Painting of Leigh Church by Charles Stephen Meacham
Charles Stephen Meacham, artist 1860-1940
In 2018, the Society purchased from Bernard Thompsett a painting of Leigh Church by the artist C S Meacham – Charles Stephen Meacham.
As I was interested to learn a little more about the artist, I did some research. The first problem, researching on-line, was that I discovered there were two Charles Meachams who were artists and some of the paintings are accredited to one or even both of them. The paintings appear on various ‘art’ websites: I’ve listed a couple of the websites below. There is Charles Stephen Meacham born Lichfield 1860 and a Charles Meacham (no middle name) born Catford 1900, but who was raised in Lichfield. But I believe that some (maybe all) of the paintings by Charles Stephen Meacham have been wrongly attributed to ‘Charles Meacham’. The paintings come up on various ‘art’ websites, some you can clearly see the signature of C S Meacham, which corresponds to that on the painting of Leigh Church.
The Meacham name is very common in Lichfield and in Staffordshire, where Charles Stephen Meacham was born in 1860 and where Charles Meacham, born Catford 1900, was raised. The latter’s father, Percy, came from Lichfield. I did try to see if there was a connection between the two families and searched back three or four generations, which is about the most you can do accurately on-line, but could find no link – if there is one, it is much further back in time.
However, our artist, Charles Stephen Meacham, was born in Lichfield on 26 December 1860, and baptised there on 27 January 1861. His parents were Thomas Meacham, also born in Lichfield ca. 1840 and Mary. Charles had other siblings. His father was a brewer’s labourer. Charles himself became involved in the brewing trade. In 1885 he married Florence Wood in Staffordshire. He and Florence had three daughters, Lillian Florence, Hilda Isabel and Gwendoline Emily. In 1891 we find that Charles, Florence and his two daughters at that time are living in Maidstone where he is employed as a brewer.
The family then disappears from the censuses – they are not in the country in 1901 or 1911, because in about 1899 they moved to South Africa. They can be found on passenger lists making several voyages to (and from) South Africa over the next twenty or so years. Whilst in South Africa, Charles indulged his other passion which was painting and did many paintings of scenes in South Africa. He inaugurated the South African Society of Artists. His daughter Gwendoline would go to Hamilton House School at Tunbridge Wells and later studied art under Walter Sikert in London. There was a family home at Scaur Topp near Dumfries. If you put his name into the internet, you will find paintings by him of Scottish landscapes and many of South Africa.
From the passenger lists, it appears the family did return to the UK on many occasions. In 1926, when departing from London to South Africa (and Australia), their address in the UK is given as Rustington, Littlehampton. By this time, Charles is retired and aged 65. Of interest, to us in Leigh, is that when they are travelling back from Port Said to Southampton in 1927, they give their proposed address as Hildenborough, Kent and Charles describes himself as an artist. This is why I believe that it is Charles Stephen Meacham whose signature is on our painting of Leigh Church and it was probably painted around that time.
The 1930s’ electoral registers show Charles living in Surrey, at Hildacot, Godstone Green and he is living there at the time of the ‘1939 Register’, where Charles is described as retired brewer/artist/painter.
Charles Stephen Meacham died aged 79 in 1940. His probate entry records him as living at Godstone Green, dying 8 October 1940, although the probate was at Llandudno. His estate was left to his widow, Florence Peploe Meacham. Croudson William Barnish (the husband of his daughter Belle – Hilda Isabel) and Walter Robert Howe Pringle were Executors. He left an estate of just over £6,000.
Many of the paintings of Charles Stephen Meacham are listed on the internet, but some give Charles (S) Meacham b. 1900 Catford, which I believe is incorrect and should be Charles S Meacham b. 1860 Lichford. The signatures, some of which are clearly visible when the paintings are ‘enlarged’, match that found on the Leigh Church painting:
Bottom of London Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent (Old Forge): Oil on Board – at Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery. Gift. Accession no. 1955.10.1 (Art UK website)
Landscape, Mountain and Lake: Oil on Canvas 35x44cm. Collection: Dumfries & Galloway Council at the Gracefields Art Centre. Accession No. DGCAc192R (Art UK Website)
Helford Creek in Cornwall: Oil on Board. Accredited to Charles S Meacham, born 1900 Catford, but I think the 1900 Catford is incorrect. (Bonhams.com)
Village Scene, by Charles Meacham born 1900. But the signature is clearly C S Meacham (identical to that of Leigh Church), so should read born 1860.
There are several on this Website which are of South Africa and we know that Charles Stephen Meacham went to South Africa in about 1899. But the website attributes them to a Charles S Meacham, but born 1900.
The error is easy to understand because the other Charles Meacham born 1900 at Catford was also ‘an artist’. However, he has no middle name on any of the records available on-line. His family were printers and stationers. His father, Percy James Meacham, came from Lichfield and his grandfather, Frederick Wilder Meacham, was a printer and stationer, an occupation in this family through several generations. Because his mother died shortly after his birth, Charles is found in the 1901 census (and 1911 census) living with his grandparents, Frederick and Elizabeth in Lichfield in 1900 and 1911. In 1918 he enlisted and gives his address as 43 Trent Valley Road, Lichfield. His army records are available to view at ancestry.com. He is still in Lichfield in the 1939 Register, living with his aunts Ada and Amy. This Charles describes himself as an art master in the 1939 Register and Artist Biographies British and Irish Artists of the 20th Century describe Charles Meacham as “Illuminator, poster designer, painter and illustrator born Catford … who studied at Birmingham School of Art.” Another website goes further to say born Catford Kent, having studied art at Birmingham Central School for Arts & Crafts and that he was a part-time teacher at Bourneville School of Art and Wolverhampton School of Arts & Crafts. Exhibited at Birmingham, Liverpool, Royal College of Art, Royal Institute of Art. Is this just confusion and in fact there is only one Charles Stephen Meacham, who was the artist, born 1860, and who painted the pictures listed above and others than we find on the internet attributed to the name?
If anyone has any further information or can clarify or correct any of the above do please contact the Society.
Joyce Field (April 2020)
Censuses 1841-1911 ancestry.com
1939 Register (at Findmypast)
Passenger Registers: ancestry.com
Wikitree website: has biography of Charles Stephen Meacham 1860-1940 – and family photograph
Art websites including: Art Uk; Arcadja; Invaluable.