I had airbrushed cigarette card portraits of football stars of the 30s and 40s in mind as I traced this newspaper photograph of Lincoln City full back (1939-1947), Alex Thompson (who would later be one of my teachers at junior school). You can see the coarse dotted screen tones of the original in the background of my drawing.
Unfortunately, by enlarging the photograph, I’ve lost clues to the shape of the face that you can pick up in the small version. They get flattened into amorphous grey areas of pixels when enlarged.
Drawn from Memory
If you allow for his face filling out since his lean, fit footballing days, I don’t think that my drawn-from-memory brush and ink of him as a teacher was too far off the mark. I drew this before I came across the photograph.
My grandad, Robert Bell, always referred to my grandma Jane as Ginny. That name must have gone back a long way because, delving back into my family tree on Find My Past, I’ve found that she was entered on the 1901 census as ‘Jennie Bagshawe’ (in fact, that should be Bagshaw, but I think that extra ‘e’ adds a certain cachet).
Then aged 22, she was working as cook in the household of Helen Taylor, widow, alongside Clara Holmes, 21, housemaid, who was born in Eckington, Derbyshire. Also resident at Mrs Taylor’s was her son, Joseph G Taylor, aged 37, a saw manufacturer.
Sheffield was heavily bombed during the World War II Blitz so many of the homes of my ancestors, including my mum’s family home and my great-grandma’s home next door, were destroyed, so I was delighted to find that the house where grandma cooked so many meals was still intact, along with its gateposts.
I can imagine Jennie and Clara sharing the attic room. I once asked grandma what was involved in domestic work and she recalled that it was a long day, starting with setting the fires very early in the morning.
I remember that she was a good cook and it was amazing how she and Robert could create a Sunday dinner, Yorkshire puddings included, for seven at Vine Cottage with just a single ring on a paraffin primus stove and the oven in the cast iron range, heated by a coal fire. The kettle, with its handle insulated by string wound around it, went on some kind of a rack in front of the fire.
In 1975 or 76, I cooked her my signature dish at the time, lasagne, and I think that she was quite impressed. As she made her way back down the stairs from my first floor flat, she fell and rolled down several steps at the bottom of the first flight but just picked herself up on the landing, giggling. She was in her nineties at the time!
I once asked grandad why, as a country boy, with a job in the stables of a big house, he’d headed for Sheffield.
“Because a certain young lady had gone there!” he replied.
It’s all rather romantic and I’m glad he made the journey as, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been here today.
Now, thanks to Google Maps and Find my Past, I know where she worked at the time. Did she ever look out of that arched window and spot young Bob coming to call on her on her day off?
Another link with Yorkshire composer and pianist William Baines(1899-1922): Alan Cuckston’s 1990 recording of a selection of his piano music is the only CD that I’ve ever provided the cover artwork for; a pencil and watercolour of one of Baines’ favourite places, drawn on location at Flamborough Head.
The centre piece of Cuckston’s recital, recorded at Leeds Grammar School on a Steinway piano, are two sea pieces, published as Tides (1920):
“Tonight I have written a lovely mind’s-eye impression. . . Goodnight to Flamboro’. The waves persistantly roll on the rock and in the caves. . . A beautiful ecstatic sorrow surrounds everything about. . .”
William Baines, 1/7/1920
“This is an important disc,” Baines biographer Roger Carpenter tells me, “because it includes several items not otherwise issued commercially, such as Glancing Sunlight and Island of the Fay.”
At the Grave of William Baines
In 1995 Eric Parkin recorded a CD of the Piano Music of William Baines, which includes the Seven Preludes (1919) and Twilight Pieces (1921).
There’s a Baines connection to the music included on Robin Walker’s CD, I thirst. His piano piece At the Grave of William Baines was composed in 1999 to mark the centenary of Baines’ birth in Horbury. Walker writes:
“He was a composer who lived in his own reality, was solaced by Nature, and composed with a wild spirituality that always retained musical integrity.”
Following a discussion on the Horbury and Sitlington History Facebook page, I looked out a copy of my leaflet, The Yorkshire of William Baines, produced as part of my Major Project on the Communication Design (graphic design) course at Leeds College of Art.
The project grew and grew until it included an exhibition and a recital by pianist Eric Parkin at the Harrogate Festival in August 1972, followed by another recital in Horbury, Baines’ home town, in the November (the 50th anniversary of his death, aged just 23), when Parkin was joined by contralto Caroline Foster, who performed five songs by Baines. I transcribed the songs from copies of the original manuscripts but fortunately pianist and singer were able to perform despite my inevitable errors.
Since my degree show days, my enthusiasm for pen and ink drawing and my interest in local history remain undiminished, but I’m so glad that my struggles with Letraset Times New Roman are a thing of the past. Letraset was rub-on lettering supplied on a plastic sheet, which was almost impossible to apply successfully. I wish that I could have had access to a time machine to pop forward 46 years to set up the project on my current iMac!
My pen and ink style was heavily influenced by Victor Ambrus, at that time a prolific illustrator of history and children’s books, and later a regular on Channel 4’s Time Team. He incorporated finger prints into his drawings, so, so did I. I felt that if I could use the same pen and the same paper as he did, I might be able to achieve the assured springiness of his line.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to ask him about his technique when he did a session at a Children’s Book Fair in Leeds. I remember him telling me that he used layout paper for pen and ink work, and some readily available dip pen nib (if I remember rightly, he didn’t use a mapping pen).
Gathering material for the leaflet, I borrowed photographs and drawings from residents and former residents of Horbury and ordered copies of documents and photographs from the Baines archive in the Additional Manuscripts department of the British Library, which was then housed in the British Museum.
The publication was to be a booklet, but one of my graphic design tutors, John Daffern, persuaded me at a late stage to try something more adventurous, so it became two broadsheets in a card cover plus a facsimile of a career-changing telegram that Baines received from composer Arthur Eaglefield Hull. All this in a decorated envelope, that I sent out mail order, stamp stuck over the price tag – 5p – in the top right-hand corner.
The leaflet is currently available from the Rickaro Bookshop, Horbury.
After sorting and blending, the first stage in preparing raw wool is scouring: washing in hot water. The old scouring mill at Horbury Bridge is a reminder of the Victorian heyday of the West Riding woollen industry, when there were several large woollen mills at Horbury Bridge.
The mill closed long ago and is divided into units, some of them workshops with the one facing the road housing an antiques and second-hand furniture store.
Di Bosco coffee & champagne bar
I drew it from a table in the conservatory in Di Bosco, the coffee and champagne bar, which opened yesterday. Workers from the scouring mill must have drunk here often but at that time it would have been ale and porter, as this building was originally The Ship Inn, which dated back to at least the time that Sabine Baring Gould wrote Onward Christian Soldiers at Horbury Bridge. In 1865 he set up his mission headquarters in a terraced house, which still exists, midway between the Ship and the Horse & Jockey.
He certainly entertained decidedly un-Christian thoughts towards these two public houses, in particular the Horse & Jockey which, in his novel Through Fire and Flood, he has washed away in flash flood of epic proportions which cascades down the Calder Valley like a CGI sequence from a disaster movie.
In reality it survived and it now has a good reputation for resident chef Michael Oldroyd’s traditional Yorkshire food and, sorry about this Sabine, the landlord’s traditional Yorkshire beers.
I was determined not to do any research for my comic strip, working title Adam and the Gargoyle, but here I go again . . .
My characters might have been reasonably convincing in the pencil roughs but, when it came to inking and resolving the details, it didn’t seem to be working. I realised that, for instance, I don’t know what kind of tailcoat my architect character, Robert Adam, might have been wearing c. 1770, when he was busy with improvements and decorative schemes for Nostell Priory.
Of course, I’m creating a pantomime version of Adam but it needs to relate the historical character so I was delighted when Google turned up a caricature, an etching dated 11th October 1773, by the prolific satirist Matthew Darly(fl. 1741-1778), now in the collections of the British Museum. It occurs to me that this might be the work of his wife Mary Darly(fl. 1756-1779), who was was also a publisher, satirist, teacher and caricaturist.
The ‘Antique Architect’, one of a series of Characters, Macaronies & Caricatures that Darly published, most probably depicts Robert Adam (1741-1797) as Robert and his brother James had recently published their first volume of Works in Architecture.
As I copied the etching on my iPad (in Clip Studio Paint, as usual), one detail that I found odd was the writing implement. It looks like a double-ended pen, topped and tailed with steel nibs, which I imagine would have been impractical to use.
Again, thanks to good old Google, I’m able to identify it as a porte crayon, a travel pencil: a piece of bamboo split at both ends to accommodate two crayon leads, with two brass rings to keep the leads in place. In the one that I’ve drawn from a photograph on an auction site, there’s red at one end and graphite at the other.
I called in at the Stables at Nostell Priory this morning to take a another look at the gargoyle. He’s bigger than I imagined – about half as big again – that’s one of the disadvantages of drawing from a photograph.
I photographed him from an angle this time, to get a three-quarters view, which brings out different facets of his character, so, whereas before I thought that he was rough around the edges, cracked and crazy-looking with dinky little ‘Fungus the Bogeyman’ style horns, I now see that he’s rough, yes, crazy and cracked, yes, but with the rather stylish, swept-back horns of a young goat.
This stone lion, reclining on the lawn, always takes me by surprise as we walk past a large evergreen oak and it springs into view. Surprisingly, a real lion was once kept here in the Menagerie at Nostell Priory, just yards from the Doncaster to Wakefield turnpike road, behind a high stone wall in an old quarry. There’s a story that it once escaped and roamed around the area.
Once again it’s an iPad drawing, which has the advantage that, even after I’ve added the colour, I can hide the paint layer and turn it back into a line drawing with one tap of my Apple Pencil.