Friday, December 14, 2018

J F Weedon

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

J.F. Weedon worked for The Illustrated London News for many years in the 1880s and 1890s, while at the same time also illustrating around 17 children’s books, mainly historical stories, and several other books, yet he has been almost completely overlooked by the main reference sources. Her merits just two brief sentences in Simon Houfe’s The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800-1914: “Illustrator of sporting subjects. He contributed to The Graphic (1888).” However, underlying this is a sordid tale of cruelty, adultery and bigamy.

He was born on 3 October 1846 in St. Pancras, London, and baptized, as Joseph Frederic (note the spelling) Weedon, on 14 November 1858 at St. George’s Church, Bloomsbury. His father, Joseph Henry Weedon, was a boot maker, born in 1826 (and who himself was baptized at the same church four days after his son). He had married Maria Garrett in 1846 – they had one other son, Frederick Joseph, born on 23 November 1849 and who was baptized along with his brother in 1858.

At the time of the 1851 census the family was living at 9 Harrison Street, St. Pancras. Joseph Frederick was clearly a talented artist, as he was recorded in the 1861 census, when he was only 15, working as a wood engraver, and living with his family at 12 Henrietta Street, Bloomsbury. In 1862, he was a prizewinner in the Oxford Local Exams (although it is not known which school he was attending) and in 1864 he won a prize at the North London Working Classes Industrial Exhibition, held at the Agricultural Hall, Islington.

Three years later, on 25 March 1867 at St. Pancras Old Church, he married Mary de Corbin, born in Brighton in 1848, and the daughter of Frederick de Corbin, an office porter. They went on to have nine children, all of whom died in early infancy apart from two: Alice Maud, born on 20 June 1867, and Ada, born on 10 May 1871 (and baptized 32 years later on 16 December 1903 at Christ Church, Holborn). The family moved about a bit: 14 Drummond Crescent, Euston Square (1867); Harrison Street; Gray’s Inn Road; and, in 1871, 2 Cloudesley Street, Islington, where Joseph was recorded in that year’s census as a “Draughtsman on wood.”  He was still working as an engraver in 1881, when he was living with his wife and children at 18 Isledon Road, Islington.

However, his marriage was then in serious trouble, as revealed when his wife filed for divorce on 3 August 1889. Her petition stated that he had “a violent temperament,” frequently “used coarse and offensive and threatening language,” and “on numerous occasions had assaulted and beaten her.” In September 1880 he committed adultery with an un-named woman, and as a consequence passed on an infection of venereal disease to his wife a month later; and in April 1886 he committed adultery with his wife’s sister, Ellen Copperthwaite. His wife also detailed various assaults, from 1888 onwards when they were living at 39 Oakfield Road, Finsbury Park. The end came in February 1889, when Joseph moved out of the family home and arranged for all the household furniture to be removed and sold. Mary Weedon was granted her divorce on 2 May 1890, with Joseph ordered to pay maintenance (although he failed to do so until at least 1894).

In the meantime, Joseph had moved on from engraving to producing illustrations in his own right. His earliest known work appeared in Harper’s Weekly in 1878. In 1882, he contributed to The Pictorial World, and it was also around this time that he began contributing to The Illustrated London News, continuing to do so until at least 1896. (This begs the question as to whether or not he was related to Edwin Weedon (1819-1873) who worked for The Illustrated London News for over 35 years). He also contributed to The Illustrated Naval and Military Magazine in 1885, and to The Graphic in 1888. Most of his illustrations for The Illustrated London News were of current events, such as royal visits, funerals, dramatic news items etc., although he also covered a few wars overseas (e.g. in Egypt and the Soudan).

His first book illustrations appeared in 1885, in a boys’ school story written by M.M. Pollard and published by the Religious Tract Society. He went on to illustrate at least another ten books for the Religious Tract Society, including three by Emma Leslie, alongside seven children’s books for the National Society’s Depository, by authors such as Esme Stuart, M. Bramston and Charlotte M. Yonge. He also became particularly associated with Percy Lindley, for whom he illustrated several travel books – for example Walks in the Ardennes, which was first published in 1887 and re-issued and revised at least four times. 

Other publications to which Weedon contributed were The Ludgate Monthly in 1891 and 1892, where he illustrated half a dozen or so short stories, and the Aldine Publishing Company’s My Queen Library in around 1900. He also designed a number of Christmas cards for Harding & Co. in the late 1880s, and he produced 12 paintings which were reproduced as colour lithograph posters, under the title "Temperance Pictorial Diagrams" for the United Kingdom Band of Hope Union in 1894, which were accompanied by a booklet, Abstinence and Hard Work, written by Charles Wakely.

In the meantime, his personal life had become a squalid mess. For some reason, in 1884 he started using the name Julian F. Weedon – a notice in The Morning Post (9 December 1884) referred to illustrations by Julian F. Weedon in the Christmas number of Life. (It is not clear what this periodical was – it was not the American Life, as none of the December issues contain a Weedon illustration). He was subsequently recorded in the Electoral Register as Julian Weedon living at 39 Oakfield Road, Finsbury Park, in 1888 and 1889, and in 1890 a revised edition of Percy Lindley’s Walks in the Ardennes credited Julian F. Weedon as the illustrator – previous editions had simply referred to J.F. Weedon. 1891 he contributed illustrations to The Ludgate Monthly under the same name. (There are no birth or baptism records for a Julian Weedon, neither does a Julian Weedon appear in any census return. Julian F. Weedon was clearly Joseph Weedon.)

On 5 July 1890 Julian F. Joseph Weedon married Beatrice Louise Annie Newton at Lambeth Register Office. They moved to Brook Villas, Loughton, Essex, and then, in 1891, to 9 Moultrie Terrace, George Lane, Woodford, Essex. Two months later, according to a petition for a judicial separation lodged by Beatrice on 1 February 1893, he began assaulting her. She detailed several more assaults – being punched, kicked and pushed down the stairs – until she left him in September 1892, although on the promise that he’d treat her “more kindly” she returned. However, the assaults continued, and she left him again in January 1893.

They appear to have been reconciled, because on 31 May 1900 The Daily Mail reported on an apparent case of theft, where William Creighton, the manager of an oyster bar, was charged with stealing two vases from a house in Goldsmith Road, Friern Barnet. His solicitor told the magistrate that Creighton’s wife had eloped with an artist, who had taken the vases, which belonged to Creighton, with him. Creighton had gone to the artist’s house, which had been left unlocked, simply to liberate his own property. A woman then stepped forward and told the magistrate that she was the wife of J.F. Weedon, an artist, and that he had disappeared. The police then stated that they believed the couple had gone to France. Creighton was discharged, and the magistrate said that he could do nothing about Weedon’s desertion of his wife.

In 1900, Julian Frederick Weedon was listed in the London Post Office Directory as having a studio at 41, Wych Street, Strand.

On 28 April 1902, Julian Frederick Weedon married Ella Harriett Biffen, the 27 year-old daughter of a clerk, at the Parish Church of Bishops Hatfield, Hertfordshire. The marriage certificate stated that Weedon was a bachelor, with his father named as Joseph Henry Weedon. Eighteen months later Weedon found himself sent for trial for bigamy, with The Morning Post (and a few other newspapers) referring to “Julian Frederick Weedon, a farmer, of Southgate Road, Enfield.”  Two weeks later, Weedon appeared at the Old Bailey, with The London Daily News (20 October 1903) reporting on “a terrible story of bigamy and cruelty…..” in “the case of Julian Frederick Weedon, aged 49, a well-educated black and white artist, who pleaded guilty to having committed bigamy by marrying Ella Harriett Biffen, a respectably connected young woman.” The court was told that
Weedon was first married in 1867, and lived with his wife until 1889, there being ten children. Then, in consequence of his conduct, by which she was for a time rendered deaf and blind, she divorced him. In 1890 he went through a form of marriage with another woman, and lived with her until 1899, but in consequence of his conduct she obtained a judicial separation.” Weedon, the court was then told, “became acquainted with a married woman, whom he induced to desert her husband, who, through this fact, took to drink and lost a good situation. He treated this woman brutally.” Weedon, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude, serving this at Dartmoor, and being released on 22 January 1906.

Apart from three minor discrepancies  –  Weedon was not a farmer, as initially reported; he was 57 years old in 1903, not 49; and he and his first wife had nine children, not ten – otherwise this ties in completely with everything else.

How he earned a living after his release is not known. His last illustrations appear to have been published in 1907, although they had probably been executed (and possibly published elsewhere) prior to this. Presumably, given his recent past, he was unable to find work, at least as an illustrator. A Joseph F. Weedon was recorded as having been discharged from the Holborn Workhouse on 15 March 1909, although his age was given as 72 (Weedon would have been 63). There is no trace of him in the 1911 census, although his wife was living at 1 Russell Road, Redlands, Bristol. In 1918, Weedon was recorded as living at 12 Beaconsfield Buildings, York Road, Islington. He subsequently appears to have moved to Bristol, where he died at Southmead Hospital on 24 May 1924, of pneumonia following a hernia operation. His home address was given as 5 Cecil Road, Clifton, Bristol, while his wife, who was present when he died, was living at 48 Upper Belgrave Road, Clifton. She later re-married, and died in 1965.


Books illustrated by J.F. Weedon
Robert Deane’s Mission: A Tale for the Young by M.M. Pollard, Religious Tract Society, 1885
The Boy Who Never Lost a Chance by Annette Lyster, Religious Tract Society, 1886
Through Stress and Strain: A Story of the Huguenot Persecution by Emma Leslie, Religious Tract Society, 1887
Walks in the Ardennes ed. by Percy Lindley, W.H. Smith & Son, 1887 (and revised and re-issued in 1888, 1890, 1891 and 1893)
Harry Lester’s Revenge by Alice Lang, Religious Tract Society, 1888
Tempted, or The Old Lady’s Prize by Harriette E. Burch, Religious Tract Society, 1888
The Making of a Hero: A Story of the Huguenots by Emma Leslie, Sunday School Union, 1888
Carried Off: A Story of Pirate Times by Esmè Stuart, National Society’s Depository, 1888
At Even-Tide: Texts for Quiet Moments, Book Society, 1888
Angel Voices on Life’s Pathway, Book Society, 1888
By Little and Little: A Tale of the Spanish Armada by Emma Leslie, Religious Tract Society, 1889
Aunt Selina’s Legacy: A Story for Children by Esmè Stuart, Religious Tract Society, 1889(?)
Dangerous Jewels by Mary Bramston, National Society’s Depository, 1890
Our Little Dots’ Picture Scrap Book, Religious Tract Society, 1890 (with other artists)
Walks in Epping Forest by Percy Lindley, 123-125 Fleet Street, (“new edition”) 1891 (with other artists)
A Hero in the Strife: A Tale of the Seventeenth Century by Louisa C. Silke, Religious Tract Society, 1892
The Cross Roads, or A Choice in Life: A Story for Young Women and Older Girls by Charlotte M. Yonge, National Society’s Depository, 1892
The Adventures of Denis by M. Bramston, National Society’s Depository, 1892
A Nest of Royalists by Esmè Stuart, National Society’s Depository, 1892
A Small Legacy: A Story for Children by Esmè Stuart, National Society’s Depository, 1892
Not One Of Us by anon. (Margaret Roberts), National Society’s Depository, 1892
Tried in the Fire by Louisa C. Silke, Religious Tract Society, 1893
Cigarette Papers for Holiday Smoking by Joseph Hatton, 30, Fleet Street, 1893 (with W.H. Margetson)
Walks in Belgium by Percy Lindley, 30 Fleet Street, 1894
Our Gracious Queen: Pictures and Stories from Her Majesty’s Life by Mrs O.F. Walton, Religious Tract Society, 1897 (with other artists)
The Victorian Album: A Record of Her Majesty’s Glorious Reign from Drawings, John Harrop, 1897
New Walks by the Rhine by Percy Lindley, 1898
Pictures and Stories from Queen Victoria’s Life by various authors, Religious Tract Society, 1901 (with other artists)
My Picture Story Book, Religious Tract Society, 1907

1 comment:

  1. Great story, I have a small illustrated book type diary and would like to find out more about it



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