Completed Portraits: British 19th C, Yorkshire, The Humber and North East England: Artists and Subjects 33 Further information sought on the artist W. Lindley

SHEF_MSH_K1913_158
Topic: Artist

Reuben Hallam is my husband's great-great-grandfather. I am looking for information about the artist W. Lindley.

The collection has very little information on this artist, and would be happy to find out more.

Judith Mutters, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The portrait has been attributed to William Lindley (1833–1912) of Grenoside (a northern suburb of Sheffield).

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

32 comments

Cliff Thornton,

Mr. W. Lindley appears to have been active in the 1890s. He attended the inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Art Society and Sketching Club which was held in January 1895, and was elected to the committee. He subsequently presided at some of the monthly meetings of the Society where members exhibited their works. In August 1896, 40 works were exhibited including 3 large oils by W Lindley "executed in his usual sober and truthful style."

How sure is the collection that the work is by W Lindley?
I ask as in August 1888, at an exhibition by the Society of Artists, a portrait of Reuben Hallam was displayed, the work of Willis Eadon.

Judith Mutters,

This information would make Willis Eadon 18 years old at the time of the exhibition.
I wonder if there are any other portraits of Reuben Hallam, or any other information regarding this interesting gentleman.
I went to view his work The Adventures Of Wadsley Jack held at the Sheffield Central Library, a great read once you get the hand of the dialect.

It's not entirely impossible that this could be the work of an eighteen-year old artist. Please could the collection confirm the source of the attribution to W. Lindley and the date of 1888. Perhaps there are inscriptions on the reverse -- an image of which would be helpful. Please could the collection also check and confirm the size of the painting. The measurements given (95.3 x 54.9 cm) suggest a canvas almost one metre high: if these are correct, the head would be painted on an over-lifesize scale.

Cliff Thornton,

The Census records reveals the various occupations undertaken by Reuben Hallam.
1851 records him as a Teacher of Singing
1861 and 1871 records him as a Spring Knife cutler.
1881 he (and 3 of his children) declare themselves to be artists.
1891 now aged 72 he has become a weighman
1901 he has returned to his trade as a spring knife cutler.
I recommend that you search on-line newspaper archives for his name. It occurs many times and in various circumstances.
So it is not surprising that by the time his portrait was exhibited in 1888, he was described as a "local celebrity".

As Judith Mutters says, Reuben Hallam was a once well-known Sheffield dialect writer best known for "Wadsley Jack: or the humours and adventures of a travelling cutler" (1888). According to a book dealer "he was a carver by trade who also forged knife blades. He was an accomplished organist and singer who in 1849 published "An Introduction to the Art of Singing". A nice photo, which supports the identification of the sitter in the Sheffield portrait, can be seen at http://www.picturesheffield.com/frontend.php?keywords=Ref_No_increment;EQUALS;s08149&pos=2&action=zoom

Osmund Bullock,

Even on the ordinary Art UK image - tweaked a bit - the signature and date, which are in the bottom left corner, can be seen fairly clearly. It does seem to be 1888 (or possibly '85); and although the name is not quite so clear, it looks much more like 'W. Lindley' than 'W. Eadon'. See attached 1.

Assuming the date is indeed 1888, the coincidence of another portrait exhibited the same year might lead one to suspect a mistake by the reporter. But in fact two different newspapers ascribe the exhibited work to Eadon (see attached 2); and of course with the publication of 'Wadsley Jack', 1888 was probably the peak of Hallam's fame - so it's not unlikely that more than one artist wanted to painted him.

Osmund Bullock,

Although probably no longer relevant to the painting under discussion, I should point out that the dates of 1870-1945 given for Eadon everywhere (including Art UK) are wrong: http://bit.ly/2nnZtMV & http://bit.ly/2o7L5FL . There are two or three different Willis Eadons who lived and/or were born locally in the right period, along with the odd Willy/Willie...but none of them was either born in 1870 or died in 1945!

Undoubtedly the right man was in fact born at Sheffield in Sept 1863, the son of John Eadon a cutlery manufacturer. In 1891 he was a school teacher living in outer south Sheffield (technically Derbyshire), but by 1901 had become an 'artist and photo engraver', as he was also in 1911. In 1909 he was on the Selecting/Hanging Committee of the Sheffield Society of Artists, and he is listed as an artist in Sheffield directories from 1901 until at least 1920. He later moved to the Peak District and died there in Jan 1948, followed exactly a week later by his wife Frances; they are buried at Baslow, near Chatsworth, where there is a quite interesting (if rather large) memorial to them: http://bit.ly/2oLMAwt

Cliff Thornton,

We can tell that W Lindley was an amateur artist from his membership of local art clubs. In Sheffield, professional artists were members of the Society of Artists. Amateur artists joined the other clubs in the city. Lindley was a member of the Surrey Art Club, which subsequently evolved into the Sheffield Art Society and Sketching Club.

The artist is perhaps the William Lindley born in 1858 whose death in 1903 was recorded in the Eccleshall Bierlow, Yorkshire, registration district and (presumably the same man) whose burial in the Wadsley, Yorkshire, registration district was recorded also in 1903.

Please could the collection check and confirm the size of the painting. The measurements given (95.3 x 54.9 cm) suggest a canvas at variance in its height-to-width proportion with the somewhat squarer image we see here. Moreover, if the canvas is indeed almost one metre high, then the head would be painted on a considerably over-lifesize scale.

Angela Nunn,

Reuben Hallam was certainly an artist himself. As a child I saw a receipt made out to him for a painting he had done for the Duke of Rutland, the receipt was from Belvoir Castle but the Rutlands also owned Haddon Hall near Sheffield. Unfortunately the receipt was lost when my grandfather died.

Edward Stone,

The collection has now had the opportunity to measure the artwork. Frame: 55.7 x 50.2 x 8 cm / Sight: 34 x 29.2 cm

We have adjusted our records accordingly. These changes will be visible on Art UK in due course.

In sum on the artists, mainly from the above:

William Lindley (1857–1903), amateur artist who was a member of the Surrey Art Club, Sheffield, which in 1895 evolved into the Sheffield Art Society and Sketching Club, when he became a member of its commitee and continued exhibiting with it. Lindley appears to have been born in Sheffield in March 1857, the elder son of a Britannia-metal smith, which the 1881 and 1891 censuses show was also his profession.He was buried at Wadsley, Yorkshire, in 1903.


Willis Eadon (1863–1948), artist, born at Sheffield on 14 September 1863, the son of John Eadon a cutlery manufacturer. In 1891 he was a school teacher living in outer south Sheffield (technically Derbyshire), but by 1901 had become an 'artist and photo engraver', as he was also in 1911. In 1909 he was on the Selecting/Hanging Committee of the Sheffield Society of Artists, and he is listed as an artist in Sheffield directories from 1901 until at least 1920. He later moved to the Derbyshire Peak District and died there on 21 January 1948, followed on the 28th by his wife Frances.They are buried at St Anne's, Baslow, where their substantial monument also commemorates their elder son Eric (b. 1900 ) and the latter’s fiancee Winifred Swinden. Both are also buried there, having died after the former’s motor-cycle collided with a coach in moorland fog in the summer of 1923.

With thanks to all who have contributed information so far on Lindley, Hallam and Eadon, to the collection for correcting the measurements and to Pieter for his summary, I think we are close to terminating this discussion. However, I suggest we need cautionary question marks qualifying Lindley's dates and possibly even his forename.

As far as I can see, it is not absolutely certain that the artist's first name was William, although this seems likely. It is also highly probable that our artist was the William Lindley whose death in 1903 was recorded in Eccleshall Bierlow, Yorkshire, and whose burial on 3 February 1903 was recorded in Wadsley, Yorkshire -- Wadsley, of course, tying in neatly with the titles of Reuben Hallam's 'Wadsley Jack' publications and, arguably, being more than chance coincidence. However, both the death and burial records give that William Lindley's birth year as 1858 -- not 1857. The 1881 census also gives 1858 as the birth year for the William Lindley who was recorded as a 'Brittania Mettlesmith (White Met)', living at 69 Woodside Lane, Brightside Bierlow.

The above said, William Lindley seems to have been a very common name in and around Sheffield at the time. For example there was a William Lindley born in Sheffield in 1836 who died there also in 1903. In brief, it might wise to record the artist's details in the form 'W. (?William) Lindley (?1858-?1903)', retaining the date of 1888 for the work, in which year Hallam would have been 70, which seems about right.



This discussion has attracted fifteen comments, all dating to 2017. The subject set up for discussion, namely that further information be sought on the artist W. Lindley seems to have been satisfactorily answered in Pieter’s post of 23 September 2017 and Richard’s of 25 September 2017. As the new Group leader for 19th century British Portraits, I support Richard’s recommendation that that the discussion should be closed on the basis that it has reached as reliable a conclusion as is possible. Richard: as Yorkshire and the Humber Group Leader would you be content to formally close this discussion?

Welcome, Jacob, to Art Detective - as Group Leader - and thank you for picking up this discussion, which I am happy to close.

The request for further information on W. Lindley has been fully addressed, with a helpful summary of findings provided by Pieter (23/09/2017). I withdraw my cautionary notes (25/09/2017), after allowing for the fact that dates of birth in census returns etc. are often correct only to within one year, since the recorder will have extrapolated the birth year from a current age given orally. With thanks again to all who have contributed to the discussion, I recommend that the artist be recorded as William Lindley (1857-1903). The date of 1888 for the work should be retained but, for the sake of consistency, it would be preferable to give the canvas size (albeit sight), 34 x 29.2 cm, rather than the frame size, 55.7 x 50.2 x 8 cm.

Thank you for the recommendations. The collection has been contacted. The curator is working limited hours and will respond as soon as she can.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes: welcome, Jacob. Although it scarcely merits more attention as an artwork, could we please hold fire briefly (and I do mean briefly) on this one? I have a couple of things that I want to add, but cannot address the matter until this evening/overnight.

Osmund Bullock,

Oh, and meanwhile, would a higher-res detail of the (bottom-left) signature - i.e. from Art UK's largest image - be possible? I just want to check the date and that it definitely reads 'W. Lindley' (though as expressed above on 08/04/2017 at 02:20, I am already reasonably certain of that).

On 11 October 2020 I recommended the discussion should be closed, a recommendation that Richard supported on 12 October, in both cases with a summing up. Osmund: I have assumed you have nothing vital to act following your 12 October post? Marion: the same day you contacted the collection, reporting that the curator was working limited hours and would respond as soon as she can. Time to move on?

Thank you, Jacob and Richard. I agree it is time, although if Osmund still has research to add and it is largely complete, I'd like to hear from him first. I've emailed the collection.

Osmund Bullock,

I started a post saying I thought the portrait didn't really warrant trying to dig out my research of three years ago and re-engage my brain with the subject. But I find that last October I began writing about an arguably better artist candidate; and though abandoned at the time, there's enough of it to make the task feasible without going mad. So I've written some more, and would have finished with one of my all-nighters - but that's impossible tonight (an early start tomorrow). I know I promise this every time in dozens of different discussions...but give me 36 hours and it'll be done. Honest, guv.

Osmund Bullock,

In the end it was so full of errors I had to rewrite it all.

‘W. Lindley’ is a lot harder to find than Willis Eadon. As Cliff says (and as one might have expected from the portrait), he was certainly an amateur. From around Oct 1889 until at least Mar 1897 he was a very active member of the Surrey Art Club (named for the Sheffield street, not the county – founded Autumn 1886) and its successor the Sheffield AS & SC, exhibiting at many of the monthly meetings, and latterly a committee member and occasional chairman. Interestingly so was Willis Eadon, a founding member and the Club’s Hon Sec in 1890; later he was frequently in the chair, and at many meetings gave critiques of the works exhibited by other members. Lindley and Eadon must in fact have known each other well, which adds an extra element to both men painting the same sitter in the same year. However nowhere is Lindley’s first name mentioned; and even it were it might not help – as Richard notes, Lindley was a very common name in Sheffield at the time, and there are many possible William (and some Walter) Lindleys, none of whom is easy to identify as our man.

Amongst so many possibles I don’t really understand why we’re plumping for William Lindley (1857–1903) as the likely artist. The vague tie-in of ‘Wadsley Jack’ with this William’s place of burial in Feb 1903 is a red herring: Wadsley had a very large graveyard (6 acres) for what was rapidly becoming a suburban church, and by 1900 it was being used almost as a municipal cemetery for parts of Sheffield (there were over 10,000 burials). According to his burial record Lindley actually died in the Ecclesall Barlow Union Workhouse (probably the infirmary), which was 4 or 5 miles south of Wadsley; prior to that he had lived in various other places in Sheffield, but never in Wadsley, and always at least a mile or two away.

Osmund Bullock,

It’s many years since I worked on this, but I know I could only find two W. Lindleys who seemed even vaguely middle-class – and certainly the one proposed above, William the metal smith (d.1903), was not. Class is of course per se no barrier to artistic endeavour, but the fact that our artist was on the committee of the SAC, and chaired some meetings, makes me think he is more likely to have been an educated man. My impression of the painting itself, too, is that it is by someone trying to imitate conventional ‘professional’ C19th style; amateur artists from backgrounds less familiar with establishment art often display a refreshing simplicity and originality of approach – what we value as ‘naive’ art.

Fortunately for us, one of the two middle-class William Lindleys I found – a life insurance agent and former Wesleyan preacher born c.1823 – died in 1892, so he can be ruled out. This leaves just one man standing, and he does rather fit the bill for an amateur artist active between 1889 & 1897. William Lindley (1833-1912) of Grenoside (a northern suburb of Sheffield) was from at least 1861 until some time in 1880s a schoolmaster like Willis Eadon – see attachments 1 & 2. In 1882 he stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for the local School Board (attached 3) and the following year his wife died suddenly at the age of 48. By the 1891 Census he had left teaching and was a ‘Newsagent & Correspondent’ (I think the agent part is to do with finding stories, not selling papers), lodging with a family near his old Grenoside home (attached 4). I suspect he may be the reason the meetings of the two art clubs were covered so frequently and in such detail by local papers – the almost monthly reports begin soon after ‘W. Lindley’ became a member, and cease abruptly and completely after Mar 1897 when he is last listed.

Osmund Bullock,

There is one final bit of circumstantial evidence, but it’s very tenuous. In the 1901 Census our sitter Reuben Hallam was living with his family at 142 Club Garden Road, Ecclesall. His next-door neighbour at no. 140 was an elementary (‘Board’) school teacher called Charles Waite (attached 5) – and 8 years earlier, in 1893, a William Lindley is listed at the same address in Kelly’s Directory (attached 6). Though there’s no proof this was my William Lindley of Grenoside, the latter’s brief 1912 obituary (attached 7) shows that he too had been an elementary (‘National’) school teacher. Frustratingly I cannot find a 1901 Census listing for him; but it seems possible that he was a lodger at no. 140 at the same time as Reuben Hallam was living at no. 142. Even if so, however, this cannot connect us directly to a portrait painted in 1888 – but perhaps it betokens some sort of relationship between the three men.

So if we are going to – unwisely, perhaps – hazard a guess at the identity of our artist ‘W. Lindley’, I would suggest that he is a rather better bet.

Thank you, Osmund. It was certainly worth waiting for one of your legendary 'all-nighters'. I am persuaded by your argument, tactfully presented, for the schoolmaster rather the metalsmith. I therefore agree, subject to Jacob's thoughts, that our artist is likely to be William Lindley (1833-1912) of Grenoside -- even if not quite certainly so.

I support the conclusion, based on Osmund's commendably detailed research, that our artist is likely to be William Lindley (1833-1912) of Grenoside. So the portrait can be described as attributed to this artist, subject to any comment by the collection.