Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Thomas Letherbrow 1825-1899

Thomas Letherbrow is not related to the Brookes family, but was the very good friend, and fellow artist of Warwick 1808-1882. Letherbrow was a bank cashier, and entered the service of Messrs. Cunliffes Brooks and Co. <Click>, at the age of thirteen, and worked for them for the rest of his career, becoming chief cashier in the latter part. He married Emma Hobbs in 1858, and for the whole of his life was a teetotaller.

He was an accomplished draughtsman, and produced many etchings of merit, a talent he shared with his younger brother, John Henry Letherbrow, <Click>, an artist of marked ability and promise, who had studied at The Munich Academy of Fine Arts, and died, in Munich, at the early age of 47. Thomas was a published poet, and a volume "May Flowers" was published in 1853 for the benefit of the Deaf and Dumb school, in which he had contributed both a poem and an etching.

Letherbrow met Warwick in the early days of the Manchester school of art and design, and later set up the art society with him that met above Rose's china shop on Kings Street, Manchester. He was a regular contributor to the press, mainly The Manchester City News, on many subjects relating to art, natural history, literature and antiquities, and was treasurer to the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society for many years, commencing office in 1889.

[This is another on line readable book. Volume 7, 1889 Transactions of The Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society. Letherbrow is listed as treasurer, and the book contains high quality illustrations drawn by him. See the list of his contributions on the illustrations contents page. Click this link to read the book: 1889 Transactions of The Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society.] Other volumes, also available to read on the same site contain further high quality drawings by him.

He took little part in public matters, but became well known for his interests in art and literature, and wrote biographical monographs on his friends George Crozier*, Frederick Shields, William Hull and Warwick Brookes. His book "Pencil Pictures of Child Life", published in 1889, was a complete biography of Brookes, and included illustrations by the artist himself.

I had suspected that the book I own, where much of the information for my own research has come from, was put together in limited edition, from an article of memoriam that appeared in The Manchester City News in 1882, and is reproduced in full on this website. Due to its content being similar to that of the book Pencil Pictures of Child Life, I also suspected that Letherbrow was the author of the article. However, due to discovering the published minutes from a March 6th. 1883 meeting of The Manchester Literary Society, <Click>, I now know that my book was in fact written by Letherbrow after the death of his friend. The newspaper article was taken from the book, and not the other way round, and the book was later reprinted in a special illustrated edition in limited numbers for family, friends and collectors. This is the book I have.

Letherbrow was noted for putting together professionally produced pamphlets of his poems for distribution amongst his friends. The book I have, is professionally leather bound in navy blue with black trim, embossed on the spine, in gold leaf, "Warwick Brookes." However, there are no references within it to the author, or any other information such as publication details. The illustrations are also original photographs which are simply pasted on to blank pages that are among the printed text. On a blank page inside the cover, an original 1911 newspaper cutting of Frederick Shield's obituary is pasted, with hand written comment in fountain pen ink, "Daily Mail Feb 28, '11." On the opposite page is a signature, again in ink. The surname can definitely be read as "Gurney," with possibly "Wm" and possibly another letter before it. This is the only clue I have as to who might have been the original owner.

Here are the relevant extracts from the literary society meeting:-

The meeting was discussing various publications in the antiquities, topography and history category, and went on..., the "Memorials of Warwick Brookes" written, it was believed by Mr. Thomas Letherbrow, and contributed to The Manchester City News, have been reprinted, and in their illustrated form, make up a volume which will be treasured by collectors. The meeting then went on to discuss the science and useful arts category.

Both Thomas, and his wife Emma had an involvement in "The Letherbrow Club," a private literary and artistic society in Manchester, of which many (now famous) artists of the time were members, and submitted work to the manuscript volumes held by the club. Two members of note were William Hull 1820-1880, and John Dawson Watson 1832-1892, (interesting, possibly to some Brookes family members who may read this, was married at Giggleswick on 22nd November 1858, to his cousin, Jane Dawson Edmondson, daughter of Christopher Dawson, a solicitor of Settle).

*Information taken from Letherbrow's obituary as printed in The Manchester Guardian, 1899. [Ed's note: George Crozier 1846-1915, landscape painter, was the son of Robert Crozier 1815-1891, a portrait artist, and later President of The Manchester Academy of Fine Arts, friend of Warwick Brookes 1808-1882. R.Crozier, Shields, Brookes, Hull and Letherbrow are all well documented as friends and fellow artists. This is the only reference I have found that includes G.Crozier in that group.]

Letherbrow is listed as being present at the funeral of his friend Warwick Brookes 1808-1882.

He died at his home in Alderly Edge on 2nd January 1899.

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