Lucas made over 300 etchings, including a volume now in the British Museum. He also pioneered a technique of making prints from natural objects such as ferns, which he called nature prints. The Hartley Library holds two albums of his photographs, which include images of his own works, and photographs of himself as characters from Shakespeare, also dressed as a necromancer and in other guises [rare books Cope 73 LUC].
In later life, he became increasingly eccentric and built a house for himself at Chilworth in 1854, which he called the Tower of the Winds, apparently on the site of or near the modern house called Chilworth Tower on Chilworth Drove. Later accounts of this building are confused by the fact that in 1862 or 1863 he sold this house and began building another about half a mile away, on the other side of the main road to Romsey from the Clump Inn. This was possibly due to problems with damp in the first house as mentioned in his letter to Palmerston (see below). This appears to be the house of which a photograph exists in one of the albums held in the Hartley Library, which is dated 1864.It was apparently 60 feet high with a studio and study on the top floor, which Lucas called his Sky Parlour. He was very fond of heights, and it is alleged that he once climbed the spire of Salisbury Cathedral with his baby son tied on his back, though this may well be literally a tall story! His tower included stained glass which Lucas thought may have come from the Tudor palace of Nonsuch, though some did come from Salisbury Cathedral. The first tower is said to have burnt down in 1893. John Arlott states in an article in Hampshire Magazine for March 1963 that the second tower was demolished in 1955 to make way for a modern house called Chilworth Court. But an article published in 1934 in the Hampshire Advertiser states that the building had already disappeared. Arlott describes a slab inscribed R. C. Lucas 1863, presumably the foundation stone, which is set in the garden path of Chilworth Court. One account in Hampshire Magazine for December 1992 describes how the wooden structure on top eventually fell down some time after Lucas’s death, and afterwards the name was changed to Chilworth Court, the name being perpetuated by the modern house.
Lucas was well-known locally in his lifetime for his eccentric behaviour, which included riding down Southampton High Street in a horse-drawn chariot dressed in a toga as a Roman emperor. He entered into a dispute with Joseph Toomer, a Southampton man who described him as “a crazy old infidel” [BR115/9/8], but was defended by Lord Palmerston. His friendship with Palmerston lasted for many years, who apparently esteemed him highly as an artist and conversationalist. Palmerston obtained a civil list pension for him in 1865, and planted various specimen trees on his property including Wellingtonias and cedars.In the Archives here, there are also letters from Lucas to the Duke of Wellington. He wrote to Wellington in 1851 asking him to sit for a medallion, but by this time the Duke was an old man and rather tired of sitting for portraits (he died the following year). [WP2/168/23-24]
Lucas is buried in the churchyard of Chilworth parish church. There is a memorial inside the church, made by Lucas himself, in the form of a marble medallion bearing his profile. He was survived by his son, Albert Durer Lucas, 1828-1918, who was also an artist. Lucas wrote his own epitaph as early as 1850 (33 years before his death), part of which reads “his habits were simple, he was honest, conscientious, of industry untiring …his intellect was enquiring, acute and penetrating.”
In recent years Harry Willis Fleming has done a considerable amount of work on Lucas’s life and work, including the creation of the R. C. Lucas Archive, containing photographs, scrapbooks, etchings and other artefacts. His website can be accessed at http://www.richardcocklelucas.org.uk/
“He was always a minor figure and never had the skill or enjoyed the popularity of a major talent like Chantrey. But as a human being he was not negligible and should be remembered not only for his best small-scale works but also for his perseverance, industry and enquiring mind” Trevor Fawcett, art historian, quoted in Chilworth Tower and R C Lucas, a bound collection of unpublished typescripts, MSS and photocopied articles made by M C Durrant and held on the open shelves of the Cope Collection [Cope q CHL 72 TOW].
“…my great delight is to comprehend truth and to reproduce it” Richard Cockle Lucas On the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (bound in Chilworth Tower and R. C. Lucas, as above)