Explorer Henry William Beechey (1788/9-1862). All these being children of the celebrated portrait painter Sir William Beechey (1753-1839). And the mother of the former four was Sir William’s second wife Anne Phyllis Jessop 1764-1833), herself a noted painter of miniatures. All these Beechey’s were memorable enough to make it into the Dictionary of National Biography.

That’s enough for now, although somehow I get the feeling I may only have scratched at the surface of this interwoven gallery of artists!



The family of Lt. Col Frank Page DSO

It’s not often that I receive two messages in my inbox within the space of half an hour relating to the same family, but that’s what happened on Friday with a request firstly for information on Lt. Col. Frank Page DSO (1877-1917) and then his elder son, Anthony Frank Page (1908-1988), both of whom appear in my extended family tree, but with little attached detail. Clearly there was a rush on for info on these people! My curiosity thus aroused, I spent the weekend looking in more depth at Frank and his family, and this is what I found.

Frank Page was born in Hertford in 1877, the second son of Alfred George Page, a grocer from Besthorpe in Norfolk who founded a game food manufacturing company which still exists as Gilbertson and Page, dog food manufacturers since 1873, and by Royal Warrant since 1884 according to their website here. Despite a lack of information in his Who’s Who entry, a Google search reveals a great deal about Frank’s education, career and death, perhaps the best source of information being the webpage about him on the Richard Hale School website here.

As for his family, on 22nd March 1905 at St.Andrews in Hertford Frank married Margaret Payne Farley (1884-1941), the daughter of architect and building contractor James Farley by his wife Mary Jane Payne. They had two sons and a daughter :

The eldest child was daughter Joyce Margaret Page, born in Hertford in 1905. In 1933 she became the second wife of Tom Edward Tunnicliffe Mattocks (b. 1904), son of a jeweller from Parkstone in Dorset. He served as a Temporary Lieutenant in the RNVR during World War 2 and died in Bournemouth in 1952. They had a son and a daughter.

The second child and elder son was Anthony Frank Page, who was born in Hertford on 17th November 1908. He became an advertising executive residing in London, where he probably met illustrator and fashion stylist Betty Kathleen Pyke (1903-?), first wife of my distant cousin Terence Sladen Justyne Combe Prentis (1903-1946) who was also working in advertising around that time. Betty and Prentis divorced and she was living with Anthony in Seamore Place, Mayfair at the time of the 1939 register and they married the following year. There were no children. However, it may be of interest to note that Betty was a first cousin of the eccentric food scientist and television personality Dr Magnus Pyke (1908-1992) who graced our screens in the 1970s. Anthony died in West Sussex in 1988.

The youngest child was Rodney Graham Page, born in Hertford on 30th Jun 1911. Educated at Oxford and London universities, he became a solicitor, served in World War 2, and was elected Conservative M.P. for Crosby in 1953. He was appointed a Privy Councillor in 1972 and was Knighted in 1980. He died the following year and in the resulting high profile by-election was replaced in Parliament by Shirley Williams who became the first M.P. for the Social Democrats. In 1934 Graham had married Hilda Agatha Dixon, daughter of schoolmaster Edgar John Dixon by his wife Annie Emily Mace. According to Who’s Who they had a son and a daughter. The daughter married in London in 1968 and has several children, but the name of the son I have so far been unable to identify.

I hope the above observations are of use to anyone researching this family.

Distant cousins – Brian Sewell

I was saddened to hear of the death of art critic Brian Sewell recently. Whilst much has been written about Brian’s bold stance on modern art and only slightly less fuss made of his precise enunciation which a journalist once described as making the Queen sound common, few may know that Brian was actually born in humble circumstances.

I discovered my distant connection to Brian a few years ago when he made the revelation that he was the natural son of composer and hellraiser Philip Arnold Heseltine (1894-1930) alias Peter Warlock, who gassed himself seven months before Brian’s birth. Heseltine’s mother was Bessie Mary Edith Covernton (1860-1943), whose grandfather James Covernton’s (1805-1885) first wife was my great x 6 aunt Harriet Sophia Ryves (1794-1830). Incidentally, Harriet’s sister-in-law was Lavinia Janetta Horton de Serres (1797-1871), self-styled princess of Cumberland and duchess of Lancaster, but that’s another story.

Of course, Brian did not become Brian Sewell until after his mother Jessica had married Robert Sewell in 1936. Brian was actually born Brian A C B Perkins and you will find the true record of his birth indexed in the FreeBMD database in Hammersmith District volume 1a page 310 if you click here. Why Perkins? Because Brian’s mother was born Mary Jessica Perkins in St.Pancras, London on 27 November 1900. Her death aged 94 is recorded as Mary Jessica Sewell in Kensington and Chelsea District in June 1995.

I’ve encountered much misinformation on the internet and in the press regarding Brian and his mother Jessica. For example, in Brian’s obituary which you can read by clicking here, The Guardian claims he was born in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire. This massive blunder also appears in The Irish Times here ; the Daily Mail here ; the Mirror here ; and the Evening Standard here, with several others following suit. Sadly this is a result of sloppy journalism drawing upon amateur genealogy which appears as fact on Wikipedia. Happily The Telegraph got it right (for once?), as did I in the tiny obituary that I posted on Flickr on 20th September 2015 here. Fortunately Wikipedia seems to be gradually correcting its mistakes regarding Brian’s early life.

Another error found in some accounts centres on Brian’s mothers family circumstances. Whilst his putative fathers family the Heseltines were well-to-do, the Perkins family were at best lower middle class. Brian’s maternal grandfather William Perkins was, as I revealed back in September on Flickr, a publican. And following Brian’s birth his mother struggled to get by with a little help from the Heseltines. She followed this up with a marriage to Robert Sewell which brought the security that enabled her to privately educate Brian. Indeed, his mothers driving ambition for him is probably what made Brian the character he was. So let’s take a closer look at the Perkins family.

As noted earlier, (Mary) Jessica was born in St.Pancras on 27th November 1900 to publican (alias beer house keeper, as he appears four months later on the 1901 census below) William Perkins and his wife Mary. At that time they lived at 2 Haverstock Hill, which is now home to The Enterprise public house.

1901 census.jpg

(Mary) Jessica was the eldest of three daughters, the others being Violet and Dora who also appear in the 1911 census, by which time the family had moved pub to the Crimea Tavern at 36 Inkerman Road in Kentish Town, as below.

1911 census

Below is the marriage certificate for William and Mary Perkins, their wedding taking place at St.Luke’s, Chelsea on 16th November 1899.

1899 perkins-goldsmith marriage

The document reveals that Mary’s maiden name was Goldsmith and that her father Thomas Goldsmith was a coachman who, according to census records, came from Dublin. William Perkins’ father was another William Perkins whose occupation is given as farmer, and he hailed from Thelnetham in Suffolk, where his father, Henry Perkins, was an agricultural labourer in the mid 19th century. Perhaps with such down-to-earth antecedents as these it may become easier to understand why Brian despised the pretentiousness of modern art so much.