The talented Pethericks and their family album


By - Friday 24th February, 2017

An album in the Museum of Croydon is rich with forgotten gems of Croydon’s cultural history


The Exody by Horace William Petherick.
Image by Museum of Croydon, used with permission.

The talents of the Petherick family are currently on display in the Museum of Croydon’s ‘The Petherick Family Album’ exhibition at Croydon Clocktower. The display includes family items in the Croydon Art Collection.

Born in 1839 Horace William Petherick was an artist, musician and writer. His five daughters were talented artists and musicians. All were an important part of the Croydon music scene during the late Victorian and Edwardian period and afterwards, as I discussed in this piece.

Horace was author of regular essays in The Strad magazine which has been published since 1890, covering issues of interest to string teachers, players, students, instrument makers and enthusiasts. He also provided pictures to the Illustrated London News, and illustrated Laura Valentine Aunt Louisa’s children’s books.

His published collection of London Characters shows workers who made their livings on the street such as dustmen, cabmen, milkmen, cat’s meat men, navvies, telegraph boys. and lamplighters. A set of the collection was sold by Bonhams for £1,200 in November. Horace’s paintings included Two Children, Nightingale Lane, Journey by Rowing Boat and Animal Hunter Crossing a Stream. His Exodus depicts Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and is on display in the exhibition. Three portraits that he painted are at the National Portrait Gallery, as is his own portrait print by Ernest Herbert Mills.

He was a member of the Cremona Society along with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

He was also an accomplished violinist and violin maker. He was a member of the Cremona Society along with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. This had been founded in 1886 ‘for the Study of Stringed Musical Instruments’, and named after the Italian city in which the famous violin maker Stradivarius grew up and worked. Among the many programmes that belonged to the Pethericks in the Coleridge-Taylor collection at the Museum of Croydon is one which advertises Horace billed to speak at the Society’s monthly meeting in May on ‘Internal Arrangements and Regulation of Stringed Instruments’.

He wrote several books about them: The History of the Violin (1893), Antonio Stradivari (1900), Joseph Guarnerius: His Work and His Master (1906), and Repairing and Restoration of Violins (1915).

He and his wife Clementina Augusta (née Bonney) had two children who died in infancy: Horace Claude (1867-9) and Adeline Maud (1869-71). Their next children were Rosa Clementina (1871), Ada Flora (1874), Leila Helena (1876), Evelina May (1879) and Dora Valentine (1881).

Several of Rosa’s illustrations are at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Rosa became a famous children’s illustrator. Several of her works out of 48 in the Croydon Art Collection are on show in the exhibition. She specialised in depicting children and their toys, particularly in books such as Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard of Nursery Rhymes (1902), Toy Trains (1909 & 1920), Christmas ABC (1917), Wee Willie Winkie (1919), Ships and Soldiers (1922), The Dolly Scouts (1923) and And Seaside Sunshine: A Story Book for Young Readers (1926). She died in Brighton on 28th December 1931. Several of her illustrations are at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and etchings are at the National Portrait Gallery.

She was also a musician and a member of the Streatham Symphony Orchestra in 1920-21, which was linked to the Streatham School of Music at 245 Streatham High Road.

Ada studied music at the London Academy, playing both the piano and violin. She was the organist at Addiscombe Parish Church. She was a member of the Croydon Orchestral Society which was conducted by Coleridge-Taylor from January 1899. Coleridge-Taylor wrote a small piece of music for her in August 1899 using her initials ADA. She composed a number of works: Barcarrotte for violin and piano (1903), Melodie Romantique for the pianoforte (1904), Rondino in C, for the pianoforte (1915), and Romance in F for Violin with pianoforte accompaniment (1917). She died in 1924 of diphtheria at the Borough Isolation Hospital in Waddon.

Dora played with various orchestras around including Redhill Society of Instrumentalists 

Leila set up her own business teaching singing, and there is a promotional leaflet including testimonials also in the Coleridge-Taylor collection. She died in 1951.

Eveline trained at the Royal Academy of Music and became a musician and conductor. She played the viola at a concert for the Sussex Women’s Musicians’ Club, which was broadcast on BBC radio on 2nd July 1926 as Brighton Night from the Octagon Room of the Hotel Metropole.

Dora is depicted in a painting as a child sleeping on a chair holding her violin. She played with various orchestras including Redhill Society of Instrumentalists in April 1913 and the Streatham Symphony Orchestra in the early 1920s. She married Albert Hyde Gilson. She died in 1946 and is buried at Torbay.

The ‘Petherick family album’ exhibition is on display in the Museum of Croydon

As members of the Addiscombe String Orchestra, family members performed at a concert with Coleridge-Taylor’s friend and fellow student William Hurlstone, in a programme which included Coleridge’s Danse Negre. Coleridge sought the advice of the family over how to overcome the hostility of his fiancée’s parents to them getting married. They sent them a wedding present. Later on they sent his children Gwendolen and Hiawatha books as presents. The children performed and sang at the grand concert held in December 1911 as part of the ‘snow village’ event at St. Mary’s Hall, Addiscombe, raising money for Dr Barnados Homes, for which the Pethericks arranged the orchestra. Dora, Leila and Eveline Petherick were members of the String Players Club which Coleridge had established and conducted. Four of the sisters performed as the Petherick Quartet.

The family lived at Maple Lodge, 25 Havelock Road, Addiscombe from at least the 1870s until the 1920s. Horace died in 1919. There is a family plot at St. John the Evangelist Church in Shirley.

The ‘Petherick family album’ exhibition is on display in the Museum of Croydon, Exhibition Gallery at Croydon Clocktower until Saturday 15th April 2017. Museum of Croydon, Tuesday–Saturday, 10.30am–5pm, entrance is free.

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

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