In my last post I briefly mentioned our research into my family history, and that I was of Cornish descent on my mother's side, from humble copper miners. The history on my father's side is much more interesting. We have discovered a famous Manchester artist, (my Grt. Grt. Grandfather), with links to royalty and the then Prime Minister, W.E. Gladstone, a pioneering Manchester photographer, his sons, an actor, who later became an army Captain, a London MP, and their sister, who married a famous Victorian body builder, Eugen Sandow......
My main interest lies with my Grt. Grt. Grandfather Warwick Brookes. Warwick, is a family name, said to come from a link with the Earl of Warwick, The King Maker. I have never proved this, but the first born son throughout traceable history has always been named Warwick. This makes life difficult for researchers such as myself, when every male you come across has the same name!
Much of the following information comes from a hand bound leather volume I have, which is a compilation of a photo set of original drawings, and text that was published in The Manchester City News on August 26, September 2, and September 9, 1882, after his death. Warwick made the "photo copies" of his work available for sale at a time in his life when he became ill and could no longer work. These will be mentioned later in letters between Frederick Shields <Click> and Dante Gabriel Rossetti <Click>, I have also taken information from biographical reminiscences by Thomas Letherbrow, Warwick Brookes' Pencil Pictures of Child Life.
Below is a self drawn portrait of my Grt. Grt. Grandfather which is printed in the front cover of the Letherbrow book. The other book is rare, and I know of only one other copy, which is kept in the archives at Manchester Central Reference Library, and is available to view under supervision, (when current building modernisation is complete). My copy belonged to one William Gurney, signed in the front, possibly a relative of the Gurney <Click> mentioned in the obituary to Frederick Shields, which is pasted into the front cover of the book, and reads:
Mr. Frederick Shields, the well known artist and book illustrator, died on Sunday at his residence, Morayfield, Merton, Surrey aged seventy seven.
He was one of the survivors of that wonderful circle of famous men which has left so deep a mark on Victorian literature and art. Among his personal friends were Ruskin, Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and Holman Hunt. Mr. Shields illustrated The Pilgrim's Progress and Defoe's Plague of London, but the crowning achievement of his career was the adornment of The Chapel of The Ascension, Hyde Park Place which originated in the wish of the late Mrs. Russell Gurney to provide passers by with a place for scriptual instruction by means of pictures as well as for rest. The 200 paintings took 14 years to complete. Mr. Shields began his career in Manchester as a designer for decorative lithography. Before his work obtained the notice it deserved, the artist had many struggles. At one time he executed chalk drawings of his father's friends at 7 shillings each.
From The Daily Mail February 28th 1911.
Warwick started his working life as a tear boy, (an unskilled worker who spreads the dye ink over a skin covered table in an even layer. The block printer then impresses his block into this after each cloth impression), at the workplace of his uncle, a block printer at Messrs. John Barge and Co. It quickly became apparent that he had a flair for drawing and design, and was soon promoted to the designing room on a wage of 5 shillings a week. In 1832 he left the company to join John Dugdale Bros., Salford, and in 1840 joined Messrs. Cook and Unsworth, as a block designer, a firm which was to become The Rossendale Printing Company. He stayed here for some 26 years until he was struck with illness, consumption, which was to incapacitate him. He pursued his art in his spare time using nothing more than a "halfpenny joinery pencil". His work was exhibited at The Mechanics Institute, and he later gained two out of the four first prizes ever offered at The Royal Manchester Institution. The other two being given to Francis Chester, <Click> late of the Theatre Royal, and Robert Crozier, <Click> the highly esteemed president of the Manchester Academy of Art. In 1868 Brookes was elected a member of The Manchester Academy Of Fine Arts. His drawings were used to illustrate books for authors of the time, including this, by child writer and poet, <Click> Marjorie Fleming, edited and published long after her death, aged 8, by Dr. John Brown, <Click>. (This is an on line readable book). He was also a founding member of the United Society of Manchester Artists, along with Letherbrow and others. They met over Rose's China Shop, King Street, Manchester.
This is an example of Brookes's work, Christ blessing little children. This print is available to buy at www.allposters.com and other art outlets. The original is in The V&A, London, and is one of the royal purchases I mention later.
May Day at Bowden, Cheshire, is another example, also available to buy as a print from allposters. The original is also held at The V&A, London.
Manchester artist, Frederick Shields and others suggested to Brookes that he could provide his family with an income during his illness, by photographing and selling copies of his drawings at £4 a set, and it was at this time of incapacitation due to illness that he made the acquaintance of Sir Walter James, Baron Northbourne of Bettesshanger. <Click> who helped promote this venture. Now in the peerage, he had been an MP and friend of W.E. Gladstone. As a result of this friendship Brookes would now mix with society, and was a regular guest at their country houses, including that of Gladstone at Hawarden, Wales. Gladstone introduced Brookes's work to Queen Victoria, who subsequently bought some, as did her daughter Princess Louise <Click> . These works are now part of the Victoria Collection at The V&A museum in London. As a result of this we have a letter: "The Queen has written to Mr. Gladstone, saying, "Mr. Warwick Brookes's drawings are really charming; she has purchased four."" Another letter to Brookes contained a great surprise. It was dated: Downing Street 27th March 1871..."Mr. Gladstone desires me to inform you that the Queen has been pleased to approve of the grant to you of a pension of £100 per annum. From page 459 of W.E. Gladsone's diary, which is published: "Monday 6th March 1871, dined at Lady James's and secured 3 drawings of W. Brookes". There are several other entries throughout the various volumes of the diary that relate to Warwick Brookes.
This is a link to the full collection of Brookes's works, with images, that are held at Manchester Art Gallery: <Click> Usually, his subjects were members of his immediate family.
Brookes passed away on 13th August 1882. He is buried in Brooklands Cemetery, Sale, Manchester.
On his death his eldest son Warwick, (a photographic artist working in Manchester, read later about the other Warwick Brookes Manchester photographer), and his brother, my Grt. Grandfather, William Terry, (also a prolific landscape artist in watercolour, we have many of his paintings on our walls), wrote to inform Gladstone, who replied by return:
Downing Street, Whitehall, August 14, 1882.
My Dear Sir, - My wife and I are much moved by your letter. We took upon your father's life, I may say, with an affectionate interest and regard. It was indeed noble, pure, and beautiful; and it seemed as if an exterior discipline, without internal conflict, sufficed to raise him to the point at which he might escape from the flesh, and from the pressure of the world, to enjoy at once the vision of God.
Have the goodness to inform me as to the health, and also as to the circumstances of your mother (I believe she survives him) and family. I remain, your very faithful and obedient servant,
This letter included a donation from the Queen's Bounty of a hundred pounds.
This is an example of the work of my Grt. Grandfather, William Terry Brookes. Painted in 1923, it is one of several examples of his work I own, they are usually watercolours. We have one example in oil, there may be others. All are landscapes, and are often of the Marple Bridge area of Cheshire, and The Isle of Man.
MANCHESTER, llth, February 1868.
MY DEAR ROSSETTI, For the past month that is,
ever since Mr. M'Connell gave me the opportunity of
seeing the " Sir Tristram" I nave meant to write how great
pleasure I enjoyed in hanging over it ; and if (as you inti-
mated) you relied in any measure on my poor opinion, it
will satisfy you to know I indeed think with you that it
approaches nearer to the highest standard than anything
you have yet achieved in water-colour.
Let me say how much the subject of your last note
gratified me, for I have known Warwick Brookes for some
years, but not intimately, his disposition being too retiring
for that. Your information concerning him is not very
accurate, for he must be nearer fifty than forty, and has a
family of six children, the eldest girl being about sixteen
years. With this young family he never dared to venture
to give up a situation as pattern designer for ladies dresses
which he held in a firm here, and which brought him in a
settled sum per week, for the uncertain and fluctuating
remuneration attending the profession of art. So that all
you have seen, and much more, has been done during the
leisure hours of his evenings and Saturday afternoons.
For two years back he has been lying sick of consumption ;
and his main, perhaps his only, source of income has been
the sale of the set of photos, with which you are acquainted.
Sir Walter James has most generously exerted himself to
spread the circulation, and other friends have done their
best also. He is too independent in temper to accept
help in any other way ; but I am certain would feel both
grateful and pleased with such assistance as you can
secure for him in this way. The price of the set is four
pounds. 1 took the liberty, believing it would gladden
his sick chamber, of showing him your letter on Saturday
night ; and though he was too weak to read it himself, he
most earnestly expressed his estimation of your approval.
Most truly yours, FREDERIC J. SHIELDS.
Rossetti replied :
16 CHEYNB WALK, 21st February 1868.
MY DEAR SHIELDS, Your letter calls for my thanks in
various ways. First, about Warwick Brookes, whom I
almost guessed to be more of a regular artist than had
been represented to me. I shall be anxious to have a set
of his admirable photo'd drawings, and will write him with
this, enclosing the 4. When here I have little doubt
their being seen must lead to further sales. Howell, to
whom I spoke on the subject and who saw the photos at
my mother's, at once said he would undertake that Ruskin
would wish to have an original drawing. I will speak
further to him when my own photographs arrive. It is
melancholy to think that any aid and appreciation, such
as the drawings cannot fail to excite, will come only at
such a painful time. Is there really no hope of recovery ?
I cannot understand how such an artist can have failed so
long to obtain employment from the dealers in Manchester.
His babies are worthy of William Hunt, and have never
been surpassed. Does he work in colour ? In such case
I fancy employment in London as a copyist to begin with
might easily be obtained. But I suppose the health ques-
tion now quite negatives this.
From The National Archive, The Life and Letters of Frederick Shields.
Other snippets from my interesting family:
Descended from Warwick's brother Thomas, is Warwick Brookes, pioneering photographer, who worked from his studio on Oxford Road, Manchester. Involved in the design of the Academy and Lantern Cameras in conjunction with John Benjamin Dancer, <Click> (who is also buried at Brooklands Cemetery, Sale, Manchester). This Warwick Brookes has a portrait in The National Portrait Gallery collections, <Click> the subject being Sir Henry Irving, <Click>, and is known to have photographed many more of the rich and famous, here is another example of his work:
He had built an enviable reputation as a pioneering photographer,with a famous clientèle, and was obviously dismayed that his cousin, Warwick, the artist's son, had set up his own photography business in the same name, (see above). There is evidence from photographs of his in the National Archives, that he wrote statements on the back, disclaiming any association with any other Manchester photographer operating under the same name.
He had three children, Warwick, (again)! who became an MP for Mile End, London, and was also a keen ocean yacht racer, and in fact died during Cowes Week on The Isle of Wight. <Click>.
Gordon Byron, who was an actor and later became Captain in The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, killed in action on The Somme 1916.
And Blanche, who married Eugen Sandow, <Click>, a pioneer of body building and a great show man of the time. <Click>. They were married at Manchester Cathedral and Florenz Ziegfeld, of The Ziegfeld Follies fame, <Click> was their best man! Their home in Holland Park, London, has a blue plaque on the wall outside commemorating their life there.
Blanche Sandow nee Brookes, - before she married, worked as a photographer's assistant for her father. Brookes took many promotional photographs for Sandow.
Captain Gordon Byron Brookes. Awarded Military Cross for
"conspicuous gallantry in action". Shortly afterwards, killed in action 1916.
Warwick Brookes b1875-d1935 during one of his election campaigns. To the right is his Daughter Claire, to the left is his niece Lorraine Sandow, daughter of his sister Blanche and Eugen.