Saturday, October 07, 2017

W H Margetson

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Many of what might be called “minor” illustrators of children’s books were also highly-skilled and respected artists, exhibiting and selling paintings in a wide rage of genres, and becoming members of bodies such as the Royal Academy of Arts. One of the better-known of these was W. H. Margetson, a fairly prolific illustrator of children’s books, largely between around 1890 and 1910, and as a painter particularly well-known for his full-length studies of young women. He also painted other subjects, and exhibited widely, as well as contributing illustrations to a large number of magazines.

He was born on 1 December 1861 at 21 Grove Hill Terrace, Camberwell, and christened William Henry Margetson. His family background was comparatively wealthy. His father, Edward Margetson (1834-1885, born in Yorkshire and the son of a tea dealer and draper) was, by the age of 16, a merchant’s clerk, initially in Yorkshire before he moved to Camberwell where, in 1861, he was living with his wife Eleanor (née Bradshaw, the daughter of an engraver, whom he had married in Manchester in 1858), and his first son Edward John (born in 1860), and employing two domestic servants. In 1871, he was working as a commission agent, employing three servants, and in 1881 he was described as an Export Merchant, living at 210 The Grove, Camberwell. He died in April 1885, leaving an estate valued at £4,663 (just under £500,000 in today’s terms).

William Henry Margetson’s early education was at Miss Pace’s School in Camberwell Grove (where the later-politician and statesman Joseph Chamberlain had spent a year in the early 1840s). In September 1872 he entered Dulwich College, joining his elder brother Edward who had entered Dulwich in March 1871. He left in April 1877, going to the National Art Training School in South Kensington (perhaps better-known as the Kensington Schools, and later the Royal College of Art), and then on to the Royal Academy Schools, where he won the first of several prizes in August 1878. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy itself in 1885. He went on to teach drawing at the Central School of Arts and Crafts after its formation in 1896.

By then he had established himself as an illustrator, beginning in 1885 when he collaborated with Joseph Hatton and his daughter Helen, who had also studied at the Royal Academy Schools, on a piece in The English Illustrated Magazine based on the diaries of Hatton’s son Frank, an explorer and geologist who had died in 1883 in an accidental shooting in Borneo. (These were subsequently published in North Borneo: Explorations and Adventures on the Equator, published by Sampson Low).  Joseph Hatton (1841-1907) was journalist and novelist, born in Bristol and who had edited The Bristol Mirror in the mid-1860s before moving to London to edit The Gentleman’s Magazine. He went on to become a prolific novelist, essayist, playwright and editor of other newspapers and journals. W. H. Margetson illustrated at least five of his books and pamphlets.

Having got to know Helen Hatton (born Helen Howard Hatton in Bristol in March 1859) Margetson married her on 20 June 1889, at St. Mark’s church, St. Marylebone. He was then living at I Leonard Place, Circus Road, St. John’s Wood. Within a year the couple had moved to 7 St. Anne’s Terrace, St. Marylebone, where, with their first daughter Hester Dorothy (born in 1890) they were boarding with George Gravatt, a butler, and his wife. Ten years later the Margetsons, having had two more children  –  Oliver, born in 1892, and Beryl, born in 1899  –  were living at 107 Thornland Road, Lambeth, and able to employ two servants.

As an illustrator, he contributed to a wide range of magazines and periodicals, including Cassell’s Magazine, Cassell’s Saturday Journal, The Art Journal, Pall Mall Magazine, The Quiver, Sylvia’s Home Journal, Little Folks, The Graphic, Black and White, Sunday at Home, The Windsor Magazine, The Lady’s Pictorial, The Girls’ Realm, The Harmsworth Magazine, The Queen, The Sphere, Woman at Home, The Idler, The Penny Magazine, The Tatler and The Strand.

He also supplied illustrations for various part-works issued by Cassell & Co., including Cassell’s Illustrated History of England, Cassell’s Stories of the Sea, and The Child’s Bible (for which he produced 100 plates, 12 of them published in colour).

In May 1889 Margetson exhibited a portrait of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth at the Grosvenor Gallery, Bond Street. This was bought by the actor Henry Irving, who then commissioned Margetson to design the dresses for a revival of Watts Phillips’s 1859  drama The Dead Heart, being staged by Irving at the Lyceum Theatre. At the same time, Margetson had been asked to provide illustrations for the sixth volume in what had become known as The Henry Irving Shakespeare, the complete works published by the Gresham Publishing Company. He was soon in demand as an illustrator, particularly of boys’ historical stories and fairy stories. For boys, he illustrated four first editions of novels by G.A. Henty between 1893 and 1898, along with books by Robert Overton, Charles W. Whistler, Herbert Hayens, Harold Avery and Evelyn Everett-Green. His first fairy illustrations appeared in The Village of Youth and Other Fairy Tales, published by Hutchinson & Co. in 1896 and written by Bessie Hatton, his wife’s sister. He went on to provide illustrations for novels by Max Pemberton, William Le Queux, Stanley J. Weyman, Joseph Hocking, Samuel R. Crockett and A.E.W. Mason. He also provided religious illustrations in books such as Cole’s Book of Bible Stories, My Bible Pictures and Stories and, published after his death, Pictures of Jesus. He tended to sign his illustrations with his initials, while using his full name (in capital letters) for his paintings.

After the First World War he concentrated on painting, contributing illustrations to only a handful of books. His main focus was figure paining, and he became noted for his large paintings of beautiful young women (painted in both oils and watercolours)  ¬  these progressed from a post-pre-Raphaelite sentimentalism to a more loose style approaching post-impressionism. He also exhibited religious, classical and literary works. One of his best-known paintings, The Sea hath its Pearls, painted in 1897 and exhibited at the Royal Academy, was bought by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, while the National Portrait Gallery has his 1891 portrait of Alfred Tennyson, and his religious work St. Mary at the Loom is owned by the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath.

Margetson had been a member of the Ipswich Art Club between 1886 and 1891, and was elected to the Royal Society of Miniature painters in 1896, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1901, and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1909.

In the meantime, he and his family had moved to The Homestead, Blewbury, Berkshire (now in Oxfordshire) in 1902. At the time of the 1911 census, Hester Margetson was an art student, and Oliver Margetson was an engineering student. Hester went on to marry Jack Seaforth Elton Martin-Harvey (better-known as the actor Martin Harvey – his one leading film role was that of the burglar Charles Peace in 1949) in 1927. As an artist, Hester’s earliest drawings were published in the children’s magazine St. Nicholas. She went on to specialize in twee paintings of young children, animals and fairies. She also formed a small touring ballet company, the Martin-Harvey Miniature Ballet, with her husband. She died in 1965.

William Henry Margetson died in 2 January 1940, at Priory Cottage, Wallingford, where he had lived for many years, leaving an estate valued at just £1,510 (around £75,000 in today’s terms). His wife died on 24 October 1955 at Goring-on-Thames.


Books Illustrated
North Borneo: Explorations and Adventures on the Equator by Joseph Hatton, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1885
The Lyceum “Faust” by Joseph Hatton, Virtue & Co., 1886
Captured by Cannibals: Some Incidents in the Life of Horace Durand by Joseph Hatton, Hodder & Stoughton, 1888
Reminiscences of J.L. Toole by Joseph Hatton, Hurst & Blackett, 1888
The Works of William Shakespeare, Gresham Publishing Co., 1889
“Hors de Combat”, or Three Weeks in a Hospital by Gertrude & Ethel Armytage Southam, Cassell & Co., 1891
How Pianos are Made by Joseph Hatton, John Brimsmead & Sons, 1892
Sunlight by Bret Harte, Lever Bros., 1892
John Gentleman, Tramp by Jessie A Norquay Forbes, Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1892
Beric the Briton by G.A. Henty, Blackie & Son, 1893
A World Afloat: The Story of an Ocean Trip by Joseph Hatton, Raphael Tuck, 1893
Cigarette Papers for Holiday Smokers by Joseph Hatton, (30 Fleet Street), 1893
A Dozen All Told by W.E. Norris and others, Blackie & Son, 1894
The King’s Pardon, or The Boy who Saved his Father by Robert Overton, Jarrold & Sons, 1895
At A Piano Factory, John Brimsmead & Sons, 1895
The Tiger of Mysore by G.A. Henty, Blackie & Son, 1896
A Thane of Wessex: Being a Story of the Great Viking Raids into Somerset by Charles W. Whistler, Blackie & Son, 1896
The Lights of Sydney, or No Past is Dead by Lilian Turner, Cassell & Co., 1896
Deaf and Dumb Land by Joseph Hatton, The Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, 1896
The Village of Youth and Other Fairy Tales by Bessie Hatton, Hutchinson & Co., 1896
A History of the Scottish People, Rev. Thomas Thomson, Blackie & Son, 1896
With Cochrane the Dauntless by G.A. Henty, Blackie & Son, 1897
The British Legion: A Tale of the Carlist War by Herbert Hayens, T. Nelson & Sons, 1897
Wulfric the Weapon Thane: A Story of the Danish Conquest of East Anglia by Charles W. Whistler, Blackie & Son, 1897
King Olaf’s Kinsman by Charles W. Whistler, Blackie & Son, 1897
A Missing Witness by Frank Barrett, Chatto & Windus, 1897
The Beautiful Miss Brooke by Louis Zangwill, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1897
The Dagger and the Cross by Joseph Hatton, Hutchinson & Co., 1897
A March on London: Being a Story of Wat Tyler’s Insurrection by G.A. Henty, Blackie & Son, 1898
A Tale of Two Rings by Samuel Gordon, Raphael Tuck Ltd., 1898
The Dormitory Flag by Harold Avery, T. Nelson & Sons, 1899
The Triple Alliance by Harold Avery, T. Nelson & Sons, 1899
Through Peril, Toil and Pain by Lucy Taylor, T. Nelson & Sons, 1899
King Alfred’s Viking by Charles W. Whistler, 1899
The Life of William Ewart Gladstone by Sir Wemyss Reid (ed.), Cassell & Co., 1899
Britain’s Sea Kings and Sea Fights by various authors, Cassell & Co., 1900
Havelock the Dane by Charles W. Whistler, T. Nelson & Sons, 1900
Trefoil: The Story of a Girls’ Society by M.P. MacDonald, T. Nelson & Sons, 1900
Sisters Three by Jessie Mansergh, Cassell & Co., 1900
Duance Pendray: A Story of Jacobite Times in Cornwall by G. Norway, Jarrold & Sons, 1901
For the Faith: A Story of Reformation Times in England by Evelyn Everett-Green, T. Nelson & Sons, 1902
Pilgrims of Love by Bessie Hatton, Anthony Treherne & Co., 1902
Cigarette Papers: With Some Notes for a Life of Sir Henry Irving by Joseph Hatton, Anthony Treherne & Co., 1902
A New Speaker for Our Little Folks by various authors, W.E. Scull, 1902
Fallen Fortunes: Being the Adventures of a Gentleman of Quality in the Days of Queen Anne, by Evelyn Everett-Green, T. Nelson & Sons, 1903
A Hero of the Highlands: A Story of the “45” by Evelyn Everett-Green, T. Nelson & Sons, 1903
Living London by George R. Sims (ed.), Cassell & Co., 1903
Red Morn by Max Pemberton, Cassell & Co., 1904
Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible Told for Young and Old by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, W.E. Scull, 1904
A Flame of Fire: Being the Adventures of Three Englishmen in Spain by Joseph Hocking, Cassell & Co., 1904
Favourite Stories from Grimm by Edward Shirley, T. Nelson & Sons, 1904
The Spider’s Eye by William Le Queux, Cassell & Co., 1905
The Red Seal by Morice Gerard, Cassell & Co., 1906
The White Plumes of Navarre: A Romance of the Wars of Religion by Samuel R. Crockett, Religious Tract Society, 1906
King Olaf’s Kinsman: A Story of the Last Saxon Struggle against the Danes by Charles W. Whistler, Blackie & Son, 1907
Rob the Ranger: A Story of the Fight for Canada by Herbert Strang, Hodder & Stoughton, 1908
The Old Nursery Stories by Edith Nesbit, Hodder & Stoughton, 1908
The Escape of Desmond Burke by Herbert Strang, Hodder & Stoughton, 1908
The Wild Geese by Stanley J. Weyman, Hodder & Stoughton, 1908
Granny’s Wonderful Chair and its Tales of Fairy Times by Frances Brown, Hodder & Stoughton, 1908
Happy Sunday Hours: A Story for Every Sunday in the Year, T. Nelson & Sons, 1908
Humphrey Bold: His Chances and Mischances by Land and Sea by Herbert Strang, Hodder & Stoughton, 1909
An Island Heroine by Bessie Marchant, Collins, 1909
A Day with the Poet Tennyson by May Byron, Hodder & Stoughton 1909
At the Villa Rose by A.E.W. Mason, Hodder & Stoughton, 1910
Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race by Maude I. Ebbutt, George G. Harrap & Co., 1910
Stories about Joseph and David by (Anon.), T. Nelson & Sons, 1910
Cole’s Book of Bible Stories by (Anon.), E.W. Cole, 1911
Out of the Wreck I Rise by Beatrice Harraden, T. Nelson & Sons, 1912
Legends of King Arthur and His Knights by Janet MacDonald Clarke, Ernest Nister, 1914
The Fairy Tale Book by various authors, T. Nelson & Sons, 1915
My First Fairy Book by Harry Rountree & others, T. Nelson & Sons, 1918(?)
Jesus of Nazareth: Stories of the Master and his Disciples by Agnes Adams, O.U.P., 1926
The Admiral’s Daughter by Margaret Stuart Lane, O.U.P., 1927
In a Nook with Nature by A. Patterson Webb (ed.), Robert Hayes, 1927
The Old Old Story, O.U.P., 1934
Come Unto Me, O.U.P., 1934
My Bible Pictures and Stories by Amy Steedman, T. Nelson & Sons, 1939
Pictures of Jesus, O.U.P., 1947
Kenilworth by Walter Scott, T. Nelson & Sons, (?)
Hansel and Gretel and Other Stories, T. Nelson & Sons, (?)
Fairy Tales, T. Nelson & Son, (?)


  1. Once again you have excelled yourself Steve. What a fascinating biography of a name I have come across but not thought much about. Thanks

  2. I'll take credit for having the superb taste to publish the piece, but the actual writing is that of Robert J. Kirkpatrick, who has been filling in for me on Bear Alley for some weeks with his fascinating articles about artists.



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