Saturday, October 21, 2017

C E Montford

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

C.E. Montford was a commercial artist who also illustrated a small range of comics and children’s books. He was not, it must be said, particularly talented, with his best work being done towards the end of his career, in the form of comic strips.

He was born on 8 September 1891 in Leyton, Essex, and christened Charles Edwin Montford. His father, Charles William Montford (1854-1922) was a hairdresser (as was his grandfather) who had moved from Bow, in East London, shortly before Charles’s birth, living at 357 High Street, Leyton. His mother, Clara, née Oliver, born in Coventry in 1857, was the daughter of a watchmaker. As well as Charles, they had two other children: Clare (born in Bow in 1888, died in Hampstead in 1893), and Doris, born in 1901).

Montford was trained at the Walthamstow School of Art (founded in 1883 by the Walthamstow Literary Institute, and which closed  in 1915). At the time of the 1911 census, when he was still a student there, the family was living at 133 Grange Park Road, Leyton, with Charles William Montford having apparently experienced a downturn in his fortunes and was working as a lavatory attendant.

Montford’s earliest known work was for The Strand Magazine in July 1916, with a series of black and white comic sketches accompanying anecdotes and jokes, centring on religion and the church, sent in by readers. This was followed by a similar set of sketches for a humorous article about life in a chemist’s shop.

In 1925 he illustrated two boys’ school stories for Thomas Nelson & Sons, although there was then a gap of nine years before his next recorded work, when he became briefly closely associated with the publisher Sampson Low, Marston & Co., and illustrated six books, mainly school adventure stories, by G. Gibbard Jackson. He also illustrated four more Sampson Low school stories by Michael Poole, Godfrey Pullen and A. Harcourt Burrage.  All of these were published between 1934 and 1937. Some of his illustrations were signed “C E Montford” and others simply “C E M.”

His work also appeared in the occasional children’s annual and similar large-format books, such as Hullo Boys: The Wireless Uncle’s Annual, The Schoolgirls’ Adventure Book, The Adventure Story Omnibus and Our Boys’ Gift Book.

In the meantime, he had married Josephine May Houchin (born in Shelley, Essex, on 2 May 1895, the daughter of George Houchin, a road labourer, and his wife Jane) on 21 June 1924 at St. James’s Church, Ongar, Essex. They had one child, Malcolm Charles, born on 12 May 1926 in West Ham. However, the marriage was not, initially at least, a happy one, with Josephine seeking a separation within two years. This was, it was argued in court (and reported in The Chelmsford Chronicle on 23 July 1926), a direct result of Montford’s mother living with the couple, who persisted in interfering in their domestic affairs. In addition, Josephine accused her husband of cruelty, citing instances where he had assaulted her, locked her in her room, and had left her at weekends to spend the time in Luton. For his part, Charles denied the allegations of assault, and accused his wife of assaulting him, a claim backed up by his mother. However, the court agreed with his wife, granting a separation order and instructing Charles to pay £2 a week to support his wife and child. Happily, it appears that the couple were subsequently reconciled.

At the time of the court hearing, Charles was apparently living at Woodstock Road, Walthamstow, and his wife at Edinford Bridge Road, Ongar. However, Charles was also recorded as living at Pollards Hill South, Streatham, an address he seems to have maintained from 1924 to 1929, when he moved to 224 Collier Row Lane, Romford, Essex.

It was around this time that he started working for the Amalgamated Press, his earliest work including illustrations for the first five “Valerie Drew” stories in The Schoolgirl’s Weekly in 1933. He followed this later in the 1930s with comic strips for Radio Fun and The Wonder. At this time he was working as a commercial artist out of a studio at 36 & 38 Whitefriars Street, off Fleet Street, London, using the name Chas E. Montford. He went on to draw a comic strip version of Charles Dickens’s 'A Christmas Carol' for The Children’s Newspaper in 1946, and also drew for P.M. Production’s Lucky Dip and Starry Spangles, and some Kit Carson and Buck Jones stories for the Amalgamated Press’s Cowboy Picture Library. He also worked on Film Fun in the 1950s. He only illustrated a handful of books after the Second World War, including re-issues of Charles Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

His credited work appears to have stopped after 1961, although he may have remained active as a commercial artist. He remained at Collier Row Lane in Romford until his death, which occurred on 17 April 1975. He left an estate valued at £9,244 (£63,000 in today’s terms). His wife died at the same address on 3 December 1978, leaving an estate valued at twice that of her husband’s.


Books illustrated by C.E. Montford
Pepper’s Crack Eleven by Rowland Walker, T. Nelson & Sons, 1925
Carew of the Fourth: A School Adventure Story for Boys by Peter Martin, T. Nelson & Sons, 1925
Stories from the Arabian Nights, The New Century Press, 1934
Schoolboy Speed Kings by G. Gibbard Jackson, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1934
The Air Spies of the North Sea by G. Gibbard Jackson, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1934
Speed Boat Spies by G. Gibbard Jackson, Sampson low, Marston & Co., 1934
Schoolboy Sleuths by G. Gibbard Jackson, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1935
The Flying Smugglers by G. Gibbard Jackson, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1935
Baffling the Air Bandits by G. Gibbard Jackson, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1935
Air Fighters of the Andes by G. Gibbard Jackson, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1936(?)
Detectives at Burnden School by Michael Poole, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1935
Chums of St. Olaf’s and Other Stories, The Epworth Press, 1935
The Flying Five and Other Stories, The Epworth Press, 1936
Clive, Centre-forward by Charles Harold Croft, University of London Press, 1937
The Dawncombe Air Boys by Godfrey F. Pullen, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1937
Rebel of the House by A. Harcourt Burrage, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1937
Well Played Sir! By A, Harcourt Burrage, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1937
Max of the Mountains: A Story of a Journey to Switzerland by F.R. Gillman, University of London Press, 1937
The Roof of the World by Kingsley Foster, University of London Press, 1937
The Young Fur Traders by R.M. Ballantyne, Juvenile Productions Ltd., 1937 (re-issue)
The Silver Snake: A Tale of Adventure by Pat Garner, Richard Lesley & Co., 1946
Dawnay Leaves School by Hylton Cleaver, F. Warne & Co., 1947
The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens, Alexander Hamilton, 1947 (re-issue)
Green Mountain Boy by Leon W. Dean, Hutchinson & Co., 1949
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, P.R. Gawthorn Ltd., 1950(?) (re-issue)

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