Completed British 19th C, except portraits, North West England: Artists and Subjects, Wales: Artists and Subjects 27 Could anyone give us more information about the artist J. H. Cole?

Autumn at Caerham Conway Valley
Topic: Artist

This watercolour painting is the only work by J. H. Cole on Art UK, as far as we know.

The collection comments:
'Our reference book [The Dictionary of British Artists 1880–1940] quotes a John H. Cole died circa 1895, Landscape painter of Lanbedr, Conway, Wales. 4 works exhibited at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; 1 at Royal Academy; 69 at Royal Cambrian Academy.'

A close-up image of the signature and images of the labels and markings on the back of the picture are attached.

Patrick Bond, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The artist J. H. Cole has been identified as John Henry Cole (c.1828–1895), for whom a biography has been produced (attached at the end of this discussion). The place name in the title has been changed to Caerhun, as it was discovered that there is/was no ‘Caerham’ in the Conway Valley. The collection has confirmed that the medium is watercolour, not oil. The donor has been identified as Edwin Oratio Swallow, not ‘E. V. Swallow’.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this discussion. To anyone viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Martin Hopkinson,

Lanbedr is properly Llanbedr-y-Cennin in the Conwy valley on the west side of the valley, not far from Bettws-y-Coed. Cole appears to be the first artist to settle there [1871 census] . It became an artists' colony [7 living there by 1881, 15 by 1891]
Several publications are listed on wikipedia
John H Cole lived at Church House and exhibited at the Royal Cambrian Academy in Conwy. In 1888 he was an Associate Member. when he exhibited 3 works

Kieran Owens,

John Henry Cole was born in Liverpool c. 1828 and married (see attached), on the 19th February 1867, to Keturah Smith (Sheffield, Yorkshire, 1838 - Rhosneigr, Anglesey, Wales, 21 August 1921), at the Church of St. Mary, Hulme, in Manchester.

The couple had (at least) four children:

Lucy Mary Bolongaro Cole, born on the 25th February 1868 at Bettws-y-coed, Conwy, Wales.

Henry Smith Cole (1869 – 1946), born on the 4th February 1869 at Bron Celyn, Capel Garmon, Llanrwst, Denbighshire, Wales.

Joseph Haughton Chisholm Cole (1871 – 1902), Landscape Artist, born in April 1871 at Llanbedr, Caernarfonshire, Wales.

Winifred Thirza M Cole (1877 – 1967), born on 3rd August 1877 at Chorlton, Lancashire.

As Chisholm Cole, J. H. Cole's second son exhibited at the RA between 1892 and 1899. Two of his landscapes can be seen on the ArtUK site.

The Liverpool Mercury of Thursday 15th May 1890, carried the following marriage notice:

"Cochram - Cole: May 8, at the Chapel of Our Lady, Llandudno, by the Rev. Father Mulligan, George Cockram, artist, of this city, to Lucy Mary Bolougaro, eldest daughter of J. H. Cole, Esq., artist, Llanbedr, near Conway."

John Henry Cole's son-in-law, George Cockram (1861 - 1950), exhibited many works at the RA between the years 1883 and 1924. Though prolific, none of these appear on the ArtUK website, although the Tate has one in its collection and the Royal Collection Trust has one as well:

John Henry Cole died on Sunday 20th October 1895 at the Royal Infirmary in Manchester. A brief biographical note from the Manchester Evening News, of Tuesday 22nd October 1895, is attached.

Patrick Bond,

This is all fascinating, thanks so much for the information. I found the catalogue of the first Tal-Y-Bont artists' club exhibition in 1886, in which J H Cole exhibited at least 12 watercolours, and the Royal Cambrian Academy catalogue for two years later, in which he exhibits three works, alongside such artists as Watts, De Breanski and Millais. Links below:

Kieran Owens,

It is interesting to note that George Cockram exhibited in the 1886 exhibition too, four years before marrying Cole's daughter Lucy, who would have been 18 to Cockram's 25.

Three questions arising:
1. In 1888 J.H. Cole was an Associate of the Royal Cambrian Academy: but when did he become one?
2. His obituary suggests he later became a full Cambrian Academician and, if so, when was that?
3. The marriage of Lucy Cole and George Cockram at Our Lady [Star of the Sea?], Llandudno by the Revd Father Mulligan suggests that either she or he were Roman Catholics, and if she was were the Coles as a whole? John Henry's marriage suggests probably not since it took place at St Mary's, Hulme, which was C of E (now deconsecrated and converted to flats).

A more general one is whether Cole is primarily a watercolourist or also an oil painter, if anyone has noticed in looking at various entries.

Kieran Owens,

J. H. Cole was the President of the Tal-Y-Bont Artists' Club up until 1887, after which time the position was filled by Henry Measham.

The six works that Cole exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1870 and 1892 were watercolours. Reviews of exhibitions at the Royal Cambrian and elsewhere in the 1880s and 1890s almost always mention his watercolours. In 1892 he featured in the first exhibition of works in watercolour under the management of the City of Manchester Art Gallery Committee. And in 1893 the Manchester Courier writes that "Mr. J. H. Cole is another artist who possesses a knowledge of the results obtainable from the water medium."

Also, the Artist and Journal of Home Culture (Vols 17 & 18 of of 1896) mentions that "The Water-Colour Rooms are well hung with some very good work. Room 8 is devoted to a collection of work by the late J. H. Cole who for many years has contributed to London and Provincial exhibitions."

A search online of various auction sites shows that he also painted in oils but it would appear from the numbers in each medium that that the majority of works sold were watercolours.

Thanks Kieran.

Cole apparently became a full member of the Royal Cambrian Academy in 1889 and their website has a good photo of him here:

Also Chisholm Cole here (though RA is probably a misprint for RCA):

Oddly the inscription under the image appears to say 'Elected 1878' but given that the RCA was only founded in 1881 that may refer to something else depending on the source of the photo. The only date for his Associateship so far as 'by 1888' is in the catalogue link for that year already given above, but was probably earlier.

The first and third paras of the comment above go together: the Chisholm lines should have followed, and I have been wondering if the latter exhibited with his father at the Tal-y-Bont exhibition of 1886 as 'J. Chisholm [also of] - Lanbedr', or that might be someone else, perhaps a godfather: I have not yet found such an artist (none such was an RCA member of associate) but if anyone knows of one please say.

Kieran Owens,

Pieter, the "Elected 1878" inscription could refer to his membership of the Manchester Academy of Fine Art. Entries of a similar nature (on the ruled page and in the same hand) can be seen for the following artists on the RCA website's members' list:

James William Booth (Elected 1898)
George Crozier (Elected 1870)
James Hey Davies (Elected 1873)
Joshua Anderson Hague (Elected 1873)
Charles Potter (Elected 1864)

Contemporary newspaper reports of Manchester Academy exhibitions all mention these artists in or just after their "Elected" dates. Perhaps the photos on the RCA website were taken from a Manchester Academy members A - Z directory. Whether of not is was the Manchester Academy, these artists all seem to have belonged to the same association.

Ah so...regrettably, and unlike the Royal Cambrian, there is nothing on the MAFA (est. 1859) web pages about past members, or existence of a list, or (as you suggest) an album of member images, but that is something Salford might be able to investigate, or know of already (?).

The Liverpool Academy dating from 1810, but with a chequered and non-continuous history, might be another option except its website and current incarnation doesn't look much concerned with anything 'non-contemp'. Martin Hopkinson might have an idea about that.

Martin Hopkinson,

The Liverpool Academy in the 19th century has been fully charted by Edward Morris and Emma Roberts, but it came to an end in 1867. The 20th century organisation has no connection with it. The Liverpool Autumn Exhibition begun in 1871 did not have members as it was not run by artists, but by the municipality. Alex Kidson is working on a 'Graves' like compilation for its early years. It was notable for the high percentage of watercolours exhibited.
According to Alex Cole exhibited 11 works there between 1871 and 1876

Royal Cambrian Academy of Art,

Life and work of Geo Cockram is being researched by Charles Nugent (ex Whitworth, etc) with exhibition and book forthcoming - so he may well have something to contribute, re Cockram / Cole .....

Thanks RCA: useful to know. Could you answer the question a little above as to what (and where) the source of the photos of 19th-century members of the the RCA on your web list of them is, be it an album or something else. The Cole image appears to say underneath 'Elected 1878', but that's not explained either since not his RCA election date.

S. Elin Jones,

Attached are some newspaper articles that could give a little more context to a few points raised in this discussion.

I think that the painting by J.H.Cole entered the Royal Collection, as part of a gift given to Queen Victoria of two albums of watercolours given by the Royal Cambrian Academy in 1887, in celebration of her Jubilee year.

According to the newspapers there were two volumes of decorated albums comprising of 25 and 26 watercolours. Decorated in water silk with the Queen's coat of arms and image of Plas Mawr. They cost £200 and were produced by Messrs Johnson of London. There should be more paintings by R.C.A. Artists in the Royal Collection dated from this period. It appears that the contents have been separated from the album/folio have been separated.

"They are bound in vellum and gold, and on the face of each album is an etching of the courtyard of Plas Mawr, Conway, the permanent gallery of the academy, flanked by the letters and figures "V.R, 1837," "I.R.,1887". The device of the academy- the Red Dragon of Wales, encircled with the Welsh motto "Y Ddraig Goch a Ddyry Gychwyn" is displayed on the back..... (Attached,1)

* I'm a little puzzled about the address of J.H.Cole. As on the 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 census, the family's house in Llanbedr-y-Cennin was called 'Bryn Eglwys'. There was no street name, just the house name. This was always quite common in small rural communities in Wales. Even translated, this doesn't mean 'Church House'. It means 'Church Hill' There is however a reference to 'Church House' in the published Probate for Chisholm Cole, (but this also happens to record his mother as his widow). On the 1891 cencus there is also the Rectory (Church of England) at the bottom of the page. At that time, there were two Chapels and only one Church in Llanbedr-y-Cennin.(2)

It also appears that George Cockrane was born in Birkenhead rather than Llandudno.

*Tragedy was to hit the Cole family in February of 1902. Which is why Chisholm Cole died at such a young age. He attempted to commit suicide in Talycafn Train Station. His sister Lucy and George Cochram were taking him back to Anglesey with them in order to look after him. Mr Cochram was one of the first people at the scene and as a witness in the inquest. He had cut his own throat, sustaining severe injuries. He had shown signs of acting rather strangely and appeared to be experiencing hallucinations . He'd been preparing paintings for the Manchester Academy Exhibition and had been under some pressure. It would be interesting to know from the 1902 exhibition catalogue which paintings he exhibited that year. There are two articles attached with much information from the inquest. The verdict was "death due to temporary insanity" (3,4)

* With regards to the question of religion, the newspaper article says that he was a Roman Catholic and that he begged the Priest who came to him to comfort his sister. Given his injuries, it does seem unlikely that he was able to speak to convey this wish. However, in this case I think that it could well be true, as he had the skills to be able to communicate in other ways with his sister.

"He indicated by the deaf and dumb alphabet that he wished his brother Harry sent for."... "Mr Cole is a Roman Catholic and begged the Priest who came to him to go and comfort his sister.

Even before J.H. Cole died there was a lady living with the family called Caroline Seager. She was around the same age as the Cole children. In the census of 1871 she is listed as a boarder. She was still living with the family in 1911. Caroline had been deaf since birth. The family would have had to communicate by sign at home.

I also think that the title of the painting 'Autumn at Caerham, Conway Valley' is wrong. I think it should be 'Autumn at Caerhun, Conway Valley'. Caerhun was the former civil parish in which Llanbedr-y-Cennin and Tal-y-Bont were both a part of. It is now a County Borough (5). There isn't a Caerham in North Wales.

5 attachments
Kieran Owens,

From the details on the label containing the title of this work, the owner/donor can be identified as Edwin Oratio Swallow, a Manchester yarn merchant, who, according to the 1901 UK Census and other sources, was living at "Hazelwood", Knutsford Road, Fulshaw Park, Wilmslow, of which address two of the words (Hazelwood and Wilmslow) can be seen in ink on said label. He lived at that address from at least between 1901 and 1909. He died at 4, Chapel lane, Wilmslow, on the 18th June 1937, aged 80, and was therefore born in c.1857.

If the Manchester Jubilee exhibition of 1909 was a selling exhibition, Swallow could have bought it there, and kept it until his donation of it in 1934 to the Salford Museum and Art Gallery. Alternatively, as the Welsh newspapers of the early 1900s describe, he featured in several lists of hotel guests at various tourist hotels in Wales, so might have bought it on one of those visits.

The collection has agreed to change the title of this painting based on Elin Jones's research into the location 'Caerham' (text and attachments 13/09/19 12:50). The artist J. H. Cole lived on the Caerhun estate of the Gough family. The painting was previously entitled 'Autumn at Caerham, Conwy Valley'.

Slightly adjusted summary on John Henry Cole attached. It would be useful if someone can identify (a) an accessible historical list of members of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts -which is not immediately apparent (b) whether the artist portrait photos being used on the Royal Cambrian Academy web pages are taken from an album or other group of MAFA members -or if not what other body is it? - and (c) where the original album/group is.

Otherwise, can this now wind up?

1 attachment
Martin Hopkinson,

The Paul Mellon Centre in Bedford Square has a run of photocopies of the catalogues of Manchester exhibitions, which might help

Osmund Bullock,

A few minor biographical additions & corrections.

Scans of all the annual summer exhibition catalogues of the RCA are here: J H Cole is first listed as an Associate (and first exhibited with them) at their third exhibition in 1885. See - pp 5, 61 & 72 as originally paginated. I've had a look through all the other catalogues as well, and can't immediately see a work titled as ours or anything similar - but it wasn't the most thorough search I've ever done. Like Manchester, following his death the RCA devoted a whole room to two dozen of his works in their 1896 annual exhibition; and they continued to exhibit works by him for several more years after that.

Further details of his career can be gleaned from the National Library of Wales newspapers website: . His presidency of the Tal-y-bont Artists' Club was actually in 1887 rather than 1886. He was on the Council of the RCA from at least 1890 until his death; and he was on the hanging committee for their annual exhibition in 1893. See attachments.

It is perhaps, too, worth pointing out that although he was born in Liverpool and died in Manchester (where he seems also to have lived for a while in earlier days), his father James (who died at Llanbedr in 1874) was born in Denbighshire (1871 Census). Betws-y-Coed is or was right on the border of the latter county, so JHC's initial move to Wales may have been in a sense 'coming home'.

Osmund Bullock,

An even more helpful discovery from the NLW newspapers website**: a much more substantial 1895 obituary, with lots of information on his Manchester years (including training), an explanation of his eldest daughter's unusual middle name, and some interesting information on his house in Llanbedr. Attached.

**Sorry, I omitted the link before - it's here:

1 attachment

Thanks Osmund: all very useful, with (last) adjusted summary attached for 'ready-reference' purposes. I suspect further investigation might show that Cole's father James had early connections with Capel Garmon/Llanwryst, which would explain how his elder grandson (Henry C. Cole) was born there in 1869, but it's a detail: the question first asked has been comprehensively answered, with plenty of sources to be chased further if people have reason to, and the picture that prompted it more accurately titled.

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

For clarification's sake, the North Wales Chronicle, of Saturday 8th January 1887, carried the following report:

"Talybont, Conway - The Artists' Club - The annual meeting of the Artists' Club was held recently for the purpose of electing officers for the ensuing year. Mr. Charles Potter, the president and Mr. Benjamin Fowler, the hon. treasurer and secretary, who had both been in office from the foundation of the club, three years ago, had expressed a wish to retire, and the following were elected: Mr. J. H. Cole, president; Mr. George Crozier, hon. treasurer; Mr. Benjamin Fowler, hon. secretary.....".

On Saturday 24th December 1887, the same newspaper reported thus:

"Talybont (Conway) - Artists' Club - The annual meeting of the Talybont Artists' Club was held a few days ago for the election of officers and other business, when Mr. Henry Measham was elected president in succession to Mr. J. H. Cole....."

Thanks to everyone for their extensive and detailed work on John Henry Cole. Any further details could be sent directly to Salford Museum. Marion and I think we can close this now.