A Country Track in the Moonlight
Research by Marie Riley
Percy Brooke was a landscape painter, working mainly in watercolours, who exhibited between 1898-1906 at the Royal Academy. (1) Born in Blackburn, Brooke was the son of an ironmonger who seems to have flourished in business. Over time, the family moved up the social scale to ever more prosperous addresses in Blackburn.
Brooke was a student at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Blackburn. In the 1891 census he was described as a student artist while his brother, Arthur, was an undergraduate at Cambridge. Arthur later became headmaster of Caistor Grammar School in Lincolnshire.
According to Christopher Wood, after studying art in London Brooke returned to Blackburn to set up his studio in Kensington Chambers on Preston New Road. Wright alleges that Brooke also painted at Staithes, a north Yorkshire fishing village near Whitby, which was home to an artists’ colony in the late nineteenth century. The Staithes School took influence from French Impressionism. Wood cites Tumulus and The Stream as two of Brooke’s early works. (2)
In the 1901 census, at the age of thirty two, Brooke was living in lodgings in Balderstone, Lancashire and described himself as an Artist ‘Sculpt’. In 1909 he married Elizabeth Stanley in Blackburn and by 1911 the couple were resident in Silverdale. He painted several views of Silverdale and around Carnforth. (3)
He died prematurely at the age of forty-seven. (4)
For many years the Lytham St Annes Art Collection contained eleven Percy Brooke paintings. Mrs Peretz donated A Country Track in the Moonlight and Beach Scene, Morecambe Bay. The other nine were on loan to Lytham St Annes Corporation from Mrs Leonore Marguerite Mary Tiller. She lent these paintings in 1931, along with Henry Fuseli’s The Vision of Catherine of Aragon and Caernarvon Castle (attributed to Richard Wilson RA).
The fact that the paintings were recorded in the Stephen Sartin Catalogue (5) as being loaned by Mrs Tiller alone, although she was a married woman at the time, might suggest that they were her sole property but the details of the loan from Fylde Council are rather more revealing. The schedule of pictures outlining the insurance on the paintings states:
'Loaned to the Lytham St Annes Corporation by Mrs L M M Tiller of 'Sandown',
2 Osborne Road, South Shore, Blackpool (on behalf of Miss Mary Redmayne, Miss Kathleen Redmayne and Mr John Redmayne Tiller) for a period of not less than seven years. The Corporation to insure the pictures for a sum of not less than £500.'
This gives a significant clue to the origins of the paintings and the trail leads back to Leonore’s father, Leonard Redmayne, who was a wealthy cotton mill owner, cotton waste dealer and Conservative councillor in Blackburn. (6) Since Percy Brooke had a studio in Blackburn in the latter part of the nineteenth century it would not be unsurprising for Leonard, a local businessman, to have collected his work.
When Leonard Redmayne died in 1906 he left an estate valued at almost £23,000 to be divided equally between his only two children: his daughter, Leonore and his illegitimate son, John Leonard Redmayne. (7)
The origins of his son, John Leonard Redmayne, appear to be shrouded in secrecy. He was born around 1868 in Blackburn prior to Leonard Redmayne’s marriage in 1871 to Leonore’s mother, Edith. There seems to be no record of his birth or baptism but it may be that he began life under a different name. His existence may have proved scandalous for his father, a successful businessman in public life. John Leonard does not appear with the family in any census records. His first appearance in public records was in Oxford in 1891 where, at the age of twenty-two, he was listed as a student (arts). He names Leonard Redmayne as his father on his marriage certificate ten years later. In 1906 he was acknowledged in his father’s Will as Leonard’s ‘reputed’ son’. Like his father he became a cotton waste dealer, which suggests he was working in the family business. When he died in 1943 he was living in Crosby Road, St Annes. Leonore’s husband, Thomas Tiller, was one of the executors of his Will.
A likely scenario is that the paintings on loan from Leonore Tiller formed part of her father’s estate. The three people named on the schedule of paintings that Leonore was acting on behalf of were her son, John Redmayne Tiller and the two daughters of her illegitimate brother, John Leonard Redmayne. These were the only grandchildren of Leonard Redmayne, so if they shared ownership of the paintings between them it seems a reasonable assumption that this was the original source.
Although the paintings were not itemised in his Will there was a provision that Leonard Redmayne’s estate should not be sold until fifteen years after his death. Even after that there was discretion for the trustees to hold onto his assets for a further period.
In 1946, the same year that her husband died, Leonore requested the return of the Fuseli painting. This was duly returned but then purchased in 1950 by Alderman Dawson, who then gifted it back to the Collection. It was re-hung in the Town Hall in St Annes. She did not request the return of the Percy Brooke paintings which remained in the possession of Fylde Borough Council.
During the presentation of the Fuseli painting back to the Lytham St Annes Corporation, Mr Heap, the Town Clerk, explained that ’31 years ago the council were asked to look after a number of bequeathed pictures until such time as the beneficiaries were of age to decide what should be done with them. Some of the pictures were hung in the Mayor’s parlour and were still on loan to the town’. (8)
In 1999 Leonore’s only son, John Redmayne Tiller died at the age of eighty three. He was a retired doctor living in Great Eccleston. He appeared to be unmarried with no children and died intestate.
In 2001 the executors of Mr Tiller’s estate contacted Fylde Borough Council to request the return of the paintings that had been loaned seventy years earlier. Three of the original nine Percy Brooke paintings could not be found. They were never given accession numbers and there was no record of their titles. This led to a headline on the front page of the Lytham St Annes Express demanding, ‘What else is Missing?’
The following Percy Brooke paintings were returned to John Redmayne Tiller’s executors:
In the Lyth Valley (1912)
Feeding the Sheep (1912)
Winter, River Scene (1908)
Shepherd in Evening Landscape (1911)
The Mill Dam, River Beetham Westmorland (1912)
River Scene (in Lyth Valley?) (1907) (9)
The beneficiaries of his estate were compensated by Fylde Council for the loss of the three missing pictures.
A Country Track in the Moonlight is an atmospheric painting representing a break from the artist’s usual style and subject matter of sheep grazing, water mills and country scenes. It suggests an influence of the Impressionist and Neo-impressionist art movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whose paintings would have been exhibited at that time. (10)
The painting shimmers with an almost eerie glow from the full moon visible in a small clear patch in an otherwise cloudy sky. The windows of the cottages on the right of the scene reflect squares of amber light. The wall curves sharply in a semi-circle, mirrored by the wider arc of the country road. The painting is criss-crossed by a series of vertical and horizontal lines. The road is indented with what look like vehicle tracks, which intersect with a further set of tracks where the road is met by a smaller path coming from the side. A stream runs alongside. A woman, indistinct in the darkness, makes her way along the main path.
Jane Peretz of Chatsworth Road, St Annes, donated A Country Track in the Moonlight in 1938 along with Beach Scene, Morecambe Bay, also by Percy Brooke.
Mrs Peretz was born Jane Earnshaw Hamilton in Haslingdon in 1871. Her father, like Percy Brooke’s father, was an ironmonger. In 1897 she married Edward Peretz, a teacher of German and music. Edward was born in 1864 to Polish parents. (11) The Peretzes spent several years in Blackburn but moved to Lytham St Annes some time after 1911. Edward died in 1930 and was buried in Lytham Cemetery.
In 1934, in a list of residents of Lytham St Annes, Jane, now widowed, was listed not just at Chatsworth Road but also at Phillips (Tailors) Limited, 43 Clifton Street, Lytham. This premise was also listed under the name of Philip Goldstone.
It may be that Jane worked there, but it is unusual to see a resident listed at their workplace, which suggests that perhaps she had a share in that business. (12)
Jane died in 1943. She had no children.
Jane’s other donation, Beach Scene, Morecambe Bay, is also missing although in 2001 it was recorded by Stephen Sartin to have been last located in the Rent Collection Department at Fylde Borough Council. (13) A Country Track in the Moonlight is the only remaining work in the Collection by Percy Brooke.
(1) Wood, Christopher,
The Dictionary of Victorian Painters,
Antique Collectors Club (1978), p65
(2) Ibid, p65
(4) Details on the Brooke family have been obtained from census and BMD records:
1871 Census Piece 4183 Folio 49, p10
1881 Census Piece 4197 Folio 4, p1
1891 Census Piece 3402 Folio 74, p21
1901 Census Piece 3903 Folio 60, p2
1911 Census Piece 25562, Silverdale Lancs
Birth Ref: Blackburn April-June 1869,
Vol 8e, p340
Marriage: Blackburn April-June 1909,
Vol 8e, p1020
Death: Sept-Dec 1916, Vol 8e, p767
(5) Stephen Sartin Catalogue (2001) http://www.lythamstannesartcollection.org/the-treasures.html
(6) There are numerous references to Leonard Redmayne attending council meetings in Blackburn on the British Newspaper Archive Website, including
Blackburn Standard, Saturday 19 January 1895 Blackburn Standard, Saturday 14 April 1894 reports on a fire at the Bonaccord Mill, Cicely Bridge, Blackburn, ‘owned by Mr Leonard Redmayne’
(7) The Will of Leonard Redmayne,
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966,
Probate date 24 October 1906
(8) Lytham St Annes Express,
29 November 1950
(9) Records from Fylde Borough Council/ Lancashire Museums Service detailing Percy Brooke paintings returned to John Redmayne Tiller’s Estate (photocopy courtesy of Margaret Race, Chair of the Friends of the Lytham St Annes Art Collection)
(10) This description is taken from the entry on Percy Brooke on the Friends of Lytham St Annes Art Collection website http://www.friendsofthelythamstannesartcollection.org/percy-brooke.html
(11) Details of Jane and Edward Peretz have been obtained from census records:
1891 Census Piece 3353, Folio 115, p2
1901 Census Piece 3907, Folio 5, p1
1911 Census Piece 25031,
22 Wellington St (St Johns) Blackburn. Edwards burial record is incorrectly recorded under the name of Perety. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=81922108&ref=acom
(13) Stephen Sartin Catalogue (2001)