Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Maurice Coxhead

The run of strips from the "School Friend" Pets Annual 1959 that has been appearing here on Bear Alley for the past few days has been accompanied by a lot of head-scratching while we try and figure out who drew what. With records long gone for most comics, we're limited to educated guesses . . . but I'm pleased to say we still have some very well-educated people doing the guessing.

The endpapers of the Pets Annual were signed with initials that I took to read C.M. Thankfully, David Slinn was able to turn around my mistake and identified the artist as Maurice Coxhead. The name was still unknown to me but David was able to add a little detail.

"I met him two or three times, at first in Old Fleetway House, when I was just starting to “do-the-rounds”.  I’d reckon he was then either side of fifty and, in the brief exchanges we had – he, very kindly, offering encouragement – learnt that he had a particular interest in nature and wildlife, and I imagine was handling features for various books and annuals.  What I especially remember – and why it has stuck all these years? – both Raymond Sheppard and Charles Tunnicliffe were mentioned in the conversations which, with regard to Mr Coxhead’s “professional status”, perhaps as a fledgling I found reassuring.  In 1957-8 it was a rather different world."

With David's comments in mind, I was able to track down a single credit for Coxhead, as illustrator for Dean's Book of Butterflies and Birds, published in 1962. It is almost certain that he contributed to other books, but anonymously.

Rather more tricky was finding out information about him. Maurice Coxhead is not a common combination of names, and if we take into account David's memory that Coxhead was in his fifties when they met in the late 1950s, Coxhead must have been born around the turn of the century. A search of official records turns up only three possibilities: Reginald Maurice Coxhead (b. Belper, Derbyshire, 1901), Maurice Coxhead (b. Belper, Derbyshire, 1902) and Edward Maurice Coxhead (b. Wandsworth, London, 1903).

Two births in one small Derbyshire town will often mean an unhappy story. In this case, Reginald Maurice Coxhead did not live long. Maurice Coxhead, actually born in nearby Alfreton, Derbyshire, was the fifth surviving son a coal miner, Frederick Coxhead and his wife Mary. He died in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in 1986.

So our most likely candidate is Edward Maurice Coxhead, born in Streatham, Surrey, on 13 January 1903, the son of Arthur Ewart Coxhead, an agent for a Manchester-based cotton goods manufacturer, and his wife Gertrude Emily (nee Molyneux). Maurice was he second of their three children. His elder brother, Arthur Hugh Coxhead (1900-1969), went on to work for the stock exchange; he also had a younger sister, Mary Molyneux Coxhead (later Camroux, 1906-1973).

Edward Maurice Coxhead lived in Chelsea, at 402a King's Road, and various addresses in Fulham (8 Walsingham Mansions and 404 Fulham Road SW6) in the late 1940s. He later move to 2d Cranley Gardens, South Kensington, SW7, in the 1950s before moving to 35 Cranley Gardens in the early 1960s. His death was registered in Kensington in 1969, at the age of 66.

This, unfortunately, doesn't reveal much about Coxhead. The fact that he signed his work with an unusual monogram is probably the reason he is so little known. Hopefully something here will spark a memory in some of our readers and we might learn more about this interesting nature artist.

(* artwork for "School Friend" Pets Annual © IPC Media)

No comments: