Sunday, September 24, 2017

J Ley Pethybridge

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

J. Ley Pethybridge was a gifted artist adept in a variety of forms  –  black and white illustrations for books (especially children’s books) and periodicals, and landscapes and genre paintings in oils and watercolours. Unfortunately, he died aged only 40.

He was born on 7 April 1865 in Launceston, Cornwall, and christened John Ley Pethybridge. His father, Edward Pethybridge (1822-1907) was a prominent banker (founder of a local bank), local politician, Methodist preacher and, later in his life, an Alderman and J.P. His mother, Emma (née Dingley – 1836-1906) was Edward’s second wife  – his first, Eliza Jane (née Dingley – her relationship to Emma is not known), with whom he had three daughters, had died in 1859. Edward and Emma, who married in 1862, went on to have four sons (Edward, John, Frank and William). The family lived for many years at Manaton, Launceston.

John Ley Pethybridge was educated at Dunheved College, Launceston. As well as showing a natural talent for art, he was also a talented musician, regularly performing in local concerts, in particular on the violin and banjo, and giving recitals. In addition, he was a keen sportsman, playing cricket and football for Launceston, and also enjoying shooting and fishing.

After leaving school he went to London, where he worked in a studio in St. John’s Wood. He then studied in Bruges, and later with the Newlyn school of Painters in Cornwall. For a time around the beginning of the 20th century he studied under the wildlife painter John Emms at his studio in Lyndhurst in the New Forest, while lodging with Thomas Vithyan, a house painter, and his family, in Pemberton Road, Lyndhurst.

On 10 July 1902, at All Saints Church, Okehampton, Devon, he married Ethel Grace Pearse (born in Hatherleigh, Devon, in 1882), with whom he went on to have one child, Annabel Grace, born on 30 July 1903. They settled at Stratton, near Bude, in north Cornwall, where he became active in the local Ratepayers Association and, shortly before his death, a manager of Stratton day school.

As an artist, Pethybridge began establishing himself in the late 1880s. He exhibited at the Bristol Academy in 1887, The Society of Western Artists in Plymouth in 1892, The Royal Society of British Artists in 1893, and the Royal Academy, beginning in 1894. However, he was best-known, in Devon and Cornwall at least, for his black and white illustrations in books of local interest, beginning with a re-issue of Eden Phillpotts’ Folly and Fresh Air, published in 1899. This was followed by books such as West Country Songs by Mark Guy Pearse (1902), Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall by R.S. Hawker (1903), My Devon Year by Eden Phillpotts (1904), and The Piskey Purse: Tales and Legends of North Cornwall by Enys Tregarthen (1905). The 38 original drawings for My Devon Year had been exhibited in a solo exhibition at an art gallery in Exeter in November 1903.

He was more prolific, if not as well-known, as an illustrator of children’s books, in particular being associated with the publisher Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., of Paternoster Buildings, London, for whom he illustrated at least 13 books. The first book he illustrated, Tatters and Jennie’s Schooldays, published by the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School Union  in 1890, was written by Lillie Pethybridge, the wife of William Pethybridge, presumably a relation although this is not clear.
Pethybridge also contributed to a range of story papers, periodicals and magazines, including Wells Gardner, Darton & Co.’s Chatterbox and the same firm’s annual Darton’s Leading Strings; The Girl’s Own Paper, The Badminton Magazine, The Argosy, The Ludgate Monthly, The Home Messenger, Pall Mall Magazine, Black and White, and The Temple Magazine.

In June 1905 Pethybridge was told that he had terminal cancer. He moved in with his brother Frank at “Ashleigh”, Tavistock, Devon, where he died on 3 September 1905, being buried three days later in St. Andrew’s churchyard, Stratton. He left an estate valued at £1,153. Tragically, his mother died the following year, and his father the year after that. His widow re-married in 1910, and died in 1977.


Books illustrated by J. Ley Pethybridge
Tatters and Jennie’s Schooldays by Lillie Pethybridge, Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School Union, 1890
In the Dragon’s Mouth by Mary MacLeod, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1896
The Union Jacks by (Anon.), Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1897
English Ann at School in Blumbaden by R. Ramsay, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1897
The Little General by (Anon), Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1898
Folly and Fresh Air by Eden Phillpotts, Hurst & Blackett, 1899 (re-issue)
Roy’s Sister, or “His Way and Hers” by M.B. Manwell, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1899
The Boys of Barminster by A.B. Simeon, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1899
Sunday Reading for the Young, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1901
West Country Songs by Mark Guy Pearse, Horace Marshall & Son, 1902
Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall by Rev. R. S. Hawker, John Lave & Walter Weighell, 1903
Mother Bunch: A Story for Boys and Girls by Stella Austin, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1903
Kenneth’s Children: A Story for Boys and Girls by Stella Austin, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1903
Other People: A Story of Modern Chivalry by Stella Austin, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1903
Uncle Philip: A Tale for Boys and Girls Chivalry by Stella Austin, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1903 (re-issue)
The Two Christophers by H. Elrington, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1903
Robin the Rebel by H. Louisa Bedford, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1903
My Devon Year by Eden Phillpotts, Methuen & Co., 1904
Cornish Ballads and Other Poems by R.S. Hawker, John Lane, 1904
Tom and the Enemy by Clive R. Fenn, S.W. Partridge, 1904
Sir Bevill by Arthur Christopher Thynne, John Lane, 1904
A Family Grievance by Raymond Jacberns, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1904
Brave Brothers, or Young Sons of Providence by E.M. Stooke, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1905
The Life and Letters of R.S. Hawker by C.E. Byles, John Lane, 1905
The Piskey Purse: Tales and Legends of North Cornwall by Enys Tregarthen, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1905
The Competitors: A Tale of Upton House School by Fred Whishaw, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1906
The Ring of Nature by G.G. Desmond, Methuen & Co., 1913
The Medland Boys and Schooldays at St. Benedict’s by A.L. Haydon, Sunday School Union, 1916  (re-issue)
One Hundred Pictures from Eden Phillpotts by L.H. Brewitt (ed.), Methuen & Co., 1919

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