Dress and Textiles, East Midlands: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 20th C 23 Could the artist be Henry Walton (1875–1959)? If not Edward Cooper, Mayor of Newark in 1857, who is the sitter?

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Topic: Execution date

This is not 1811, possibly 1911, and nothing to do with Henry Walton (1746–1813).

Art UK adds:
The collection is aware that the artist Henry Walton who has signed his name in capitals bottom right hand corner of the canvas dated 1911 (see attachment) is clearly not Henry Walton (1746–1813). They have no information about this Henry Walton and do not think the sitter is Edward Cooper, Mayor of Newark in 1857. They would welcome any information on either the artist or sitter that might help to correct their sparse record.

Miles Cato, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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23 comments

Angela Lennox,

I think this painting is by Henry Walton of Marshwood Haydon, Dorset, England (born 1876). He was an artist and certainly painting in 1911 as he was only 35 years old then. He came from Nottingham and moved to Dorset to paint in better light conditions where he was employed by the Post Office to paint their members of staff.
His wife was Gertrude Walton (originally from Yorkshire) and she was also an artist. Gertrudes maiden name may have been Blacksburn. The couple made a living from their art and even afforded servants at their home in Buckland Hill Marshwood Charmouth. Henry Walton painted staff employed by the Post Office
I have no idea who the sitter was but would assume it to be someone local or an employee of the Post Office.

Barbara, when this canvas was treated by a conservator no information was recorded. There would have been photographs of labels if any had been found. The attached photograph is probably typical of the whole surface, but it is all they have and the picture is screwed to the wall now. The curator is willing to take it off to double check, but she feels sure there will be nothing further to reveal.

It would be useful to have the dates of Henry (b. 1876) and Gertrude Walton, though she would have to have been somewhat younger than him to be the 'G. Walton' who in 1978 gave the 'Study of an Old Man' mentioned above to Bridport - but perhaps that was one of the next generation or so, if they had children. As to the present picture, it might be a case of another name coincidence: i.e. the man shown may be an 'Edward Cooper' though clearly not the 1857 Mayor of Newark, and the painting is there by someone making a false assumption of the 2 + 2 = 5 sort. Its hardly an uncommon name.

Osmund Bullock,

Angela has undoubtedly got the right man; but his year of birth was 1875 not ’76, and he is indeed the same artist with eight or nine works at Bridport (The Coach House), plus two more at Winchester (Hampshire Cultural Trust) – the former date from his time in Dorset circa 1900–20, the latter from after he moved permanently to Hants thereafter.

Henry Walton was born and raised at Newark, and it is not unlikely that this portrait *is* of Edward Cooper, but derives from an image of him well after his mayoral term in 1857–58 (the mayoral year at Newark ran from Nov-Nov). Cooper, a well-to-do farmer, was born in 1811, but did not die until 1899 – in 1876 aged 65 he married (for the first time) a woman of 26 and fathered two children. This could easily show him in later life, perhaps 1870s/80s – as Martin has suggested, the 1911 portrait looks to have been copied from a photograph. Cooper was certainly well-acquainted with the Walton family – he and our artist's father (also Henry Walton) were fellow town councillors and magistrates for many years, and both were leading lights in the local Conservative party. In fact an alternative possibility for the sitter is Henry senior himself, who was an hotelier, brewer and leading local citizen who was also Mayor of Newark in 1875-76. But he died in 1884 aged just 52, so again it would have to be a posthumous representation – and the sitter arguably looks older than that. The name of Edward Cooper must in any case have become attached to the painting for some reason, so I am inclined to go with it unless we can demonstrate it's wrong.

I attach obituaries of both men; what we really need, though, are other images of them.

Genealogical / biographical details of our artist follow shortly.

Osmund Bullock,

Henry Walton (Junr) was born at Newark on November 2nd 1875 (baptised at St Mary Magdalene, Newark on Dec 14th), the second child and only son of Henry and Sophia Walton. Henry Senr (1832-1884) was a brewer, maltster and, like his father Thomas before him, proprietor of the Clinton Arms Hotel, a fine early C18th coaching inn that still stands in the Market Place (albeit converted into retail units). As his obituary above relates, he was a prominent townsman in myriad ways; he left a solid £8,000 on his death.

According to a brief Bridport Museum biography here https://bit.ly/2Mtj7lK, Henry Junr trained at the Bradford Art School and the Slade School in London. The Slade is (if correct) very surprising, but Bradford would make sense: in 1891, aged 15 (after his father’s death), he was a student living with the family of his mother Sophia (née Crossley) in Bradford at Great Horton Road, just a few minutes’ walk from the Art School (then part of the Technical College). His wife Gertrude Beatrice Blackburn (1877-1951) was also from Bradford, and they were married there in Sept 1899. Both his mother and wife, as well as his father, were of prosperous middle-class stock, and (pace Angela) I don’t think one can safely deduce from Henry and Gertrude having a (single) servant in both 1901 and 1911 that they were making much from their art. Henry’s unmarried elder sister Emma (also living with them in both years) was ‘living on own means’, and Henry himself doubtless inherited money – the simple truth is that before the First World War a young, local maid-of-all-work (one of theirs was just 15) was a very minor expense, and there were countless girls in service with families of very modest means.

Osmund Bullock,

Soon after their marriage Henry and Gertrude settled in West Dorset, at a tiny hillside hamlet called Birdsmoor Gate overlooking Marshwood Vale. They were there by 1901, but in around 1910 (Electoral Roll) they moved half a mile down the road to a slightly larger house called Buckland(s) Hill, near Marshwood. The Bridport biog says that he and his wife were “involved in arts and crafts work (silver-work, leather, embroidery, copper-work) as well as oil painting”, though as yet I’ve found no evidence of this**. I’m interested in the further details given by Angela about their reasons for moving to Dorset, and would love to know the source – as I would for the even more interesting reference to Henry being employed by the Post Office to paint their members of staff. In the 1911 Census he states he is an artist working from home, but that he is an employee whose employer is the 'Manager of N.P.O.S. Depot Ltd'. There is a ‘PO’ in there, certainly, but I would expect the Post Office to be called the ‘GPO’; I suppose ‘National Post Office Service’ is possible, though I can see no reference to it ever being called that – and why is it a limited company? I’m attaching an image in case anyone else can make sense of it, but I’ve so far failed to find any business or entity that would fit those letters. A search of contemporary local trade directories for all the nearby towns might turn something up, but that could be a long job.

In the 1915 & 1920 Kelly’s Directory listings for Marshwood Henry is still at Buckland(s) Hill (he’s listed as a ‘Private Resident’, not under the commercial heading); Gertrude joins him in the Electoral Register from 1918 and they’re listed together there until Spring 1921. In that year Henry & Gertrude moved to Hampshire and a cottage in Itchen Abbas, near Winchester. [To be continued]

**EDIT - I have now! In the Dorset returns of those qualified to serve as jurors, Henry Walton’s ‘quality, calling or business’ is given as ‘gentleman’ from 1910-12, then ‘designer’ from 1913-21.

Oliver Perry,

The best I can come up with for NPOS is The National Poultry Organisation Society, which did indeed have egg-collecting depots.

Looks plausible: see 'Monthly Consular and Trade Reports' [1910]. Organisation was established in 1904: 20 depots by 1910 and a national central depot in London est. 1912 according to another report,


https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YiAoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA82&lpg=PA82&dq=National+Poultry+Organisation+Society+Depots&source=bl&ots=ypY1A9tAgV&sig=ACfU3U1mYwqScvbEauwUCoyyHxfEnR9nJw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj-qYSG4qjlAhUyonEKHeC_BHUQ6AEwBXoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=National Poultry Organisation Society Depots&f=false

Jacinto Regalado,

As already noted, this picture is almost certainly after a photograph.

Osmund Bullock,

Well done, Oliver, I feel sure you're right – not least because I have other evidence that Henry Walton was involved in agricultural matters, which I will come to in due course. But back to the NPOS: in 1911 the Dorset depot was probably at Mor[e]combelake, six miles south of Henry Walton's home, Buckland Hill House (https://bit.ly/2JkJloz). See the bottom of the attached page from Kelly's 1911 Directory – the NPOS depot manager listed there, John Ernest Stevens, was himself an egg and poultry dealer according to the 1911 Census. I don’t know how the system worked, but perhaps there were lots of smaller informal 'sub-depots' around the county, each with access to transport and tasked with receiving eggs from farmers and smallholders in their immediate locality, and ferrying them down to the main depot. That would explain how Henry Walton came to be technically an employee of the depot manager – for I don’t believe this has anything to with art, I’m afraid, and I am beginning to wonder if the idea that Henry was employed by the Post Office to paint employees’ portraits was a misunderstanding.

We really do need Angela Lennox to tell us the source of her information, as obviously we don’t want to dismiss it if it has substance. Angela?

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Osmund Bullock,

Ah...all is explained here, and on the previous page - there is even a photograph of Henry: https://bit.ly/32uz28F

Henry had previously been manager of the Blackdown & Thorncombe [egg collection] Depot, a small one which was founded in 1903 and later affiliated to the NPOS. (Another reference I found says it was at Marshwood - presumably at his house, where he perhaps had a poultry smallholding himself.) In July 1911 (which is after the census date) things were geared up considerably and the marketing of eggs from all the small depots was centralized and taken over by a new organisation, of which Henry was a founding committee member. So I imagine that prior to this Henry was doing more or less what I mooted above.

Osmund Bullock,

The reason for Henry and Gertrude’s move from Dorset to Itchen Abbas in either early 1921 (their first appearance on the residential Electoral Roll) or more likely 1920 has just become evident. In February 1920 Henry was appointed the first full-time county secretary of the National Farmers’ Union (Hampshire Branch) – see attached. Another report noted that “the officer appointed must reside at Winchester”. He was in post by Jan 1921, and served for the next 14 years; he resigned in Jan 1935 and left at the end of Feb. So for at least 25 years Henry had a substantive career in co-operative agricultural administration, which rather suggests that painting and craft design had not been paying the bills.

In late 1935 or early ‘36 the Waltons moved from Itchen Abbas a mile or two up the valley to Itchen Stoke, and there they stayed. In the 1939 Register there is no more mention of art as a profession – Gertrude bears the usual depressing description of ‘unpaid domestic duties’, while Henry (by now aged nearly 64) is an agent for ‘Lawes Chemicals Ltd’. Lawes were major manufacturers of chemical fertilisers. Also with them was ‘Geoffrey Walton’, whom I belatedly realize was their son (and I think only child). Gertrude died 25th Jan 1951 (in her administration Henry is an “agricultural merchant”), and eight years later he followed her, on 16th Nov 1959.

Osmund Bullock,

Their son Geoffrey was born 8th Oct 1913, and christened at nearby Bettiscombe on 1st Nov. He became an academic and literary critic, and was one of F R Leavis’s undergraduates and teaching assistants at Downing, Cambridge in the 1930s. He wrote extensively for FRL’s quarterly review, ‘Scrutiny’, between 1936 & its closure in 1953 (https://bit.ly/2P2ynri), and in the late 30s and ?40s was a lecturer in English at the University College of the South West (subsequently Exeter University). Much of his 50s/60s academic career, though, seems to have been in pre- and early post-colonial Africa - Ghana, Nigeria and later Uganda (https://bit.ly/2MYkWpK). There is a hint he may not have led the happiest and most successful of lives: https://bit.ly/35OCHQR. After his return to England I lose track of him until his death at Brighton on 12th Dec 2003.

Osmund Bullock,

Neither Henry nor Gertrude exhibited at any of the major venues listed in ‘British Artists 1880-1940’; but as is well-known the work does not include the exhibitions of the Royal West of England Academy, most of whose catalogues were destroyed during WWII. In 1934 there is the only certain instance of public exhibiting by Henry or Gertrude that I’ve so far found: in October Henry showed a number of (probably) watercolours at the Winchester Art Club’s annual exhibition. The artists were a mixture of amateurs and professionals – among the latter were Eric Ravilious and our old friend William Dring, so the quality must have been high. See attached. A ‘Mrs Walton’, who may well have been Gertrude, exhibited some ‘charming flower studies’ at the same club’s 1923 exhibition. It seems likely that both did more exhibiting there, as those reports come from the only two detailed newspaper reviews of the club’s exhibitions I can find. I think one can conclude that they’d long been effectively amateur, not professional artists.

Osmund Bullock,

That's splendid, Pieter. I'll email you a couple of tiny tweaks tomorrow, though they are of vanishingly little importance. One is merely a correction of some bad English of *mine* that you embarrassingly repeat verbatim!

Minor updates in the attached amended summary, following Osmund's comments sent separately. It may be a vain hope for anyone to produce a copy of the photograph Walton did this portrait from, though if one still exists it is only likely to be in, or identifiable in, Newark. Though not relevant, Walton's son's a bit of a puzzle in the lack of obvious obituary -though I have not searched the newspaper files. His critical writing seems accessible, but that's all. Should anyone find one please post, before this discussion closes, though I suggest it now could.

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Thank you very much to Patty Temple, Curator at Town Hall Museum, Newark Town Council, for the attached photographs of Edward Cooper as Mayor 1857 and Henry Walton (father of the artist) as Mayor 1875!

Patty writes:

'Attached in Vol.II of Cornelius Brown’s History of Newark-on-Trent, (pages 266 and 267 from the 1995 reprint of the 1907 edition), are very small portraits of Henry Walton Mayor 1875 (father of artist) and Edward Cooper Mayor 1857. Our portrait does look like this picture of Edward Cooper. What I find intriguing is what prompted the artist in 1911 to paint from a photograph not a particularly well executed portrait (looking at the quality of his other works), so long after the death of Edward Cooper in 1899.

Thanks to Art Detective, I now have a reasonable history file and can amend my visitor information accordingly.'

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Presumaby Walton was either asked to do the Cooper portrait or had the complete photo source-image for some reason and did it as a gift: in either case a search in the Council minutes around 1911 may resolve which.

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