Tag Archives: Local history

Richard Cockle Lucas 1800-1883: talented artist and engaging eccentric

Photograph of Richard Cockle Lucas taken by himself [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13789]

Photograph of Richard Cockle Lucas taken by himself [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13789]

R.C.Lucas was a local artist and sculptor of some renown, who spent the latter part of his life at Chilworth, a village just north of Southampton. He was born in Salisbury, where his father was a cloth manufacturer. Being an impressionable child, he was much affected by tales of the supernatural, and believed he had been visited by fairies, a belief which lasted for the rest of his life. This resulted in his publishing in 1875 Hetty Lottie and the proceedings of Little Dick showing how he woo’d and won a Fairy, two copies of which can be found on the open access shelves of the Cope Collection in the Special Collections area of the Hartley Library [73 LUC Cope], bound together with Palmerstonia, Lucas’s tribute to his friend, Lord Palmerston.

Title page of Hetty Lottie [Cope 73 LUC]

Title page of Hetty Lottie [Cope 73 LUC]

Lucas was apprenticed to a cutler in Winchester, where his aptitude at carving knife handles led him to take up sculpture. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools, later regularly exhibiting there. After some years, he moved with his wife, Eliza and son to Otterbourne, Hampshire and eventually to Chilworth. One of his sculptures, a wax bust of the goddess Flora, achieved notoriety when it was purchased after his death by a German gallery who believed it to be by Leonardo da Vinci. After some controversy, its true origin was revealed by the discovery of 19th-century fabric inside its structure. He created many other sculptures including a statue of Dr Johnson for Lichfield, and a model of the Parthenon acquired by the British Museum. Another of his statues was of Isaac Watts, the theologian and hymn writer, now in Watts Park, Southampton. It was unveiled with much ceremony in the presence of the Mayor and the Earl of Shaftesbury, followed by the singing of Handel’s Halleluja Chorus. It is described as “realistic and convincing” by David Lloyd in the Hampshire volume of The Buildings of England.

Statue of Isaac Watts photographed by Lucas [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13788]

Statue of Isaac Watts photographed by Lucas [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13788]

The monument to John Fleming in North Stoneham Church, near Southampton, was created in 1854, showing a relief portrait of Fleming. The Southampton Times of 24 September 1864 describes in great detail a monument to Robert Pearce, a banker, still standing in Southampton Old Cemetery. It consists of three life-sized winged figures representing Faith, Hope and Charity supporting an urn from which a butterfly emerges. “We congratulate the people of Southampton on having such a beautiful art work in their midst” [BR115/10/20/3]. Lucas considered this to have been his master work.

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.

Tower of the Winds photographed by Lucas in 1864 [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13788]

Tower of the Winds photographed by Lucas in 1864 [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13788]

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.

Medallion of Palmerston “in speech, peace and war”. Photograph taken by the artist [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13788]

Medallion of Palmerston “in speech, peace and war”. Photograph taken by the artist [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13788]
This ivory carving is described in a letter to Lord Palmerston in 1863 [BR115/9/62]. It is accompanied by a slip of paper containing the amusing idea that “it was discovered in the ruins of Windsor Castle which Theodosis the seventh Australian Emperor destroyed in 2899″.

Letter to Palmerston, Oct 1864, offering to sell his works of art and his tower in exchange for an annuity. [BR115/10/20/2]

Letter to Palmerston, Oct 1864, offering to sell his works of art and his tower in exchange for an annuity. [BR115/10/20/2]
“My old Tower I could not keep dry- therefore I sold it and have now built one handsome and substantial….. I sent my son as a mediator to Mr Fleming [local estate owner]- instead of which he got a lease for himself elsewhere and I had to go to the dogs. So unhandsome did my son sever his fortunes from mine that I would rather march to the Union than have support from him.” Palmerston replied that he has no room to display the art works at Broadlands, and that “your new tower, though a a handsome and substantial Building is too far from Broadlands to be a desirable acquisition.” [BR115/10/20/4]

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)

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Jane Austen’s Southampton

Jane Austen’s association with Southampton is often overlooked — it does not provide as picturesque a backdrop to her life as Bath or Winchester, nor is it a setting for any of her novels. Nevertheless, Southampton was briefly her home as a schoolgirl and again from October 1806 until early 1809. Although much of the town that she knew no longer exists, glimpses of it can be seen in many of the Cope Collection’s older prints and in contemporary publications such as The Southampton Guide (1806).

It was after the death of Rev. George Austen, that Jane, her mother, her sister Cassandra, and friend Martha Lloyd, moved to Southampton to set up home with her brother Frank and his wife. At first they lived in lodgings, but in March 1807 moved to 2 Castle Square, a house rented by Frank from the Marquis of Lansdowne, the owner of the mock gothic castle nearby.

Tobias Young A near view of Southampton in 1819; taken from the banks of the canal near the tunnel (1819) in Cope, Sir W.H. Views in Hampshire, v.4: illus. 116 [Rare Books Cope ff 91.5]. Castle Square is thought to be the large house with tall chimneys in front of the castle.

Tobias Young ‘A near view of Southampton in 1819; taken from the banks of the canal near the tunnel’ (1819) in Cope, Sir W.H. Views in Hampshire, v.4: illus. 116 [Rare Books Cope ff 91.5]. Castle Square is thought to be the large house with tall chimneys in front of the castle.

Jane described preparations for the move in letters written to Cassandra, who was visiting their brother in Kent. She appeared especially pleased with the garden, in which the town wall formed a terrace overlooking the river. Her remark that “We hear that we are envied our House by many people and that the Garden is the best in the town” is confirmed in the contemporary guidebook by Sir Henry Englefield, who described the view from the gardens in Castle Square as “commanding an enchanting view of the bay, from the town to the village of Millbrook, and the river beyond it quite to Redbridge”.

T.H. Skelton All Saints Church (Southampton, 1811) [Rare Books Cope c SOU 26 pr.832]

T.H. Skelton ‘All Saints Church’ (Southampton, 1811) [Rare Books Cope c SOU 26 pr.832]

Something of the life led by the Austen family in Southampton can be seen in later letters to Cassandra. They attended All Saints Church, the comparatively new church at the corner of the High Street and East Street, visited the market near the Audit House and no doubt the pastry-cook Mr Webb, whose house was badly damaged by a fire which Jane Austen witnessed. Dealings with silk dyers were mentioned, spruce beer was brewed and books read each evening, much time was also spent receiving and paying calls.

Southampton in 1806 in The Southampton Atlas (Southampton, 1907) [Cope ff SOU 90.5]

Southampton in 1806 in The Southampton Atlas (Southampton, 1907) [Cope ff SOU 90.5]

The streets of Southampton must have become very familiar to Jane Austen. A “regular walk” took in Bellevue, the large house towards the northern end of London Road and the Austens also enjoyed the pleasant walk through the suburb of Above Bar to the Polygon. A certain amount of stamina was needed to visit the Lances of Chessel House, Bitterne, which involved walking to the ferry to cross the Itchen, continuing to the house which was in the vicinity of Chessel Avenue and returning home via the new Northam Bridge. After such a walk in Dec 1808, Jane described herself and Martha Lloyd as “scarcely at all fatigued”.

T. Younge A view of the New Bridge at Northam (c.1797) [Rare Book Cope c SOU 43 pr.845]

T. Younge ‘A view of the New Bridge at Northam’ (c.1797) [Rare Book Cope c SOU 43 pr.845]

There were occasional visits to the theatre, apparently not well thought of – “Martha ought to see the inside of the Theatre once while she lives in Southampton & I think she will hardly wish to take a second view” and also to the Ball. Only attendances at those held at the Dolphin during the winter months are recorded, Jane attending one in December 1808 and also the Queen’s Birthday Assembly Ball in January 1809.

The Southampton Guide (Southampton, 1806) [Rare Books Cope SOU 03.5 1806]

The Southampton Guide (Southampton, 1806) [Rare Books Cope SOU 03.5 1806]

The Austens hosted a number of family visits during their years in Southampton. A visit in September 1807 by Edward Austen Knight, his wife Elizabeth and children William and Fanny was recorded by Fanny, then aged fourteen. On Sunday, after going to Church there was a walk to the Polygon, Monday included a visit to the theatre and Tuesday brought a boat trip to Hythe. On Wednesday everyone except Mrs Austen senior took a boat to Netley Abbey and according to Fanny, they ate some biscuits which they had taken, and returned quite delighted. Later the same day she and her Aunt Jane walked in the High Street till late. On the final day, all except Aunt Jane went on a drive through the New Forest to Lyndhurst and Lymington.

John Hassell Netley Abbey (London, 1807) [Rare Books Cope c NET 26 pr.669]

John Hassell ‘Netley Abbey’ (London, 1807) [Rare Books Cope c NET 26 pr.669]

Jane Austen’s letters record little of her views on Southampton itself, but some of the residents did not escape her judgement. Of Mrs Lance of Chessel House she wrote, “they live in a handsome style and are rich, and she seemed to like to be rich”, of a Mrs Bertie, “Mrs Bertie lives in the Polygon, & was out when we returned her visit – which are her two virtues” and of the Marchioness of Lansdowne and Mr Husket, the painter employed by the Marquis, “I suppose when the Walls want no touching up, he is employed about My Lady’s face”.

In recent years, Jane Austen has been reclaimed as a famous former resident of Southampton, there is now a Jane Austen Heritage Trail and her remark on the “stinking fish of Southampton” has not only been forgiven but also adopted as the name of the festival with which the City is marking the 200th anniversary of her death.

Bibliography

Austen, Jane Jane Austen’s Letters ed. Deidre Le Faye 4th ed. (Oxford, 2011)

Englefield, Henry A Walk through Southampton 2nd ed. (Southampton, 1805)

Le Faye, Deidre A Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family (Cambridge, 2006)

‘Hampshire people and places’ event

On Monday 31 July 2017, the Special Collections, Hartley Library, University of Southampton, will host the latest in its “explore the collections” events.

Why not join us between 15:30 and 17:00 to discover more about the resources we hold for Hampshire ranging from topography to details of everyday life.

On show in the Archives and Manuscripts reading room will be an array of printed sources from the Cope Collection, as well as material from our manuscript collections. There will also be an opportunity to investigate the Cope Collection in Open Access Special Collections.

Space is limited. To reserve a place, please go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hampshire-people-and-places-tickets-35816201222


Visitors to the Special Collections, summer 2017

From June to late September the access route to Special Collections will be altered owing to the Hartley Library Refurbishment Project. Access will be up the main stairs to Level 3, following the signs across this floor to the fire stairs at the back of the building and then up to Level 4.

Please note that access to the lifts in the Hartley Library will be restricted for the period of the refurbishment project: please contact staff about access arrangements.