Charles Bianconi and the Yorkshire Calendar

Entrepreneur Charles Bianconi, founder of a public transport system in Ireland, leased land in Main Street, Castleisland in the nineteenth century.  The late Michael O’Donohoe researched Bianconi’s link to the town, as can be read on another page on this website.


Recently, the O’Donohoe archive was contacted by a lady from Wexford who had discovered a watercolour portrait of a youthful Charles Bianconi tucked behind an old framed photo.1


Portrait of Bianconi as it appeared on the calendars over a century ago


The black and white photograph of a young (unidentified) woman had been purchased at auction for its attractive frame and so the discovery of the watercolour came as a pleasant surprise.


Mystery: Photograph of a lady who may have been from Harrogate


Research by the O’Donohoe archive has revealed that the portrait, entitled ‘Bianconi The poor Italian Boy who became Mayor of Clonmel, Ireland’, was issued as a calendar in the years 1877 and 1878 by a company named Beecheno & Co of London Street, Norwich, who also issued artistic calendars for 1876 (‘Ribera’) and 1879 (‘Mrs Graham (Gainsborough)’).2


The Bianconi calendar was also issued elsewhere.  In 1878, a grocer named Henry Patterson of Hebburn, New Town, in North East England, advertised hams, bacon, butter and cheese of a very superior quality to which was ‘given away, to all purchasers, a Splendid Almanack entitled Bianconi, the poor Italian Boy who became Mayor of Clonmel, Ireland’.


J E Clowes & Co, grocers, of Hall Quay, Great Yarmouth also had the Bianconi calendars, which suggests they were printed for general purchase by businesses as a Christmas giveaway.3  Certainly descriptions of the seasonal gifts filled columns of the press at this time.


The artist of Bianconi is not known and there is no indication on the original to identify the printer.  However, Crown Point Printing Works, Leeds, developed great skill in colour lithography, producing portraits of the famous.  In 1867, founder and proprietor Alfred Battye Cooke of Weetwood Hall, Headingley, issued his first coloured sheet almanac – a production in eight colours.  Orders for pictorial art at once rolled in and Mr Cooke’s fame as an almanac printer soon spread far beyond the borders of his native town.4


Mr and Mrs Alfred Cooke


By the early 1880s, Cooke was producing 40 different lithograph subjects each year with the help of French artist and former watercolorist to Napoleon III, Jean Faustin Betbeder.5


In 1932, artist Ernest Forbes, whose series of Shemus Cartoons is held by the National Library of Ireland, spotted the lithograph during a visit to the Star Inn Coaching House at Kilham, and noted that ‘on the mantel over the fireplace stood the pedigree of Yeoman 5th whose sire was Crowhurst Blue Blood and whose dam was Alexton Primula owned by Thomas Baldeston Esq and on the wall an early lithograph of the poor Italian boy, Bianconi, with dusky curls and a peacock’s feather in his hat, and who became Mayor of Clonmel – God save Ireland!’6


Ernest Forbes, the ‘Shemus Cartoon’ artist


It is a matter of speculation if the photograph and the calendar are connected.  If anyone can throw light on the unidentified  lady, or are interested in the originals, they are invited to contact the O’Donohoe archive.


1 Email correspondence 20 January 2019. 

2 Frederick Richard Beecheno (1822-1874) worked as manager of Robert Butcher, Grocer, Bank Plain, which he took over in 1855 and opened at the premises in 38 London Street.  Frederick died in 1874, and so he could not have been involved with Bianconi calendars (though he probably distributed calendars in the years he was in business).

Frederick Richard Beecheno, third son of Mr Beecheno ‘late of St Ives’ married Susan (died 1906), youngest daughter of Mr Knights, Hemingford Mills, Hunts at Hemingford Grey on 27 December 1854.  A son, Frederick Rutter Beecheno, was born the following year, 1855.

Frederick Rutter Beecheno was an antiquarian and wrote a number of books including Notes on Norwich CastleNotes on Carrow Priory, Commonly called Carrow Abbey (with three illustrations by C J Watson), The Suckling’s House at Norwich.  He also wrote much on the archaeology of Norwich and histories of every parish church in the city.

In 1889, he published a biographical sketch of artist Rev Edward Thomas Daniell (1804-1842) a much travelled vicar artist who died young.  In 1831, Daniell visited Ireland obtaining ‘valuable subject material’.  He also travelled to Italy. 

It is not clear if Beecheno jnr was involved in his father’s business (by 1881, Beecheno & Co was being run by George Wood) or if he was responsible for the calendars though he certainly knew a number of artists and illustrators.  For many years he held an appointment at Carrow Works. 

Frederick Rutter Beecheno died unmarried at Queen’s Road, his home in Norwich, on 17 June 1935 in his eightieth year.  He donated all his papers to Norwich City Council (Norwich Museum and Library).  The bequest is held in the National Archives, and closed until 2020.

3 John Edward Clowes was the author of Chronicles of the old Congregational Church at Great Yarmouth, 1642 to 1858.  Reprinted by permission of the family of the compiler (the late Mr J E Clowes) on the occasion of the 270th anniversary of the above church, March 28, 1912 (the book was originally printed in Great Yarmouth for private circulation in 1906). 

John Edward Clowes, son of John Clowes (1809-1882), was born on 30 June 1851.  He married Emma Louisa (1852-1946), daughter of Nathaniel Benjamin Palmer (1824-1862) and Emma Boardman (1830-1923) at Stratford on 11 August 1875.  The couple had issue including two sons who continued the grocery business, Cecil Palmer Clowes and Edward Norris Clowes.  Edward married Alice Mary, daughter of James Thyne of Edinburgh on 11 June 1907 (it is worth noting that one George Washington Clowes (1812-1875) who married Katharine Lorina Palmer was the son of ironmonger, Edward Norris Clowes who died in 1853).  Eldest daughter Emma Mabel married James Arthur Reavell at Middlegate Congregational Church, Great Yarmouth on 24 May 1898.  Second daughter Fanny Iris married James William Burns of Falkirk at the same church on 4 July 1908 and youngest daughter Ursula Joan married Alexander Cuthbert of Glasgow at Beckenham Congregational Church on 30 April 1928. 

John Edward Clowes of Eastcote, Marine Parade North, member, deacon and treasurer of King Street Congregational Church, died on 25 May 1911 and was buried beside the grave of his father at Gorleston Cemetery. 

4 Alfred Battye Cooke (1842-1902), founder of Crown Point Printing Works (revamped as campus for Leeds City College in 2013), alderman of Leeds City Council and former Mayor of Leeds, was the son of John Cooke, a wholesale newspaper and periodical agent in Leeds.  Alfred married Hannah, daughter of George Nickson in the parish of Bridlingthorpe in May 1866.  Alfred died at Weetwood Hall, Headingley on 23 March 1902.  He was buried in St Chad’s churchyard, Headingley.  In his will, Alfred Cooke left bequests to his widow Hannah (who died in 1914) and his ten children.  A report of the funeral was published in the Yorkshire Evening Post, 27 March 1902.  A tribute, ‘From Newsboy to Mayor’, was published in the Yorkshire Evening Post, 24 March 1902.  An image of Alfred Cooke accompanied the tribute (above) and a portrait of Mrs Hannah Cooke appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post, 7 July 1914.

Children of Alfred Battye Cooke and Hannah Nickson

Carrie Battye Cooke (1867-1926) married in 1893 to Frank Bruce Howden of Redcliff, Paignton, Devon; their son, 2nd Lt George Bruce Howden, DCLI, died on 8 May 1916.  He had been injured in the war and died a year later after an operation (there is an image of him in the Graphic of 29 July 1916).   Carrie Howden died on 13 April 1926; Frank Bruce Howden died 4 September 1926 and left money to the East Cornwall Hospital Bodmin and the Royal Cornwall Infirmary, Truro, for the perpetual endowment of beds to be called the George Bruce Howden Cots in memory of his son.  Carrie and Frank Howden were buried in Collaton St Mary churchyard.  

Annie Nickson Cooke (1869-1944) Annie married in 1905 to Harry Young Dalrymple Prendergast (1870-1907), HMCS Uganda, eldest son of General Sir Harry North Dalrymple Prendergast (1834-1913) and had issue.  Annie married secondly in 1911 to Maurice Jeffes.  Annie Nickson Jeffes died on 30 December 1944 in London.  Effects to her husband Maurice.

Harry Nickson Cooke (1872-1935), also a printer, married Jane Wilson nee Willcock in 1862, and died on 16 July 1935.  Harry conducted the Duke of Kent round Crown Point Printing Works in 1931.  Funeral to Adel Church Leeds. 

Sarah Nellie Cooke (1875-1916) Sarah, of Copley Lodge, Butterknowle, Durham, died at South Eden Nursing Home, Paignton on 19 June 1916, unmarried. 

John (Jack) Hewson Cooke (born 1877).  In 1902, Jack, a student of Rugby school, was in Australia.

Beatrice Cooke (1879-1951) Beatrice married in 1901 to Herbert Donald Belchier (1876-1938) and had issue Eileen and Helen Marjorie.  Beatrice died in Cornwall on 5 June 1951.  Effects to her solicitor, Kenneth Jones.

Maggie Boler Cooke (1881-1956) Maggie married in 1912 to Sidney Horace Hebblethwaite (1873-1914) and secondly to Italian, Mr Maiani and had issue from both marriages.  Maggie died in London on 10 May 1956.  Effects to her son, Sidney Horace Hebblethwaite and daughter, Elena Margherita Argia Inskip.

Alfred Cooke (1885-1956) Married in 1912 to Clara Ethel Royston (1885-1972) and had issue including son Alfred (1918-1945), 5th West Yorks, who died on active service in West Africa on 6 December 1945 and was buried in Enugu Military Cemetery, Nigeria.  Daughter Margaret Royston Cooke (1914-1978) married Bryan William Cave Browne Cave.  Alfred Cooke died in the Duchy Nursing Home on 9 October 1956. 
Kathleen Cooke (1890-1939) Married in 1914 to Andrew Wilson (1888-1962 – stepson of Harry Nickson Cooke) and had issue two sons, Captain Anthony Andrew Wilson (1915-1942) and Major Norman Bruce Wilson (1918-1944), both killed in action in the Second World War.  Kathleen died at Harrogate on 2 May 1939. 

Dorothea Cooke (born c1893)

Sincere thanks to Marie Huxtable Wilson, Tralee, for research of the Cooke family.

5 Jean Faustin Betbeder, born in Soissons, Picardy, France, c1847-8, caricatured Napoleon III while studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1870.  This brought him overnight success and he later went to London to work with James Mortimer on his publications, Figaro and The London Sketch-Book.  He remained in England and set up a lithograph establishment.  He also illustrated works such as The Clown’s Quest (1877) by M E Braddon, The Roundabout (1882) and The Cream o’ the North (1884) edited by Harry Blyth.  He designed costume for stage productions such as the opera La Perichole, performed at the Royalty Theatre, Soho, in 1875 and designed set for various art exhibitions.  In 1877, he produced sixteen imperial lithographs for sheet posters for scenes in the play, John Darrell’s Dream for Edwin Sidaway France (who married Ellen, the daughter of author William Mower Akhurst in 1878).  He married Esther Mary Clarke and the couple had four sons.  His grandson, Pilot Officer, Basil Gaston Lancelot Betbeder, was killed in 1937 (an image of him as 2nd Lieutenant with the 10th Battalion The London Regiment appears in the sporting supplement of The Tatler, 29 September 1915).  Esther Mary Betbeder died at 9 Flodden Road, Camberwell on 10 November 1908.   In later life Betbeder worked at the Offley Studios, Brixton.  Jean Faustin Betbeder died on 28 December 1914. 

6 ‘This Mellow Shire.  Some Solitary Villages of the Wolds’ by Ernest Forbes, The Yorkshire Post, 30 July 1932.  Yorkshire native Ernest Forbes, artist and cartoonist, spent a period in Ireland (1920-1924) when he joined the Freeman’s Journal.  A collection of his caricatures published during that period is held by the National Library of Ireland (The Shemus Cartoon Collection).  Forbes returned to England and worked in London for the London Evening News and also contributed to the Illustrated London News.  In 1925 he published Some Giants of the Fairway.  He changed his name by deed poll in 1927 from Ernest Forbes Holgate to Ernest Forbes. He returned to Yorkshire in the 1930s where he contributed articles to the Yorkshire Post using his own illustrations. 

Ernest Forbes Holgate was born in 1880, son of Thomas Pullan Holgate (1837-1892), a wood-carver and sculptor of North Street Monumental Works, Leeds and his wife Hannah Margaret (Hannah died 12 February 1924 at Headingley aged 81, buried Chapeltown Churchyard). Ernest’s brother was Horace Benjamin Holgate, who married in 1910 Ruth Crossley Smith of Toulston Hall, Newton Kyme and Arden Lea, Tadcaster (their daughter Elizabeth Margaret Holgate married Staff Sergt Victor Patrick Soullier in 1946).  Another brother may have been Thomas Pullan Holgate, who married Clara Elizabeth Matthews (died 1953), mother of Nora Claxton, in St Jude’s Church Leeds in 1896.

Ernest married, on 14 February 1919 at Christ Church, Chelsea, 22-year old Theresa Constance, daughter of James Marshall Esq, brewer, of Alconbury, Hunts.  Ernest and Theresa had a daughter, Theresa, born 1928 (Theresa Gray, in her 80th year, was resident in Leeds in 2008).  Ernest and Theresa divorced in 1948.  Ernest Forbes died at Harrogate in February 1962 aged 82.  Theresa Constance, who remarried on 20 August 1948 in Leeds to Richard Arthur Holt Caldicott (1902-1959), died in February 1989.

An image of Ernest Forbes appeared in the Leeds Mercury, 28 May 1936.

Note on Marshall family

Theresa Constance Marshall was a descendant of James marshall (1806-1893) of Goldbeaters Farm, Hendon (now Watling Estate), founder of the drapers firm of Marshall & Snelgrove, now part of the Debenhams group.  James married Catherine, daughter of Charles Morrison of Thurso and they had seven children including sons James Charles Marshall (1830-1925) of Downings, Hendon and Albury, Eastbourne, who married Louisa Stinton in 1855 and had issue including eldest son Arthur John, who married Mary, daughter of Thomas Stenhouse of Hampstead in 1879, Edward James, who married Blanche, daughter of William Hannaford of Tenterden Hall, Hendon, in 1887 and Herbert Charles; Thomas Morrison Marshall (1833-1880), who married Hannah Lord and had a son, Leonard, and a daughter, Mary Lord Marshall, who married Rev Christie Chetwynd Atkinson in 1887; Arthur Wellington Marshall (1841-1918) of Buckden Towers, Hunts and Folkestone, Kent, knighted 1898, who married in 1867 Constance (died 7 Sept 1915), daughter of William Henry Desborough Esq of Hartford and had one daughter, Constance Ivy Marshall (1875-1947) and three sons, Arthur Charles (born 1868, died in a hunting accident in Virginia in 1907), Charles (born 1870), and James (1869-1925), of Marshall Bros Brewers Huntingdon Ltd, and of Alconbury House, Hunts, and of 154 Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park, who married Helen Annie, daughter of Capt John Cockerell, 20th Hussars, in 1895 and had Theresa Constance Marshall, born in 1897; Charles Marshall (1843-1904) of Hambleton House, Putney, who married Jane Anne and had issue including John Frederick Marshall.