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George Paterson Yeats (Victorian artist)
In October 2016 an exhibition of Victorian Art, showing views of Malvern, was organised by local historian Brian Iles, in association with Malvern Library. This was part of the wonderful Autumn in Malvern Festival event, organised by Peter Smith MBE, FRSA. The exhibition was held in the north aisle of Great Malvern Priory, see photos below.
Amongst the watercolour pictures on display were some thirty or so painted by Victorian art teacher George Paterson Yeats (1823 - 1901), which were donated to Malvern Library (ML), by his son Malcolm, in 1927.
We suspect that these paintings had been in the possession of Yeats' youngest daughter Nelly and that when she died in 1927, her brother Malcolm gifted them to Malvern library.
Art exhibition in Great Malvern Priory, October 2016
The small pictures, mostly between A4 and A5 in size, were incredibly detailed giving a unique impression of Malvern in the late nineteenth century.
We thought his 'warm' style could nowadays be categorised as Chocolate Box Art; for example suitable for putting on top of the packaging of tourist souveniers of Great Malvern - perhaps something he failed to exploit!
Below you will find some biographical details about George Paterson Yeats, plus a 'gallery' we have made in order to illustrate his work. It is hoped that, if you are interested to find out more, you will contact either Brian Iles or Malvern Library.
George Paterson Yeats, born Aberdeenshire, Scotland, about 1823, was an author, artist, and teacher of drawing and painting. In 1855 he married Mary Ann Hartnell Bird at Old Swinford, Stourbridge, and they went on to have 7 children.
Yeats' wife, Mary, was the daughter of schoolmaster John Bird who had died at Hammersmith in 1848, aged only 43 years. She was one of nine children and was, we suspect, brought up in a Baptist household. Her youngest brother Benwell Bird (1841 - 1920) became a Baptist Minister as did her elder brother Samuel Bird (1829 - 1845), though Samuel later became a water-colour painter, possibly influenced by his brother in law Yeats.
We wondered if he was the 'Samuel C Bird' listed in the Dictionary of Victorian Painters thus:
Samuel's death was reported in The Times on Wednesday 20th February 1895 thus:
Mary's sisters, Lavinia Augusta Bird (1836 - 1875), married schoolmaster Humphrey Hughes, and Elizabeth Horner Bird (1839 - 1903) married banker's clerk Thomas Spurrier; the latter couple emigrated from England to Canada, late in life, and died at Ontario.
More about GP Yeats
We have not found GP Yeats' birth in the Scottish Parish records, so if you find his father's name and occupation on his marriage certificate of 1855 please do let us know.
We first discovered Yeats in the 1851 Scotland census when he was described as George Yeats, aged 27, born in the small rural village of Fyvie, in Aberdeenshire, Portrait Painter, lodging at 14 Howe Street in Edinburgh.
The 1861 census records him living in Love Lane, Upper Swinford, Stourbridge, occupation, Master of School of Arts; his wife's occupation was described as a school mistress. By 1871 he had moved to Severn Terrace, Tything, Worcester where the census records him as an Art Teacher.
Trade directories of 1880 record him both at Spa Villa in Great Malvern and The Manse in Malvern Wells.
His watercolour paintings are detailed, and provide a lovely glimpse of Victorian Malvern.
On the Herefordshire Beacon, 1889, by GP Yeats, source ML
We like to imagine that Yeats has painted himself into the picture above.
By 1881 he was living in Priory Road, Great Malvern, when his daughter Nelly was described as a flower painter. The houses in Priory Road are 'up market' so he had probably taken lodgings there; unfortunately the 1881 census of Priory Road does not include house names, making it difficult to pinpoint his address.
Just above Priory Road is Grange Road, which is pictured below.
Grange Road, Malvern, 1880, by GP Yeats, source ML
George and Mary's eldest son Joseph Ralph Raeburn Yeats became an engineer and emigrated from England to Australia. An Adelaide newspaper reported that on 26th November 1887 Joseph Ralph Raeburn Yeats married Alice Bertha Barker of Buxton Road, Adelaide. To quote:
In 1875 Joseph had been apprenticed into the merchant navy, but deserted in San Francisco in 1877; that could explain why a Joseph Yeats had been in HM Prison Holloway in 1881.
Joseph and Alice's eldest son was born at Broken Hill in 1888, soon after the discovery of silver and the formation of the Broken Hill Mining Company, founded by the Syndicate of Seven.
Back in the UK, about 1889, George and his remaining family moved to a house named 'Kildare' in Manby Road. George's wife Mary was then described as a Superintendent of a Home. Also in the household were:
together with a housemaid, nurse, cook and kitchen-maid.
'Kildare' was not large by Malvern standards having only 8 rooms.
(Later the 1911 census records mechanical engineer William Parker-Brough living at Kildare who gave his occupation as a 'motor owner'; his wife Laura Westbrooke Squires had been born in Adelaide, South Australia. Their marriage was reported in an Adelaide newspaper:
William's half brother Rev James Stanley Bromfield Brough was a chaplain to the forces 1915 - 1917, who sadly died of pneumonia following influenza in 1918 aged only 40 years.)
The Firs Estate, Malvern, by GP Yeats, source ML
We think the picture shown above relates to a piece of ground to the south of Malvern College on the edge of Peachfield Common, where we often walked our dog.
George Paterson Yeats is said to have published a book in 1884, The London Obelisk: a new translation of the hieroglyphic text; and another, Observations on the earthquake of December 17th, 1896 which was observed in Herefordshire and caused some damage to buildings.
Painter and teacher of art, George Paterson Yeats, died on 12th February 1901 and is buried in Great Malvern Cemetery. You will find a photo of his overgrown grave on the Find a Grave website.
At the time of Yeats' death the family was living at Landsowne House in Madresfield Road.
The 1911 census records that youngest son George Malcolm Yeats (1869 - 1945), then living at Hucclecote on the outskirts of Gloucester, went on to become managing director of a refrigeration company. He had married May Sharp at London in 1892. Malcolm must have painted as a young man, as the picture below was exhibited with his father's work. It shows the railway bridge on Link Common, under which you can walk today, but lacks the brilliance of his father's work.
Link Common, by Malcolm Yeats, source ML
George Malcolm Yeats served as a Temporary 2nd Lt in the Royal Army Service Corps during WWI. The 1939 Register records him living at The Bungalow Bastonford Powick when he is described as an army officer, retired. He saw 'Victory in Europe' and died on 27th July 1945. His wife May had died in 1929.
George's youngest daughter has a brief entry in the Dictionary of Victorian Painters.
It seems probable that Nelly was taught by her father, and occupied herself by painting at home.
When her father died, her mother Mary took in boarders at Lansdowne House, which had 15 rooms, and when Mary died in 1908, Nelly in turn became a Boarding House Keeper; she may have continued to paint in her spare time.
Watercolour painter Nelly Hartnell Yeats died at Lansdowne House on 4th July 1927. Her executor was her maternal cousin, solicitor Clifford Henry Bird (1879 – 1960), who was the son of her uncle Rev Benwell Bird. Kelly's 1924 directory lists Clifford as – clerk of the peace, clerk to the County Council and to the standing joint committee and county solicitor, Shire Hall, Foregate Street.
What of Nelly's other brothers and sisters?
David Osborne Yeats sadly died in 1874 aged only 14 years. Fanny emigrated from England to Australia where she married Albert Sharp in 1887. Harriet Spencer Yeats married Thomas Alexander Garrett; in 1911 they were living in Reigate when he described himself as an experimental physicist (shipping).
Here is a 'virtual gallery' of other paintings by GP Yeats, from the Malvern Library collection, exhibited in Great Malvern Priory, during October 2016.
Bridge at Cradley, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Bransford church, 1879. by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Swan Pool, Malvern, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Maltster's Hall, Lower Barnards Green, 1885, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
The cottages shown above once stood east of the present Rose Cottage, roughly opposite the Green Dragon.
North End Farm, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Jubilee Bonfire, Worcestershire Beacon, Malvern 1887, by GP Yeats
Malvern from Sherrard's Green, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Link Common, East corner, 1888, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Bannut Tree Farm, Castlemorton, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
We were unable to identify the location of the charming picture above, but Paul Ferris was able to tell us it is Bannut Tree Farm, or House, a short distance south of the Robin Hood pub at Castlemorton.
Historic England records this as a Grade II listed property by architect CFA Voysey, 1890, previously known as Walnut Tree Farm House.
Hollybush Hill and Castlemorton Common, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Happy Valley, Great Malvern, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
One source wondered whether this might be Rushy Valley from a vantage point on Foley Terrace, but Brian Iles thinks it is Happey Valley, noting that a lot of trees have grown since the picture was painted.
Herefordshire Beacon, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Hanley Castle Village, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Hanley Castle 1885, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Friar's Elm, Barnards Green, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Friar's Elm also known as the Old Elm once stood at the junction of Hall Green with the Guarlford Road, roughly where there is a horse trough now.
Terrace under Foley Walk, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Foley Walk, Great Malvern, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Davenham, 1889, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Clutter's Cave, British Camp, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
On Castlemorton Common, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Castlemorton Common, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Ankerdine Hills from Cowleigh Road, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Little Malvern Church, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Mathon Church 1889, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Merryvale Farm, Hanley Castle, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
On the Old Hills 1889, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Suckley Mill, by GP Yeats, courtesy of Malvern Library
Last updated 2nd November 2018