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Llewellyn Jewitt - Derbyshire Genius

Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2007

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Llewellyn Jewitt - A Potted Biography

In an obscure plot in the peaceful country churchyard at Winster in the heart of the Peak District, stands an ordinary weather-beaten gravestone which marks the final resting place of an extraordinary man.

`Llewellyn Jewitt has made an indelible impression on the hearts and minds of many'

Time and the elements have completely removed the lettering lovingly carved over a hundred years ago, but the name of Llewellyn Jewitt has made an indelible impression on the hearts and minds of many, both locally and nationally, and rarely can Derbyshire have had such a multi-talented man residing within its boundaries.

Jewitt was never a `Jack-of-all-trades – and master of none’ as some envious contemporaries have described him; rather he was a master of many trades, including engraving, archaeology, painting, writing, editing, and was generally regarded as a `good country Squire’ by the nineteenth century villagers of Winster.

Amongst many noteable accomplishments Jewitt, who lived at the elegant Georgian mansion of Winster Hall, founded the Derby Telegraph, was co-founding editor of `The Reliquary’, Illustrations manager of Punch, and wrote numerous books on a variety of subjects, including the definitive `Ceramic Art of Great Britain’. He was a renowned illustrator and an expert engraver and worked at Buckingham Palace in the presence of Queen Victoria. In addition he was a member of the British Archaeological Association, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities, and along with Dr. Cox, founded the Derbyshire Archaeological Society in 1878.

In his potted biography, Barry Marsden writes of Llewellyn Jewitt:

“Jewitt was never happy unless he was working and his busy, active mind led to the production of an amazing variety of books, papers, articles, woodcuts and lithographs which would take pages to merely catalogue. His output was staggering and ecompassed a wide range and variety of subjects. He drove himself incessantly through life, once commenting with some pride, “mine has been happily a life of work, and the words holiday and rest have ever been discarded from my dictionary as obsolete”.

Llewellyn Frederick William Jewitt was the youngest child of Arthur and Martha Jewitt of Sheffield, and was born on November 24th 1816 at Kimberworth, near Rotherham.

His father was also quite a remarkable man, not only for his prodigious production of a proliferation of progeny – for Llewellyn was the seventeenth child of his marriage – but for his self-determination to succeed in his chosen career as a writer, artist and schoolmaster.

Three previous Arthur Jewitt’s had all been members of the Cutlers Company of Hallamshire, and although he detested the occupation, this fourth generation Arthur dutifully served his apprenticeship and became a Freeman of the Company. In his spare time he found work for his agile and fertile brain with the study of mathematics, botany, geography, astronomy and art, and on his twenty-first birthday he finally broke the family chains that bound him, married his sweetheart Martha Sheldon, and moved to Chesterfield where he started an Academy. He was later a schoolmaster in Sheffield and Brampton before becoming a Master at the Scarsdale Seminary in Buxton, where amongst other books he wrote a history of Buxton and a guide to Derbyshire. In 1813 he moved as master to Kimberworth Endowed School, Rotherham which is where Llewellyn was born.

In 1817 his father, who was the sole tutor to his many children, started a monthly magazine in Yorkshire called the Northern Star, and went on to write a history of Lincoln and many other books. When Llewellyn was two years old the family moved to Duffield, and although his work took him to various parts of the country, Derbyshire was his base and the place to where he would eventually return.

Two of his elder brothers were shining examples to the young Llewellyn: the Reverend Arthur Jewitt, the eldest son, who sadly died at the early age of 34, was a leading botanist and a noted poet whose work was subscribed to by the Prince Regent. The second eldest, Orlando was an excellent draughtsman, wood engraver and etcher on copper and became a leading authority on medieval architechture.

Upon removal to the family home at Castle Orchard in Duffield, Llewellyn’s father gave up schoolteaching and became an artist and printer, and here Llewellyn, a child prodigy, received his education and learned his trade and by the time he was twenty-one in 1837, had become an accomplished writer, artist, wood engraver, and an acknowledged natural scientist.

In January the following year he left Derbyshire for London where he quickly made a name for himself illustrating the leading literature of the day.

He returned to Derby for Christmas 1838 and married Elizabeth Sage, whom he fondly called `Betsy’, daughter of Isaac Sage of Derby on Christmas Day, returning to London that same afternoon in order to save working time!

From 1839 to 1845 he worked in London as an illustrator on the Pictorial Times, London Illustrated News, the Saturday Magazine, and Punch.

In 1845 he was at Buckingham Palace, where he undertook commissioned work to sketch the interior rooms and the dress of the palace courtiers for a series of volumes on `London Interiors’. Following the visit he wrote: “My loyalty has been excited both yesterday and today to the highest pitch by the sight of the lovely figure of the Queen. I have seen her two or three times today; she has been practising the Minuet de la Cour with the ladies of the court in the next room to mine. She dances well and gracefully”.

A man of tremendous energy, Llewellyn was constantly on the move, and in 1845, his interest in archeaology and long-standing friendship with Thomas Bateman of Middleton Hall led him to join the newly formed British Archeaological Association. He moved to Oxfordshire and conducted his first `dig’ at a Roman villa near Headington the following year!

In July 1849 he accepted the position of Chief Librarian at Plymouth Public Library and during his six-year tenure he introduced lectures and talks, drew and engraved all the principal buildings of the town, and wrote a History of Plymouth.

In 1852 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, but with Betsy suffering constant ill health, the Jewitts returned to Derbyshire in September 1853.

Llewellyn almost immediately founded the monthly Derby Telegraph, and following the abolition of Stamp Duty, published it weekly; thus the Derby Telegraph became the first penny weekly in England and Jewitt remained its sole editor from 1853 until 1868. During this period he was also Curator of the Derby Town & County Museum, and Honorary Secretary of the Derby Mechanics Institute.

His intimate friendship with fellow antiquarian Thomas Bateman bore fruit and in 1860 they launched the Reliquary, an archaeological magazine which Jewitt edited and produced successfully for 26 years until his death.

The intimacy between the two families was such that when Bateman died suddenly, aged 40 on August 26th 1861, his widow sent immediately for Jewitt to take temporary management of her affairs, which he did. After his friends untimely death, Jewitt continued Bateman’s unfinished work excavating burial mounds in the Peak District with archaeologist John Fossick Lucas, and published his findings in the Reliquary.

Llewellyn gave up his work with the Derby Telegraph and the family moved to Winster Hall in 1868.

The following year he began work on his epic, `The Ceramic Art of Great Britain’, and despite the loss at sea of his son Herbert, aged 20, followed a few months later by the sudden death of another son, Llewellyn aged 23, he continued the work, which took him nine years to complete.

In-between his prolific output also produced `The Stately Homes of England’, `The Wedgewoods’ and `The Ballads and Songs of Derbyshire’.

He earned the love and respect of the villagers when, after eliciting the help of the Duke of Portland, he organised Winster’s first-ever piped water supply, the opening ceremony being performed by the Duke of Devonshire on 21st December 1871. He also earned the respect and friendship of the Derbyshire nobility, all of whom gave him free access to their libraries. In fact the Duke of Rutland gave him the keys to Haddon Hall to entertain his archaeological friends, and the Duke of Devonshire presented him on his birthday with a facsimile of the famous 1603 copy of Hamlet.

On 25th January 1878 Llewellyn attended the inaugeral meeting of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society which he had played a major role in founding, and in December the same year the Ceramic Art of Great Britain was published to great acclaim.

In 1880 the family moved to The Hollies, Duffield and in 1885 Llewellyn was awarded a Civic List pension for his literary endeavours, a fact of which he was immensely proud.. Sadly he was not to enjoy it for very long.

After years of ill health his wife died on 5th March 1886. It is said that they never once quarrelled in 48 years of marriage, and without her, Llewellyn simply lost the will to live.

He did no further work, and after confiding to his friend, the pottery manufacturer, W.H.Goss, “I think I shall pack up my traps and go after her”, Llewellyn died a few weeks later on June 5th 1886 in his 70th year.

He was laid to rest with his beloved Betsy next to their two sons in the peaceful peakland churchyard at Winster, where today, though time has removed the carved legend from the stone, the legacy and legend of Llewellyn Jewitt lives on in his work, and in the hearts and minds of the local Derbyshire folk.

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