Social history and biography of
James Charles Oldmeadow (painter)
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:
In fact, Frederick Augustus Oldmeadow (1818 - 1858), also a painter, was James' brother, and they were sons of William Henry Oldmeadow, a miniature painter.
An obituary of James Charles Oldmeadow was published in the Malvern News on 16th January 1875. The transcription (with slight amendment) reads:
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:
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.
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:
We found this account of Eric's death posted by Gareth on the invisionzone website in 2008:
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.
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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Last updated 18th March 2015