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Social history and biography of

James Charles Oldmeadow (painter)

Overview

While researching the history of John Orde Romney, buried at Great Malvern, the great grandson of the famous British painter George Romney, we were told that nearby is buried the Malvern based Victorian painter James Charles Oldmeadow, who died at Malvern in 1875. Little seems to have been published about him so here is a short story about the painter and his immediate family.

James Charles Oldmeadow moved to Great Malvern from Cheltenham in the late 1850s, where he is recorded in the census, lastly living in Beauchamp Terrace, Great Malvern. He must have produced lots of paintings in the locality. Works we have found include - 'The Malvern Hills', 'Little Malvern' and 'An old farmhouse near Malvern' amongst many others.

There is only a fleeting mention of him in the dictionary of Victorian Painters, to quote:

Oldmeadow J C flourished 1841 - 1849

Exhibited two works at the British Institution (which existed 1806-1867), views of Eton College and Windsor Castle, and one work, a view of Morr Park House, at the RA. Address is Bushey, Hertfordshire. Possibly the same as F A Oldmeadow.

In fact, Frederick Augustus Oldmeadow (1818 - 1858), also a painter, was James' brother, and they were sons of William Henry Oldmeadow, a miniature painter.

Obituary

An obituary of James Charles Oldmeadow was published in the Malvern News on 16th January 1875. The transcription (with slight amendment) reads:

Death has taken from us a man as well known in the district as the Malvern Hills themselves - Mr James Charles Oldmeadow, the artist, he having died on Monday morning, aged fifty-five.

He has left behind him a family of seven children, three of them of tender years; who will now be dependent on their brother for support, combined with warm-hearted, tender feeling charity, which we feel certain will be extended to them - poor little innocents. The third son is married, and has been away from Malvern for some time. The mother died about two years ago.

Mr J C Oldmeadow was born at Colchester in the year 1820, being the son of the celebrated miniature painter of the same name. In course of time, having shown a talent for drawing he was admitted a pupil of the Royal Academy, having studied under Arden. While in the academy, and just after he had passed his 14th birthday, he took a prize for the best example in water-colours. When he left he took a tour on the continent, visiting Switzerland and other places of note.

He was a very rapid sketcher and brought home with him many outlines, which he filled up in a bold and dashing style - his real forte. These were soon bought up when exhibited; and the works of Oldmeadow became sought after. At the Worcester exhibition his works sold well, his 'Nook at Cradely', and 'Scenery at Bransford' were among the first sold of their year.

There is a story told of him, for which we can vouch, and as it contains a very strong point in his favour, we give it. Many a Malvern tradesman can affirm its accuracy - its only another illustration of Malvern men for Malvern'. A few years ago the leading tradesman of the town combined to have a painting of Malvern exhibited at certain railway stations; and when the artist was to be appointed some nominated Oldmeadow, others Bedford of London. The stranger was elected. He waited on the committee, took their instructions, and promised a sketch in a certain time. He went to town, sent for Oldmeadow, gave him the committee's instructions, which he carried out, and in due course Oldmeadow's sketch, with Bedford's name on it, went before the committee. It was approved, taken away and finished by Oldmeadow. He forwarded it to London, whence it was sent by Bedford to Malvern, every member of the committee being highly delighted with it - one remarking that Oldmeadow could not have produced such a drawing. The committee were satisfied to pay Bedford double what Oldmeadow would have charged, because Bedford was not a Malvern man, and yet a Malvern man did the work after all. This statement has not appeared in print before, but we had it from an undoubted source, and we think the committee found it out afterwards.

Financial difficulties

We wondered how J C Oldmeadow could afford to support his family of about ten children, given earnings from selling paintings and prints was problematic, and he did not appear to come from a wealthy family.

Entries in the London Gazette confirm he did at times have financial problems.

In the London Gazette of 30th May 1841 James Charles Oldmeadow is cited for bankruptcy in Cheltenham. He is again cited for bankruptcy eight years later in the London Gazette of 23rd September 1859; the latter report tells us where he lived, and that he moved his lodgings often, perhaps because of difficulty paying his rent. The transcript of 1859 begins:

Whereas a petition of James Charles Oldmeadow (known as James Oldmeadow), now and for two months last past residing at Grafton Place, Great Malvern, in the county of Worcester, in lodgings, and carrying on the business of an Artist, at premises occupied by Messrs Smith and and McNaught, coach builders, Malvern, county aforesaid, previously of Underdown Villa, North Malvern, county aforesaid, in lodgings and out of business, previously of the Star Hotel, Malvern Link, county aforesaid, Licensed Victualler, previously of No 12, Montpellier Street, Cheltenham, in the county of Gloucester, Printseller and Artist, and formerly of No 1, Montpellier Street, Cheltenham, in the said county, Printseller and Artist, an insolvent debtor, having filed in the County Court of Worcestershire, and Upton-upon-Severn, and an interim order for protection from process having been given to the said James Charles Oldmeadow, under the provision of the Statutes in that case made and provided, the said James Charles Oldmeadow is hereby required to appear before the said Court on the 14th day of October next ...

It is interesting that despite his debts, and having to support many children, he became a well respected local artist - perhaps in Great Malvern he was able to sell his paintings in greater numbers as souvenirs to wealthy clients visiting the town for the water cure. He is also recorded in a Trade Directory as a teacher of drawing, and it is thought he may have sold artist's brushes.

Family

James Charle Oldmeadow married Emma Turfrey at London in 1846. They had ten children or thereabouts - Cornelius Turfrey, James Charles, Oliver, James Thomas, Thomas, Joseph Charles, Alice, Blanche Beatrice, Emily Rose, Mary Laura and Kate.

Cornelius was admitted to Powick Asylum, the year after his father's death, where he died in 1907. James Charles became a locksmith in Cheltenham and was married when his father died.

Oliver married and had several jobs, for example butler and engine driver; in 1911 he was a house painter in Stroud. He had three sons who survived the Great War.

James Thomas became a gas fitter and plumber. He married but was widowed at an early age and had no children. Thomas had died before his parents, aged 14. Joseph Charles is last recorded as a hairdresser at Leamington Prior.

Alice married tailor Henry Richard Humphries in 1879 and the couple had 7 daughters.

Blanche seems to have remained on her own in Malvern, after her parents' death working as a milliner. In 1892 she married hairdresser John Henry Lea.

Kate had died aged three, and the surviving two youngest orphaned daughters Emily and Mary were adopted by William George Ingall (1825 -  1901) of Sparkhill Birmingham. He was a partner in the business Ingall, Parsons, Clive and Co.

Ingall, Parsons, Clive & Co. Ltd. was a brassfounder and coffin manufacturer and was regarded as a leading funeral supply company in the UK in the 20th century. The business was established in Birmingham in 1888 following the amalgamation of fifteen companies in the city.

Emily Rose Ingall Morrison married Scottish solicitor James Simpson Morrison (1857 - 1894) at Sparkbrook Birmingham in 1885. He was a partner in Morrison and Thomson of Wishaw. It seems likely that James became ill for in 1893 the partnership was dissolved and in 1894 he died at Glasgow. The couple had two children Mary Gladys and Eric Simpson.

In 1904 at Birmingham, Emily married, second, veterinary surgeon Lawton Stilgor Sedwick (1876 - 1918). In 1914, he enlisted with the Royal Army Veterinary Corp and is recorded travelling to Kobe in Japan and Rangoon in Burma. At some time the couple must have split up as he married second in 1918 Hilda Drummond Sharpe, by whom he had a son; he died shortly after in Wales.

Possibly Emily and/or her sons emigrated to Canada circa 1913. Son Eric was living in Canada and had married when WWI started, but he returned to England and became a pilot. His entry in the CWGC database of casualties reads:

Second Lieutenant, 27 Squadron RAF, died 7th July 1918, aged 24 years.

Son of James Simpson Morrison and Emily Rose Morrison of Wishaw, Scotland; husband of Marjorie Morrison, of Girvin, Saskatchewan, Canada.

We found this account of Eric's death posted by Gareth on the invisionzone website in 2008:

2nd Lt E S Morrison was a pilot in 27 Squadron RAF. On 7 July 1918 he was flying DH 9 B9338, with Lt Paul Frederick Hobson Webb as observer, on a bombing mission from Ruisseauville aerodrome, when the aeroplane stalled, flat turned and spun into the ground from 80 feet. The machine caught fire and its bombs exploded, killing both airmen.

Mary Laura Ingall Morrison the youngest surviving daughter of the painter married clergyman William Card (1861 - 1916) in Birmingham, Sparkhill, in 1892. The couple had two sons architect Raymond William George Card and David Brownlow Ingall Card. The family emigrated to Canada about 1913; both sons served with the Canadian Infantry. Raymond was badly wounded but both sons survived the Great War. Raymond seems to have inherited his grandfather's artistic talent and became an architect.

Father

Miniature painter, William Henry Oldmeadow was born in London about 1793 and died at Malvern in 1861, while staying with his son and grandchildren. His wife Susannah Ramus died eight years later in 1869. We know little about him.

The 1851 census records that he was by then nearly blind and the 1861 census records he was blind.

Malvern School of Art

Malvern has always attracted painters, but it was not until after the death of James Charles Oldmeadow that the Malvern School of Art came into being about 1886. The building in Victoria Road still has an art department but is now part of South Worcestershire College.

In recent times Victor Hume Moody was headmaster of the Malvern School of Art between 1935 and 1962. His daughter Catherine Moody (1920 - 2009) became a Malvern artist and, like her father, was a President of the Malvern Art Club and head of Malvern School of Art (1962 - 1980). Her obituary was published in the Priory magazine - it's worth reading and you can find a copy on the Liss Llewellyn Fine Art website

(If you are interested in church matters, you can now read recent issues of the Priory Magazine on-line.)

At one time artists exhibited their pictures at the back of the Malvern Theatres building, but sadly the Terrace disappeared when the theatre complex was modernised; however there is still a group named the  Malvern Terrace Artists.


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References

  1. Census of England and Wales
  2. Census of Scotland
  3. Index of Births Marriages and Deaths
  4. National Probate Register
  5. Wikipedia
  6. Oxford Dictionary of Art

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