Saturday, January 20, 2018

P B Hickling

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

P. B. Hickling was another artist who was equally at home providing illustrations for periodicals such as The Sphere, The Graphic and The Strand Magazine as he was illustrating children’s books, especially girls’ school stories. He was, perhaps best-known for the work he did in the last two or three years of his life, illustrating 10 animal story Ladybird books written by Noel Barr.

He was born in Nottingham on 22 September 1876, and christened Percy Bell Hickling. His father, William Edwin Hickling, born in Leicester in 1844, was originally a mechanical engineer who later became an accountant. He had married Mary Bell, born in 1845 in Denton, Lincolnshire, in 1865. Percy was the sixth of seven children, his siblings being Herbert (born in 1867), Henry (1869), John (1870, Edith (1872), Mary Mabel (1875) – all born in Grantham, Lincolnshire – and Evelyn (born in 1878 in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire).

At the time of the 1881 census, the family was living in Salisbury Road, Leicester, By 1888, they had moved to 66 Laurel Road, Leicester, from where, on 22 January 1889, Percy entered Wyggeston Hospital Boys’ School (later Wyggeston Boys’ Grammar School), following his brothers Herbert and Henry. In 1892 he scored highly in the Cambridge Local Examinations, in freehand and model drawing, and as a result he studied briefly at the National Art Training School in South Kensington, before returning to Wyggeston in 1894 to take up a post as an Art Teacher.

Within eight years, he had taken up art as a full-time career, being recorded in 1899 as an artist working out of 4 Market Place, Leicester. Shortly after this, he moved to London, the 1901 census recording him at 4 Museum Street, Bloomsbury, working as a black and white artist, and sharing the accommodation with a boarder, 25 year-old Joseph Cotton, an art student.

Hickling’s first known published work was for Dean and Son’s The Fox and the Grapes and Other Fables, published in around 1892. In 1895 he contributed to Fun, and in 1897 he began providing illustrations for The Infants’ Magazine. A year later he illustrated his first girls’ school story, Geraldine Mockler’s The Girls of St. Bede’s, published by Jarrold & Sons. His next few books were all published for young children – titles such as Little Folk’s Surprises, Two Little Bears at School and We Three and Grandpa. At the same time he began contributing to The Royal Magazine, The Sphere, The Graphic, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Cassell’s Magazine and The Sunday Strand, and to annuals such as Nister’s Holiday Annual.

In 1902 he was living in New Court, Carey Street, Holborn. Two years later, in Westminster in 1904, he married Agnes Amy Offord, born in Fulham, London on 30 September 1876, the daughter of Robert Offord, a photographer. They went on to have one child, John Charlton Hickling, born on 16 June 1906, when the Hicklings were living at 1 Holmes Road, Twickenham. At the time of the 1911 census, the family was living at “Shirley”, Rudolph Road, Bushey, Herts.

In the decade leading up to the outbreak of the First World War, Hickling began contributing to The London Magazine, The Strand Magazine, Black and White, The New Magazine, The Royal Magazine, The Red Magazine, Punch and Printers’ Pie. In 1910, he provided three black and white illustrations to accompany an Arthur Conan Doyle story, 'The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans', in the French magazine Je Sais Tout. (It had originally been published in The Strand Magazine in 1908. Illustrated by Arthur Twidle). In 1911 he began illustrating serials in The Sheffield Weekly Telegraph, and continued to do so until 1928. Other periodicals he worked for before and after the war included The Blue Magazine, Hutchinson’s Magazine, The Grand Magazine, The Strand, The Windsor Magazine, The Quiver, The Tatler, Our Own Magazine, The Boy’s Own Paper, The Girl’s Own Paper, The Girls’ Realm, Pearson’s Magazine, Little Folks, The Magpie and The Sketch.

He also illustrated a variety of books, including re-issues of novels by authors such as Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, W.M. Thackeray and Charles Kingsley. (The re-issues of Trollope’s The Three Clerks and Eliot’s Adam Bede both contained no fewer than 16 illustrations).

He seems to have done little artistic work during the war, instead moving to Coventry where he worked as a capstan operator for the engineering firm of Rotherham and Sons. When conscription was introduced (affecting men up to the age of 41) he was granted an exemption because of his work in manufacturing munitions.

In 1923 he began illustrating girls’ stories for Cassell & Co. – authors included Dorothea Moore, Elsie J. Oxenham, Angela Brazil, Mary Gervaise and Brenda Page. In the late 1930s he produced dustwrappers for a few books published by Ward, Lock & Co. He also provided illustrations for children’s annuals such as The British Girls’ Annual, Blackie’s Girls’ Annual, The Triumph Book for Girls, Blackie’s Children’s Annual and The Schoolgirl’s Annual.

By this time he had moved back to London, firstly to 35 West End Lane, West Hampstead (between 1918 and 1924), and then 3 Marlborough Studios, 12 Finchley Road, St, Marylebone. Between 1939 and 1944 he worked as a Camouflage Officer in the Home Office.

After the war he illustrated a handful of omnibus books such as Winning Through: Stories for Girls and My Favourite Story: Selected Stories for Girls, both published by the Thames Publishing Company. Most importantly, in 1949 he illustrated The Inquisitive Harvest Mouse and Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten, the first two titles in a Ladybird series of animal stories written by Noel Barr. He went on to illustrate eight more, including the immensely popular The Wise Robin. In The Ladybird Story (British Library, 2014) Lorraine Johnson and Brian Alderson erroneously describe Hickling as appearing “only intermittently as a workaday draughtsman from his first essay in 1904”, but went on to praise his “ability to infuse a degree of character in the sundry pets, birds and country stock prefigured in the books’ titles...”

(Johnson and Alderson’s initial comment was not the first dismissive view of Hickling – in his very brief entry in Simon Houfe’s The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800-1914 Hickling is described as “A very competent but unrecorded pen artist who worked for magazines…..He also illustrated a novel The Three Clerks, John Long, c. 1908.”)

By then he had moved to Channel View, Bannings Vale, Saltdean, Sussex, which is where he died on 10 June 1951, leaving an estate valued at £1,596 (£43,000 in today’s terms). His wife died two years later, on 5 January 1953, at the same address.

As an artist, Hickling worked in both black and white and colour, and had a particular penchant for portraying girls and young women. This is exemplified in his illustrations for girls’ school stories, and also in his work for periodicals such as The Tatler, for which he painted a number of what could be described as post-pre-Raphaelite pictures of demure young women. But he was equally as adept with other subjects, including fairy stories, pictures of playful young children, and domestic scenes.


Books illustrated by P. B. Hickling
The Fox and the Grapes and Other Fables, Dean & Son, 1892(?)
The Girls of St. Bede’s by Geraldine Mockler, Jarrold & Sons, 1898
Little Folk’s Surprises by Hope Myrtoun, Ernest Nister, 1899
Captain Swing: A Tale of the 1830 Riots by Harold Avery, T. Nelson & Sons, 1900
A Stands for Ass by W.R. Borrow, Dean & Son, 1900
Little Pierrot by Constance M. Lowe, C.M. Hammill etc., Dean & Son, 1900
The Seaside Story Book by George Manvill Fenn, L.T. Meade & others, Ernest Nister, 1900
Two Little Bears at School by J.D., S.W. Partridge & Co., 1900(?)
The Magic Mist, and Other Dartmoor Legends by Eva C. Rogers, Andrew Melrose, 1901
We Three and Grandpa: A Pictur Story Book for Little Ones by J.D., S.W Partridge & Co., 1902
The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope, John Long, 1903 (re-issue)
Adam Bede by George Eliot, John Long, 1904 (re-issue)
The Little Heiress by Margaret Bruce Clarke, T. Nelson & Sons, 1904 
The History of Henry Esmond by William Makepeace Thackeray, John Long, 1904 (re-issue)
Jack and the Beanstalk and Other Stories, Henry Altemus (USA), 1905
Partners: A School Story by H.F. Gethen, T. Nelson & Sons, 1905 (re-issue)
Frank Oldfield, or Lost and Found by Theodore Percival Wilson, T. Nelson & Sons, 1906 (re-issue)
True to His Nickname by Harold Avery, T. Nelson & Sons, 1907
Veiled Hearts: A Romance of Modern Egypt by Rachel Willard, Religious Tract Society, 1908
Every Day Tales by L.L. Weedon, Ernest Nister, 1908
Life’s Contrats by John Foster Fraser, Cassell & Co., 1908
The Wizard’s Wand: A Tale of School Life for Boys and Girls by Harold Avery, T. Nelson Sons, 1909
The Love-Brokers by Albert Kinross, Cassell & Co., 1909
The Girl Who Wouldn’t Make Friends by Elsie J. Oxenham, T. Nelson & Sons, 1909
Some of Our Fellows: A School Story by T.S. Millington, Henry Frowde, Hodder & Stoughton, 1909 (re-issue)
The Probationer by Amy Irving, S. W. Partridge, 1910
Helen Grant’s Schooldays by Amanda M. Douglas, Collins, 1910
The Strange Little Girl by Bella Sidney Woolf, Duckworth & Co., 1910
The Sands o’ Dee by Charles Kingsley, Collins, 1910(?) (re-issue)
Hope Glynne's Awakening by Jessie Goldsmith Cooper. London, S. W. Partridge, 1911
The Wrath of Man by Silas Hocking, Frederick Warne & Co., 1912
The Furrow in the Fill by Florence Bone, Religious Tract Society, 1912
The Life and Death of Jason: A Metrical Romance by William Morris, Collins, 1912 (re-issue)
The Mystery of Beechey Grange, or The Missing Host by H.C. Adams, Collins, 1912 (re-issue)
Hepsy Gipsy by L. T. Meade. London, Everett, 1912(?)
Playtime Funny Book, Ernest Nister, 1912(?)
Meddlesome Mattie by Agnes M. Miall. London, S. W. Partridge & Co., 1913
Mary-All-Alone by John Oxenham, Methuen & Co., 1913
Love Stories of Royal Girlhood by Kent Carr, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1913
Captain Swing: A Tale of the 1830s Riots by Harold Avery, T. Nelson & Sons, 1914
Molly Angel's Adventures by Bessie Marchant, Blackie & Son, 1915
Girls Who Were Famous Queens by Kent Carr, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1915
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Collins, 1915(?)
All Change Here! Or Keep Cheerful by Charles F. Parsons, Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1916
Bunty’s Book of Heroes by Herbert Hayens, Collins, 1917(?)
Tam of Tiffany’s by Dorothea Moore, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1918
Judy Sees it Through by Doris A. Pocock, Blackie & Son, 1919
The Claverings by Anthony Trollope, Collins, 1920(?) (re-issue)
Queen of the School by E.M. de Foubert, Cassell & Co., 1923
The Boys’ Book of Motors by William Gordon Aston, E. & F.N. Spon, 1923
Fen’s First Term by Dorothea Moore, Cassell & Co., 1924
The Testing of the Torment by Elsie J. Oxenham, Cassell & Co., 1925
The Girls of Dormitory Ten by Betty Laws, Cassell & Co., 1926
Queen of the Dormitory and Other Stories by Angela Brazil, Cassell & Co., 1926
Twenty-six Adventure Stories for Girls by various authors, “Every Girl’s Paper” Office, 1926(?)
The Guides at Calamity Hill by Nancy M. Hayes, Cassell & Co., 1927
Schoolgirl Rivals by Brenda Page, Cassell & Co., 1927
The Head Girl’s Secret by Doris Pocock, Cassell & Co., 1927
The Girl Who Wouldn't Make Friends by Elsie J. Oxenham, T. Nelson & Sons, 1927
Tiger's First Term by Mary Gervaise, Cassell & Co., 1928
The Castle School by Nancy M. Hayes, Cassell & Co., 1928
Schoolgirl Rose by Ethel Talbot, Cassell & Co., 1928
The Fifth Form Adventurers by E. E. Cowper, Cassell & Co., 1929
A Term on Trial by Mary Gervaise, Cassell & Co., 1929
The Girls of Stornham Central by Betty Laws, Cassell & Co., 1929
The Invincible Fifth by E. E. Cowper, Cassell & Co., 1930
The Star of Sr. Anne’s by Bertha Leonard, Cassell & Co., 1930
Dartmoor Legends by Eva C. Rogers, Pilgrim Press, 1930 (re-issue)
Joan and the Scholarship Girl by Brenda Page, Cassell & Co., 1931
Two in Form Four by Christine Chaundler, Collins, 1931
The Joker of Dormitory D by T. H. Scott, F. Warne & Co., 1932
As a Man Loves by Effie Adelaide Rowlands, Ward, Lock & Co., 1936 [dustwrapper]
The House of Life by Fay Inchfawn, Ward, Lock & Co., 1936 [dustwrapper]
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, Ward, Lock & Co., 1936 (re-issue)
Masked Danger by Ben Bolt, Ward, Lock & Co., 1937
The One Who Counted by Effie Adelaide Rowlands, Ward, Lock & Co., 1937 [dustwrapper]
The Top of the Tree by Effie A. Rowlands, Ward, Lock & Co., 1937 [dustwrapper]
"This Time Next Term" by Nancy Breary, Blackie & Son, 1945
Winning Through: Stories for Girls by various authors, Thames Publishing Co., 1947(?)
My Favourite Story: Selected Stories for Girls, Thames Publishing Co., 1948
Sweet Seventeen by various authors, Thames Publishing Co., 1948
Best of All by various authors, Blackie & Son, 1949
Sea Rangers at Sloo by Geoffrey Prout, Blackie & Son, 1949
From a Surgeon's Diary by Clifford Ashdown, Ferret Fantasy, 1975 (stories originally published in Cassell’s Magazine)

Ladybird Books, series 497  -  written by Noel Barr and published by Wills & Hepworth:
The Inquisitive Harvest Mouse, 1949
Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten, 1949
The Wise Robin, 1950
The Discontented Pony, 1951
The Conceited Lamb, 1951
Beaky the Greedy Duck, 1951
Mick the Disobedient Puppy, 1952
Ned the Lonely Donkey, 1952
Cocky the Lazy Rooster, 1953
The Sleepy Water Vole, 1955


  1. Percy was my great, great uncle. I'm delighted to read this information. Thank you for posting it. I'm researching my family history and I'm very interested in gathering as much detail as possible. It would be interesting to know what inspired you to find out about PB Hickling. Thanks again. Peter Hickling

    1. Hi Peter. I am sat here with my wife talking about my family tree and have a first edition book illustrated by P B Hickling. He was also my great great uncle! I do hope you receive this and we can connect. Maybe we can share our family tree as I have a lot of the rest of it from Percy’s siblings. Best Rob Elder

    2. If you want to drop me a line directly, Peter, I can pass on your e-mail address to Rob.

    3. Hi Steve. I would love to in contact with Rob. I think his ancestor was Eveline, Percy's younger sister. How do I contact you directly Steve to pass my email address on or can you do this already? If you can, then I'm very happy that you forward my email address to Rob.
      Exciting developments in the Hickling family history.....Thank you.

    4. you can drop me a line at the address below my photo, top left.

  2. The article was written by Robert Kirkpatrick, but I think I can speak for him here. We're both interested in old boys' story papers and the people who wrote and illustrated them. Robert has a broader interest in book illustration where I do more research in old British comics.



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