British 19th C, except portraits, North West England: Artists and Subjects 18 Is it possible to find out more about the artist L.E. Davies?

St James's Church, Denton Street, Dentonholme, Carlisle
Topic: Artist

The Collection has commented: ‘Unfortunately we do not have any further information on file about the artist. Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust is happy for this topic to be opened for public discussion.’

Pat Haselton, Entry reviewed by Art UK

18 comments

Jacinto Regalado,

The date is given as 1890. The picture was a gift from a Mr Birkett in 2006. This could be amateur work.

Peter Nahum,

Pretty amateur, so any guess will be a long-shot.

Jacinto Regalado,

I found a 1908 picture by L.E. Davies with the same signature (click on "See item details" for more images, including one of the signature):

https://bit.ly/2TuSMd6

Jacinto Regalado,

Presumably Davies was a local Carlisle artist. Is the donor still available to be asked what he may know about the artist?

Jacinto Regalado,

The rendering of the church is approximate and the proportions are not quite right. Davies was better with the lions, but it does look like amateur work.

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose one could look for an L.E. Davies in Carlisle in the 1891 census, though the person may not show up as an artist. I'm not the right man for that job, and perhaps it's not worth the trouble, but it's worth considering.

The only L Davies resident in Carlisle in the 1891 census is Louisa Davies aged 39, wife of Evan Davies, railway guard, of 57 St Nicholas Street, parish St Cuthbert Without, Carlisle

Osmund Bullock,


I was a bit more specific nominally, Andrew, but less so temporally and geographically: I could find nobody of that exact surname, and with those two initials, who lived, voted, was born, married or died within 20 miles of Carlisle between 1858 & 1938. One could expand the radius, and vary the spelling, but in truth I don’t think the artwork’s quality justifies it.

Having said that, can it just be coincidence that from 1903 to 1919 the Vicar of the church in the painting, St James's, Carlisle, was the Rev David Ephraim Davies (later Hart-Davies, 1869-1946)? His wife was called Alice Winifred, and their children weren't born until 1906 onwards, so they can't be relevant. He had five siblings, but none had a name beginning with 'L' apart from a younger sister Hannah whose middle name was Louisa. The 'L E ' seemed clear enough on the picture of the lions when I looked at it a while back (the signature close-up has now been removed), but in our one it could just about be 'E E'. But even that doesn't really help - the only 'E' sibling was Eliza...and her middle initial was 'J'. His father Ephraim, a Welsh-born stonemason who lived in Liverpool, might just work (he died in Feb 1908); but nowhere - baptism, marriage, censuses, death or probate - is he recorded with any middle name/initial at all.

It's possible, I suppose, he had a cousin based elsewhere with those initials; if so I'm afraid I won't be the one searching for him/her - Davies is a common enough name anywhere, but as you move closer to Wales (e.g. Liverpool) its prevalence expands exponentially.

Osmund Bullock,

One final hypothesis, though frankly untestable in either direction: the Rev Davies was of the C of E, but at this time quite a strident supporter of its evangelical wing. His writings, too, included such tub-thumping titles as ‘The Severity of God: A Study of Judgment, Human and Divine’. This, along with his middle name and family background, suggests he may have had a certain, if confused sympathy with the rather sterner Christianity of “chapel” & non-conformism. Could it be that David Ephraim Davies was the artist of the picture himself? Perhaps he liked to paint on Sundays between services, but worried that people might consider painting an inappropriately frivolous activity for a man with a higher mission, especially on the Sabbath - or worse, that God might judge it so. A little tweak of the first initial from ‘D’ to ‘L’ should do it...God would still know, but was it really so bad? And at least it might save him from the opprobrium of his narrower-minded parishioners and some hyper-critical fellow churchmen...

Far-fetched, of course, but there is little to work with here; and I’m not sure a bit of imaginative (and not out of the question) invention doesn’t help make this rather dull picture a little more interesting.

Pat Haselton,

A few years ago I attached a few photos of two paintings which I still have in my possession done by L.E. Davies, for many years I thought that the scenery was of the Welsh mountains, the reason being that on one of the paintings under the signature L.E.Davies, it says, '13th Welsh Regiment'. My enquiries on this site did not seem to get a response until now! I can attach the photos again if that would help?

Osmund Bullock,

Pat, did you actually suggest a discussion about a painting that's on Art UK, or did you just ask about your own paintings? We only research artworks here that are publicly-owned and on the website, so unless the primary focus of your enquiry was one of those it wouldn't have gone further. And even if it *was* about an Art UK painting (e.g. this one), there's a huge backlog of many hundreds of suggestions that have been received; it can take a long time for one to reach the active discussion stage, I'm afraid, and some will probably never do so.

The good news, though, is that we *can* look at privately-owned artworks where they help inform an existing discussion...and it looks like your pictures might do just that. So, yes - I for one would welcome some photos of your works by L. E. Davies, along with anything you know about them...where you got them from, for instance, or are they connected with your family? Clear close-ups of the signatures would be helpful, as would some views of their backs (which are often as informative as the fronts) - clear snaps of any labels or inscriptions that are there can sometimes be very useful.

Pat Haselton,

Osmond, I was googling the name, and then the art uk site appeared with the painting of St James church, the style of painting looked very familiar so I signed up to the site, then attached the photos of the paintings we have for comparison. They must have got lost somewhere along the way, it was quite some time ago as I said, I'd forgotten about it, then seeing this discussion was a surprise to me! I will dig out the photos again, or maybe have to take some new ones. The scenes in the paintings, I now know are of the Lake District not the Welsh mountains. We were given them over 40yrs ago as a gift from a family member, who's grandparents (we've since found out) were farmers in Siloth. I don't think there is any family connection to the artist, they were possibly purchased in Carlisle.

Pat Haselton,

I hope these photos work, they were both in the original frames at one time, one of the frames is being repaired, and there may be too much reflection on the first one. It was the similarity with trees which first caught my attention to the St James painting. Maybe someone could recognize the area with the lake and mountains as I am still not too sure.

7 attachments
Marcie Doran,

After much fruitless searching of military records for L. E. Davies in the Welsh Regiment, I altered my approach and focused on the 1911 England and Wales Census. This Census includes the handwriting of the head of the household on the original images. Therefore, when I found a likely candidate, I compared the handwriting in the names area as well as the signature box to the signatures on the artworks.

I decided that the Art UK work (1890) would have likely been painted by a school-aged youth and that the painting of lions (1908) would have likely been painted by a young single man. The sophisticated paintings shared by Pat Haselton include references to the “Welsh Regiment”, therefore they would have been prepared by a military member - perhaps in WWI. That meant that the artist was likely a man who was born in Wales in 1875.

Using the wildcard “L*” for the first name and “Davies” for the last name, and adding caveats that the person be a man born in Wales and be the “head”, I reviewed various 1911 Census records and determined that a good match was Lemuel Edward Davies. In 1911, he was a 34-year-old “bank accountant”, residing with his wife of “under one” year Olwen Davies, age 26, in Bodlondeb, Newtown, Wales. He was born in Llanbister, Radnorshire, Wales. Another search revealed that he passed away on November 20, 1953. I have applied for his probate record.

As an accountant at a bank, his signature in the signature box on the 1911 Census is very formal, as one would expect. His signatures on his paintings are much less formal (and much more legible - he obviously did not use his formal signature because he knew it was difficult to interpret it). However, his handwriting on the 1911 Census record shows many similarities to the signatures on the artworks: the “L” for his first name is like a pound sign; he uses both squared capital “E”s and rounded capital “E”s; he adds an embellishment to the “S” in his formal signature and when signing the 1908 and war years artworks. I have attached a composite to make it easier to compare the writing samples.

A family tree and other records on Ancestry show that Lemuel Edward Davies was born in 1876 and that his birth parents were John Davies and Mary Powell. In 1881, he was living with them at 55 Prices Lane, Stansty, Wrexham, Wales. He was later adopted by Simon and Elizabeth Jones (likely née Gleave) of Wrexham. This adoption is noted in the 1891 Census entry (he is listed as “Samuel E Davis”). The 1939 England and Wales Register (search for “Samuel Davies”) shows Lemuel and Olwen and their daughters living in Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire, Wales. Lemuel’s birth date is shown as May 27, 1876.

Simon Jones is shown on the 1881 Census as a “Master Confectioner (Local Baptist Preacher)”. As shown on the 1911 Census, he and his wife had no natural children of their own. Simon Jones was a busy man. In addition to being a master confectioner and preacher, he was an alderman and the “chairman of the Art School Committee”.

Lemuel might have painted the church in Carlisle as a result of the family’s association with their neighbours. Margaret Jane Edgar, who lived next door in 1891, was from Carlisle. Her brother James Edgar was the postmaster.

The “Wrexham and Denbighshire Advertiser and Cheshire Shropshire and North Wales Register” has articles that provide context for the Art UK artwork. I have included the links to four of the articles but I have also attached portions of them.

1. Saturday, November 1, 1890 p. 5 (column 5)
“THE ART CLASSES. The Wrexham art classes were commenced on Tuesday, and the promise is very encouraging. Twenty-nine ladies and twenty-four gentlemen have joined the evening classes, and no doubt others will secure the advantages which are thus presented”.
https://tinyurl.com/bmv6yvyb

2. August 1, 1891 p. 5 (column 6)
“WREXHAM SCIENCE AND ART CLASSES”
Lemuel E. Davies included in “freehand” ”1st classes”.
https://tinyurl.com/v2wydy4

3. March 5, 1892 p. 6 (columns 1 and 2)
“THE WREXHAM ART CLASSES
THE SECOND YEAR’S WORK”
Lemuel E. Davies included in “freehand” ”1st class”.
https://tinyurl.com/kc2av4nu

4. July 28, 1900 p. 5 (column 5)
“COUNTY SCHOOL, GROVE PARK - ... and Mr Lemuel E. Davies has passed the examination of the Institute of Bankers in political economy, practical banking, commercial law, arithmetic, algebra, and book-keeping, and has been awarded a prize of £5”.
https://tinyurl.com/8ye2axs9

Pat Haselton,

Marcie, that is really wonderful research you have done, I think you have definitely found him. When I first began searching for L. E. Davies many years ago, I realized that he could have been the same age as my own military grandfather, who was born in 1877, he enlisted into the Northumberland Fusiliers aged 14, went to India and then onto the Boar War, then WW1. It is interesting as the N.F.’s and the 13th Welsh fought along side each other, there is a memorial statue to the 13th at Mametz Wood. My search into military records, having only ‘L.E.’ to start with brought up a highly decorated L.E (Price-Davies) and after contacting one of his family members through Ancestry, the response was negative. It Is still possible that Lemanuel did fight in these wars, and I have saved a couple of possible records with regimental #7385. One of the records is transcribed wrongly as E.E. Davies but the regimental # is the same. Your findings of a definite Welsh connection have now made me change my mind once again, I believe that the paintings are of the Welsh mountains. The other mystery now is how these painting came to be in our family’s possession, and wondering if there was an estate sale at some time after L.E.’s death in 1953? I have printed all of your findings and records, they will be kept with the paintings. You and all others have been so very helpful, many thanks.

Marcie Doran,

You’re very welcome, Pat. I hope that others will be able to find documents that support my conclusions.

I received the will of Lemuel Edward Davies today. It was drafted on September 24, 1943, and he left his sizeable estate to his wife Olwen Davies. His signature on the document is much like the one on the 1911 Census, although it is not as neatly done.

I have an idea about the painting of lions from 1908. On April 11, 1908, the following notice appeared in the Evening Express, a Welsh newspaper. Perhaps the artist travelled to London in 1908 to see the lions.

“CARGO OF WILD BEASTS A cargo of wild animals was landed at Goole yesterday from Carl Hagenbeck's collection in Hamburg for Southport Park Zoological Gardens. The cargo comprised two elephants, two lions, one dromedary, one antelope, two tigers, two wolves, one panther, one jaguar, two deer, two emus, one zebra, one jackal, two tapir, two baboons, monkeys, parrots, and twelve small performing animals.”

According to an article by Geoff Wright that was cited here: https://tinyurl.com/3r5sn2t6

“Southport’s 12-acre ‘Zoological Park’ (Kew Gardens), which had started in at least the 1880s, is last recorded in the directories, in 1914. Visitors would travel via horse tram to enjoy the zoo gardens with its pavilion and lake, which even featured gondoliers.

Tragedy had struck the zoo in 1908 when a serious fire ravaged W Simpson Cross’s exhibited collection of animals, birds and reptiles.

The fire appears to have been the start of the zoo’s downfall, then the trams stopped running down Scarisbrick New Road so Kew Gardens and its zoo closed shortly after the First World War.”

An article in the Westminster Gazette (October 22, 1908) states that the fire that broke out in the early morning of October 22 originated in a stable and that the lion house was saved.

Note that the lion and lioness painting by L.E. Davies is a copy of a popular painting by Edwin Landseer (location unknown to me). This was a famous image, reproduced as a Pears Soap chromolithograph print and would have been widely available to copy. Many copies have come up in auctions.

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