Frederick Richard Lee, R. A.
Eminent Victorian Artist
who lived close to Manning's Pit
The Lane to Pitt Farm, Raleigh, Pilton,
by F R Lee, 1830
portrait, above, of F R Lee as a youngish man is
in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon and was
displayed in our Exhibition there in May 2017. The
Museum has several paintings by Lee, including a large
one that can be seen in the foyer, and a charming
smaller painting of Barnstaple Bridge (left) that was
shown in our Exhibition (apologies for dazzle on
photograph, it was taken during the Exhibition)
We were also able to display - thanks to the Athenaeum at Barnstaple Library - this painting, also on the left. (again the photograph is not best quality as taken while exhibition was on.)
It was discovered in recent years, and has been restored.
Pitt Farm and Raleigh are on the opposite side of Pilton to Manning's Pit, and this painting was done before F R Lee moved to Pilton. Interestingly, when Benjamin Manning came to Devon from Tiverton, he first worked at a lace factory in the
Raleigh area of Pilton.
|F R Lee was a prodigious
artist and it is believed that there are many more of
his paintings in existence still, that have not been
rediscovered. While he lived at Broadgate House.
it seems more likely than not that he must have gone out
into Manning's Pit at times to sketch or paint, just as
so many artists living in this area do so today. The
field had not yet attained its name, so the painting
might be difficult to identify, especially as trees
grow, fall and are replaced. But we are still
looking! We have also made contact with the
Melbourne Public Library in Australia recently, and we
are hoping to find out more about any paintings by Lee
that can be found there - to read more about Lee's trip
to Australia, scroll down.
A link to 58 of F R Lee's paintings in various locations:
One or two paintings look as if they could be possibles, especially Cover Side.
People filing into the Guildhall in 2017,
at the Town Council Planning Meeting
about Manning's Pit
Lee was born in Barbican House, near Trinity Church,
Barnstaple, in 1798.
F R Lee's father was a successful architect, as was his older brother, Thomas, who designed Arlington House and the Barnstaple Guildhall (see left) among other buildings.
|Thomas Lee was
drowned while swimming at Mortehoe, and there is a
tablet commemorating his death on the wall of St Anne's
Chapel in Barnstaple.
He was in his fortieth year when he lost his life, and the inscription finishes with this words
"He was beloved by all who knew him and his loss is severely felt by his bereaved orphan and his afflicted family"
In 1818 Lee became a student at the Royal Academy where he may have met J.M.W. Turner, whose family came from North Devon and whose uncle lived in Barnstaple (first in central Barnstaple but later in Littabourne, Pilton.) Lee was elected to the Royal Academy in 1838 and became a very successful and famous Victorian landscape artist. He did not like painting animals and because of this two other famous artists, Sir Edwin Landseer and Thomas Sidney Cooper often collaborated with him.
Thanks to the Henry Williamson
Society for this image
lived with his first wife Harriet in Kent, and they had
a daughter Sarah Catherine, but after Harriet's death
and his later remarriage, Lee moved back to Devon, and
bought Broadgate House in Pilton in 1858. Broadgate
House is only about a quarter of a mile from Manning's
Pit. His second wife Mary died within eighteen months of
their marriage, but Broadgate House remained the family
home, and his daughter Sarah was to live there with her
husband Col Hugh Hibbert for many years.
Lee's other passion in life was sailing, and he traveled extensively in his yachts, to places like Spain. The thumbnail on the left gives you a link to a charming painting in the Royal Academy of a sunfish that he caught while sailing from Algeria to Gibraltar in 1857, not long before he moved back to Devon. His granddaughter married the brother of Sir Francis Chichester's father, who sailed single handed round the world in the 1960, nearly a hundred years after Lee's journey to Australia (in a far more luxurious yacht.)
In 1872-3, Lee sailed round to Australia and back in his yacht Linda. This generated considerable interest in the Press, both locally and in Australia. The report from the SW Daily News on the right mentions that he sailed past Amsterdam Island but was unable to land because of the wild surf. "Strange sounds were heard, as if proceeding from a fog horn or speaking trumpet..." It also mentions the fact that several of his paintings were already hanging in Melbourne Public Library, and that he was keeping a diary of his voyage - we wonder if that still exists?
|Thanks to the British
Newspaper Archive for this cutting
The North Devon Journal report of his return makes equally interesting reading, especially as it describes him making a visit to his son law Col Hibbert in Broadgate House. This seems to show that the Hibberts were living in Broadgate well before Lee's death. Other evidence for that fact is that their children were baptised at Pilton Church, and in this report Col Hibbert is a Magistrate in Barnstaple.
Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive for this cutting
|Here is a link to three
paintings by, or after, F R Lee in the National
Gallery of Victoria
More will be added here, about Lee's Australian visit. as we are in touch with Melbourne Public Library, about Lee's visit to Australia (they gave us the above link)
Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive for this cutting
know that Lee had properties in South Africa as well,
and in fact he died there. on June 5 1879.
Here are details from a newspaper report of his will:
"The will (dated July 27 1878) with a
codicil (dated May 17, 1879) of Mr Frederick Richard
Lee, RA., late of Broadgate house, Pilton, near
Barnstaple, Devon, who died on June 5 last, at Vleesch
Bank, Hermon Station, Malmsbury, South Africa, was
proved on the 30th ult. By Colonel Hugh Robert Hibbert
and Archibald Donaldson, the acting executors, the
personal estate being sworn under £25,000. The
testator leaves his estates in South Africa and all
his property in London and elsewhere to his daughter,
Mrs Hibbert, subject to the payment of annuities and
legacies to his son, grandchildren and others."
Lee and J.M.W. Turner R.A.
While researching newspaper reports in the British Newspaper Archive we also discovered that at the sale of the Broadgate Estate in 1918 a painting titled “Burning Mill at Yeoford” was sold. It was described as being by F R Lee, R A, and also “touched in” by J M W Turner. R A. This seems to indicate collaboration between the two artists. The report was in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette of 16 May 1918, and there is a link to a newspaper cutting of this report on the Sarah Hibbert Page.
Hibbert, F R Lee's daughter, was also an important
figure in the life of Pilton for man years. Her husband
Colonel Hugh Hibbert, fought in the Crimean war, became
a war hero, and was later to become very involved in
Pilton and Barnstaple life. He was Mayor of Barnstaple
in 1893 and the couple entertained Royalty at Broadgate
house in 1895. After the Colonel's death, life was
to become more difficult for Sarah, who was faced with
saddling the debts of a wayward son. She eventually had
to sell the Estate to settle these debts.
Link to page about Sarah and Hugh Hibbert
The couple's granddaughter, Ida Loetitia Hibbert, married Henry Williamson (she is featured as a character in the book of Tarka The Otter). \Williamson was very fond of Sarah (known as Grannie Hibbert) and dedicated his book, The Village Book, to her.
| This photograph shows the back of Broadgate
House, as it is today. It was taken from the pavement
outside the house where the Munros (and the young Saki)
lived. They were very close neighbours, and we have been
told that the Hibberts and the Munros almost certainly
did indeed socialise, although it is often said that the
Munro children rarely saw any neighbours. The
Hibberts had young children around the ages of the Munro
children, and they would have seen each other every
Sunday at Church, as well as walking to and from the
Church the same way.
come on this page:
More articles about Frederick Lee's travels to Australia, and details about his career as an artist, plus information about the six - or possibly seven - mills of the Bradiford Valley. F R Lee appears to have been very fond of painting Mills, which is another reason why he would most certainly have crossed through Manning's Pit if he wanted to sketch any of these Mills.
We are also interested in the fact that it seems exceedingly likely that the young Hector Munro (Saki) visited Broadgate House, and was exposed to Lee's paintings as well as other workd of Art in the house. The subject of Art, and paintings, occurs in several of his stories, most notably The East Wing... how easy it is, reading this, to imagine it was set in Broadgate House!
We will also be updating this website with a more detailed page about the Williamson family connections soon, but until then more information concerning these families can be found at the links below.
Some of the information here comes from Margaret Reed, who is so knowledgeable about Pilton's History, and you can read her page on the Pilton Story Website which gives more details and the full story of Lee's life, at the link below