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Historic Essex: Artist Alfred Bennett-Bamford

PUBLISHED: 12:42 24 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:42 24 November 2015

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A prolific artist, specialising in watercolour and capturing some of the county’s most beautiful scenes, Alfred Bennett-Bamford left a lasting legacy for the county. Hannah Salisbury from the Essex Record Office tells his story

Alfred Bennett Bamford was an artist, best known for his watercolours of Essex scenes in the early years of the 20th century. He donated much of his artwork to public bodies and many of his paintings are today looked after by the Essex Record Office.

Bamford was born in Romford in 1857, shortly after his parents had moved there from Liverpool. They already had a daughter, Eleanor, born in Liverpool in 1855, and another daughter, Mary, was born in Romford in 1859, but sadly died aged just nine in 1868.

Alfred’s father, Charles Bamford, was an auctioneers’ clerk and the family were well off enough to afford a servant. For most of Bamford’s early life the family lived at Stanley Lodge in Eastern Road in Romford.

As a young man Bamford attended Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, one of the oldest independent art schools in London, and the Camden School of Art. He first exhibited work featured at the Royal Academy in 1883, when he was 26. It was a painting of The Chapel of St Erasmus, Westminster Abbey. Over the next 20 years, Bamford exhibited work at the Royal Academy a further six times.

Bamford’s watercolours of Essex cover a wide variety of Essex locations, including places such as Romford and Barking, capturing them shortly before massive housing developments were built.

In addition to his artistic work, Bamford served for many years with the 1st Volunteers Battalion of the Essex Regiment, rising to the rank of major before retiring from the force in 1901.

In 1905 he was appointed second master at the Chelmsford School of Science and Art and in 1907 he was made Art Master at the County High School for Girls in Chelmsford.

Also in 1907, at the age of 50, he married Alice Horry in the church of Saint Mary at the Walls in Colchester. Four years later, when the 1911 census was taken, they were living at 224 Moulsham Street in Chelmsford.

During World War I, Bamford was for a time in command of a Prisoner of War camp near Chelmsford.

Bamford donated many of his sketches and paintings to public organisations in Romford, Barking and Dagenham, and Chelmsford, among others. He retired to Tattenhall in Cheshire, where he died on October 21, 1939, aged 82. A notice of his death appeared in the Chelmsford Chronicle on October 27 and stated:

‘Many Essex folk will learn with regret of the passing, at Mayfield, Tattenhall, Chester, on Saturday, of Major A. Bennett Bamford, VD, in his 83rd year. He gave notable service in the Volunteers and in civil life was a well-known artist, especially in watercolour. Fond of Essex and its scenery, he visited every part thereof and put upon canvas with skill and faithfulness all notable views and buildings. Such contributions ran into many hundreds, and by his generosity they now adorn galleries and museums in Chelmsford and other places. For many years Major Bamford lived in Chelmsford and taught at the Art School there. He was also a member of the Essex Field Club and kindred societies, interested in scientific work and discovery. A clever, modest man, his works speak for him.’ w

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