Sunday, December 27, 2009

Verna Hollyer's Portrait by Eva Hollyer

William Templeman wrote to me:-

"In the 1960's my father was a general medical practitioner in the village of Lea near Malmesbury in Wiltshire. Two old ladies lived in a cottage in the village. The younger one looked after the older one. Eventually the the younger one, who was I believe was in her seventies, could no longer manage and they both went into a home. The cottage and its contents were sold. Before the sale, my father was asked if he would like to look around and see if there was anything he would like. Above the fireplace was a picture of a young girl who we were told was Verna Hollyer painted by her elder sister Eva in 1887. The painting has lived with my family for just over forty years and is a great favourite.

The house stood in Little Badington Lane (since incorrectly named Badminton Lane), Lea, Malmesbury and was a classic labourer's cottage built of Cotswold Stone. It had a pump with a trough at the door and one stepped down from the front door into the front room. This meant that as you walked by the ground floor windows were lower than head height. Upstairs was divided by a partition into two rooms. On the stairs was another painting of a young lady holding her hat on a windy day. We could have had that painting as well but my then fiance, now wife, said we would have nowhere to put it. We have many times bitterly regretted this decision. The property and its contents I was told was left to a niece who wished to dispose of it entirely. Several house clearers entered the property and made bids for the contents. One of these put several small items of jewellery in a tea caddy and covered them in tea. Luckily someone saw him. I have in my possession that very tea caddy and a book. The house was sold to an RAF officer at nearby RAF Lyneham who converted it into a modern house and, other than the odd wall, nothing now remains.

It is funny how after forty years I remember the cottage so clearly. It was a dream place rather like those painted by the family. Yet at the same time, with no running water or central heating, it must have been desperately uncomfortable in the winter. From the house you could see the River Avon and the ruins of Malmesbury Abbey."

Research indicates that the two old ladies were Maud Hollyer and her sister Olive E. M. Bowman (nee Hollyer). I already knew that Maud lived to a great age and died in a nursing home in Devizes in 1970 at the age of 102. Subsequent research shows that Olive died in Devizes in 1968, aged 83, so would have been the younger of the two old ladies. Verna often sat for Eva as subject for her paintings, but this image must be more lifelike. Verna herself (by then Verna Eyles) died in 1958. Eva, the eldest daughter of the family and the artist of Verna's painting had died in 1943.


At 5:12 pm, Blogger dianee said...

What a charming portrait! And a lovely story. What a delight it is to learn these little gems about our ancestors!


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