19 May 2022 update: I’ve been tidying up my notes today, and have completely forgotten how to re-blog on WordPress. If you want to know more about the Ingenious Mr Fairchild, who was born in Aldbourne, a really good reference is the Gardens Trust blog. Both articles were published in June 2017.
9 June 2019 update – editing my notes about Thomas Fairchild on the anniversary of his baptism in Aldbourne 352 years ago. The Wellcome Collection : The wisdom of God in the vegetable creation. A sermon preach’d in the parish-church of St. Leonard Shoreditch, on Whitson-Tuesday, May 19, 1730. At the first opening of an annual lecture on that subject, founded by Mr. Thomas Fairchild –Denne, John, 1693-1767 Date 1730https://wellcomecollection.org/works/tnpdku9g/items?sierraId=b30374777&langCode=eng
November 2018: Aldbourne Community Heritage Group – ‘who lived in Aldbourne‘. An excellent presentation by Jan Lambourn, exploring Mr Fairchild’s ingenuity and curiosity.
The portrait is signed ‘M E Wilson’, and I have been wondering if the artist could be Margaret Evangeline Wilson (1890 -1977). The Art UK website has a number of paintings by this artist; including some portraits. I am also wondering if it is the same portrait of Eleanor Maud Cheramy described in the February 1974 Aldbourne Parish News:
Your readers might like to know that Madame Cheramy’s portrait, showing her wearing her war decorations, was painted by a famous artist in 1963. It was hung in the Grande Palais (Academie Royale) in Paris, where it was awarded the Gold Medal, the Top Award.
L.M. Gillingham, Dorset December 1973
Eleanor Maud Cheramy nee Hawkins was the subject of a run of articles and shared memories in the Parish News during the early 1970s. She and her husband, Eugene Charles Cheramy, are mentioned often in books and articles describing the Pat O’Leary Line and the French Resistance during the Second World War. An inspiring woman, who overcame great hardship and injury to return to Britain and live quietly by the sea in Southern England. She died in 1987 and it is believed her ashes returned to France with her son, Michel, who died in 1990. It has been my privilege to chat with Susan Hook (nee Hawkins), a third cousin twice removed of this courageous Dabchick. Sue came to visit the Aldbourne Heritage Centre in 2018 and has conducted a huge amount of research which she has been kind enough to share.
Definitely one of those ‘paws for thought’ places on our daily dog walks around the village. A fabulous and very popular pop-up idea. Local artists, including the village school children, and artists from further afield have contributed since the gallery opened the box in lock-down. A conversation point in passing which always makes me smile, even on the darkest of days.
The gallery has been created by Louisa Fitch, and Louisa is currently researching access to the arts in rural areas. You can help by completing the questionnaire at http://galleryofthegiants.com/survey/
This watercolour by Frank Batson (1896) was purchased by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society with the aid of the MGC and V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
In 1989 the Society acquired an 1890s painting of the church, ‘Evensong: Aldbourne’ by Frank Batson of Ramsbury, to record the work of R.G. Hurn who had recently retired as Treasurer, a print of which fronted the 1990 Christmas card.
Andrew Sewell – “Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne (1994)
Parliament Piece … on one of his visits to Ramsbury Cromwell was said to have held a Parliament in the grounds adjacent to the house. It was from that that the owner in the 1920s … renamed it Parliament Piece as he could not stand its earlier name of the ‘Rookery’. Before he bought it, the house and Hilldrop had been owned for over two hundred years by the Batson family who took a prominent part in village life. Their wealth had been created in the slave trade and sugar plantations of Barbados in the 17th century.
Barbara Croucher “The Village in the Valley – A History of Ramsbury” (1986)
In the early 18th century, a Batson heiress and her husband, William Davies bought the property. Their eldest son, Thomas, died in 1759 without marrying, but had changed his surname to Batson. His brother, Edmond, changed his whole name to Thomas Batson. Edmond married Elizabeth, ‘one of the ancient family of Lascelles, of the County of York’. Edmond/Thomas and Elizabeth didn’t have children, so the property was passed through a succession of nephews (including the Meyrick family) until vested in Alfred Batson – who returned from Italy following the death of his father (also Alfred) – in 1856.
I wouldn’t have been able to navigate the Batson family without the assistance of Barbara Croucher’s fascinating writing, and the discovery of the fabulous new book (with amazing photos and illustrations) by Rowan Whimster, published in 2020 by the Friends of Holy Cross Church, Ramsbury.
There are memorials to the family in Holy Cross Church and churchyard. Frank’s ashes were interred in Holy Cross churchyard in 1931. Information from a register produced by Jane Handford is on the Ramsbury web page of findagrave.com. This is searchable by name or surname.
In the 1851 census Alfred and Mary Elizabeth Batson and their five children were listed as resident in ‘Babbicombe’, Devon. By 1861 and living in Ramsbury, the rapidly increasing family included ‘Francis C’, aged 2, born in the village.
The Batson family certainly played a huge role in Ramsbury life soon after arriving in the village.
Education of the village’s children became an urgent priority for Ramsbury’s Victorian movers and shakers. Those same influential figures were also determined to help illiterate adults escape the bonds of rural poverty. In the 1860s Alfred Batson of Parliament Piece and the Burdett family from Ramsbury Manor joined forces to provide a village meeting room as an alternative to the temptations of the village’s pubs and drinking houses. As well as accommodating a soup kitchen for destitute agricultural labourers and their families, the Burdett Reading Room [now the village library] was the venue for night classes run by the Batson family.
Rowan Whimster – “Ramsbury: A Place and Its People” (2020)
By 1881, Francis C was 22 and his occupation was given as ‘Captain Royal Lancashire Militia’. In the 1891 Francis C Batson was the head of the household in Ramsbury, occupation ‘Artist’.
One of the earliest references to Frank Batson’s work that I’ve found is a report on the Bazaar at Ramsbury Manor in July 1891. This was a fundraiser towards the restoration of the ancient parish church at Ramsbury. The goodies listed on ‘Mrs Batson’s stall’ include a fine display of embroidery and a large number of pictures in watercolours and oils. Sketches ‘from the brushes of Mr Frank Batson and Mr Stephen Batson’ found a ready sale. (Newbury Weekly News 23 July 1891).
Andrew Sewell observed in his notes dated 1989 that there are four labels on the back of the Batson painting in the Wiltshire Museum.
In the spring of 1904, The Cornishman newspaper reported that the same painting was exhibited by Frank Batson at the Newlyn Art Gallery. In March 1905, the Western Morning News described Frank Batson’s contributions to the collection at the Passmore Edwards art gallery, destined for the Royal Academy and other London exhibitions – “three Venetian subjects, which were small but dainty”. Easier to transport than the 6’x4′ cricket painting!
Frank Batson was listed on the 1911 Census as a theology student, boarding in Castle Gate, Nottingham. The Nottingham Evening Post 29 September 1919 noted that he and his brother, the Rev V.L. Batson, presented three watercolours by their father, Alfred, to the Nottingham Castle Museum. Frank may have moved from Nottingham between 1911 and his death in 1931, but at the time of his death his residence was given as Fern Lodge, Chilwell, Nottinghamshire. Probate granted to Elizabeth Annie Batson, widow. The Nottinghamshire Society of Artists included some of Frank’s works in a memorial exhibition during the autumn 1931 (Nottingham Evening Post 12 November 1931).
Frank Batson had eleven siblings, some of them have their own stories reported in history books and the national press. There are reports featuring the self-styled ‘King of Lundy’ (Arthur Wellesley Batson) which I’ll save for another article on another day. A sister-in-law, Henrietta Batson, collected folk songs and Mummers Plays; including versions from Chilton Foliat and Baydon. The Baydon version was the foundation for the return of the tradition to Aldbourne in 2018 https://aldbournearchive.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/aldbourne-tradition-revived-the-mummers-are-back/.
With thanks to Warwick Hood, Jenny Greaves and of course the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. I’m so glad that I’ve finally got round to writing up our chats about the painting and started a journey into the Batson family history. More to come!
Leeds Art Gallery has this year received generous treatment from the Contemporary Art Society. “Aldbourn”, a landscape by the late Derwent Lees is a study of the little Wiltshire village in the rich colours of dawn, when the sky is already brilliant but the trees and buildings of the village are still slumbering in the half-light. One of the largest pictures Derwent Lees painted, it was exhibited in Australia and New Zeland in 1934-35. It was then the property of Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill.
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 26 March 1938 – British Newspapers, Find My Past
Derwent Lees (1884–1931) Australian painter, active mainly in Britain. As a boy he lost a foot in a riding accident. He studied at Melbourne University and in Paris before settling in London, where he trained at the Slade School, 1905–8. From 1908 to 1918 he taught drawing at the Slade. He was a close friend of J. D. Innes and Augustus John and often travelled and worked with them. His main subject was landscape and he shared with them a lyrical response to the countryside; usually he worked on a small scale, with fluid brushwork in oil on panel or watercolour. He travelled widely, visiting Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. In his biography of Augustus John (1976), Michael Holroyd describes Lees as ‘a copycat of genius…He could paint McEvoys, Inneses or Johns at will and with a fluency that sometimes makes them almost indistinguishable from their originals—though his figures with their great dense areas of cheek and chin do have originality.’ In about 1918 Lees began to suffer from mental illness and spent the rest of his life confined in an institution.
Text source: Art UK/A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art (Oxford University Press)
Exploring #AldbourneinArt again this morning. Two watercolours by D.M.Pimm. With thanks to John Brown and family.
‘Dobs/Dob’ Doris May (Mary) Pimm.(1889-1970) was a granddaughter of George Dunkerton Hiscox (1830 – 1901). George Dunkerton Hiscox was a school art teacher, artist, sculptor and drawing master to the daughter of Queen Victoria.
A link between two Aldbourne Artists both exploring a theme removed from our downland landscape, and away from land locked Wiltshire.
Andrea West has included several studies of boats in her lock-down gallery, including this one:
Back in 1914, although she didn’t live in Aldbourne at the time, another watercolour artist, Miss Adeline Fox, exhibited ‘Fishing Boats’ at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (sadly, we don’t have an image of that painting):
The “Twenty Years of British Art” Exhibition, held here in Summer, 1910, showed a review of art as it had developed in this country in the concluding decade of last century and the first of the present century. It showed that artists had moved away from an academic treatment of history, anecdote, and sentimentality, and had gone in search of a more brilliant treatment of light in landscape, of more truly decorative treatments of subject, and of a more intimate treatment of human life generally.
The “Twentieth Century Art“ exhibition (1914) is concerned with the progress of art, since the absorption of the impressionist teaching, as shown in the work of the younger British artists and of artists of foreign origin working in this country.
Born in 1870, Miss Adeline Fox, who lived with her sister Evelyn at The Old Rectory between 1923-1945, was an accomplished watercolour artist. I have been able to find newspaper articles mentioning her work going back to 1910. During their time in Aldbourne, the Misses Fox were renowned for their generosity to village good causes; lending their grounds for fund-raising events, and most notably paying for senior citizens to be driven to the Annual Tea.
In May 2020 Art UK set up Curations, an on-line tool that allows anyone to curate their own group of artworks within the ArtUK website. This has provided me with a great opportunity to gather some of the art inspired by our village, the people and the surrounding landscape.
Click on the image ‘Cottages at Aldbourne’ by Ambrose McEvoy to see my Curations gallery
My gallery is a work in progress, because together with the obvious works, where Aldbourne features in the title or description, I have gathered several that have a connection with the village in some other way.
For example, ‘Silver and Grey’ by Ambrose McEvoy – his portrait of Gwen, his sister-in-law and wife of playwright Charles McEvoy (1915). The portrait was painted five years after ‘The Village Wedding’ took to the stage at the Malt House, Aldbourne.
Other notables are H.J.P ‘Jimmy’ Bomford of Laines, who presented artworks that helped establish Swindon’s renowned collection of modern British art, including ‘Composition’ by Jankel Adler, who lived in Castle Street. More about Mr Bomford will follow, with links to Swindon Museum & Art Gallery and Art on Tour 2020.
Also in the collection are Thomas and Ruth Lowinsky who arrived at the Old Rectory, Aldbourne in 1945. The curated works include a painting presented to the National Gallery in remembrance of their son, Lt. T.M.F.E. Lowinsky, killed at Anzio in 1944.
There’s always the chance that other village connections will surface!
My plan is to branch out towards other on-line collections and projects; such as ‘Water Colour World’ and ‘Creative Wiltshire’ – so more soon!
At the start of the COVID-19 lock-down in March 2020, talented Aldbourne Artist Andrea West decided to set herself the task of painting one watercolour picture every day for the duration. This beautiful virtual gallery is a record of her paintings. Music courtesy of Aldbourne Band Thank you to Peter and Andrea for sharing the link with me.
Look out in May for yellow iris around the pond in Aldbourne. They make a real splash of colour, together with the pink blossom of the horse-chestnut trees. This year at about the time they first appeared, I spotted a fascinating article by Karen Andrews (aka ‘Botany Karen’) setting out some other common names for this flower; including ‘Yellow Flags’. You can read Karen’s full article here. Karen connects to a 14th century tile in the Louvre, which reminded me of six tiles of a similar age found in Aldbourne and now in the British Museum. I’m not sure when these tiles were found, but it may have been sometime in the 19th century. There’s a mention of ‘medieval tiles’ as part of Mr Walter Lawrence’s collection, proudly displayed at the Crown to visiting members of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1894. Possibly the first instance of a ‘pop-up’ Museum in the village. The six tiles found at the Court House were acquired by the British Museum in 1947, are just a tiny part of the huge collection belonging to the 9th Duke of Rutland (1886-1940). We’ll probably never know if Mr Lawrence discovered his tiles at the Court House, or if the newspaper article refers to other discoveries; or (if they were the Court House tiles) how they found their way to the Duke of Rutland. Dating tiles is a mystery to me. At least one of the six in London is listed as ‘made in Clarendon’; how do they know that? Mind you, I’ve seen an article that speaks of tiles from the mosaic at Littlecote House having been made at Minety, which is fascinating, but that’ll be another article for another day!
Returning to the Yellow Iris, or Fleur-de-Lys, there was an interesting display during 2018 at the Aldbourne Heritage Centre, researched by Warwick Hood and reproduced in part here with his very kind permission.
THE COURT HOUSE TILES
The four decorated floor tiles shown here are the best examples from six medieval tiles that were found in the garden of Court House. The six date from between about 1280 and 1412 and are now held by the British Museum.The tiles form part of the Rutland Collection, assembled by the 9th Duke of Rutland (1886-1940) and originally kept at his family seat, Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. The collection was sold to the British Museum in 1947 by his son, the 10th Duke.
Two of the six tiles date from before 1300, evidence that a substantial house or hall existed on the site at that time. The pattern of one of the other tiles, dating from the 14th century, resembles a fleur-de-lys. This was a prominent feature of the coat of arms of the Dukes of Lancaster in the 14th century, as can be seen in the tunics of Henry of Grosmont and John O’Gaunt, both pictured below
The Hall, the oldest part of the present house, has a fine fireplace into which have been carved a rose and a fleur-de-lys. Both the Rose of Lancaster and the fleur-de-lys are closely linked with John of Gaunt. The presence of these carved symbols has therefore been cited as evidence for the link between John O’Gaunt and Court House.
The puzzle is that the fireplace dates from 100-200 years after John’s death in 1399! Maybe the symbols were added later to celebrate the earlier link with John? Or perhaps they mark a later connection with the Crown, which held Aldbourne Manor for much of the Tudor and Stuart period up to 1627? All of the Tudor and Stuart monarchs used the fleur-de-lys and the rose – by then the Union Rose combining the roses of Lancaster and York – as important symbols.
The yellow flags by the pond, and the fleur-de-lys have also made their way into the exquisite ‘Awborne Gospels’. a current illuminated manuscript project by Jenny Greaves, inspired by the beautiful works of Medieval scribes and artists. The manuscript initially set out to present John Wycliffe’s fourteenth century translation of the Four Gospels into English – this unauthorised translation enabled Aldbourne’s Medieval residents to hear, for the first time, the Bible in their own language. The challenge of these “Awborne Gospels” is to illustrate each page with something to do with our village. As Jenny’s project progresses, the breadth and depth of our village’s history and culture are proving to be near infinite.