Monday, 2 May 2016

Looking at Eltham in 1930 with the drawings of Llwyd Roberts

Way to the Palace
Today I received a wonderful collection of drawings from my friend Margaret whose husband like me grew up in Eltham.

There are 27 of them in all and they were drawn by Mr Llwyd Roberts and published in the Kentish Times in 1930 and then republished in a slim book in 1966.

And as you do I went looking for copyright permission but given that the Kentish Times has now ceased to publish and the pictures are over 85 years old I think I should be OK.

Mr Roberts was born in Borth in Cardiganshire in 1875 and was articled to a Derby architect later spending  seven years as a draughtsman in Burton Upon Trent before working for a series of Welsh newspapers.

After war service and a period in the British army of occupation he settled in Eltham at Bloxham-gardens working as a topographical artist and concentrating on drawings of the ancient buildings of Kent.

And it will be during this time that he produced the drawings in the book.

Now I have to say that they fascinate me.  Some are quite clearly drawn from his direct observation of the buildings while others may be from earlier pictures and a few are a careful attempt to reconstruct a scene from an earlier period.

All of which may mean that some at least may not be an entirely accurate depiction of the past, but that said I suspect they are as close as we going to get.

And they can be judged against surviving photographs as well as maps and other documents.

At the crossroads, as it might have looked in 1870
So I am for once not going to get too hung up about historical accuracy, after all Mr Roberts was a professional draughtsman engaged in serious representation of  buildings and I doubt that he would have invented much more than the figures who inhabit the pictures.

Added to which there is that simple observation that he was there in Eltham in 1929 and 1930 when the pictures were made and would have known the buildings well.

That should be it but history is an odd and messy subject and does throw up all sorts of coincidences.
So many of us will have stood exactly where he stood and indeed I bet some of his drawings will have graced the walls of our homes.

And it doesn’t end there, Margaret’s husband and I both grew up in Eltham. Margaret was born in Ashton-Under-Lyne where I began my married life, and they were married in the Methodist Church in Waterloo in Ashton having met in Borth while studying.

Added to which when Mr Roberts began his career in Derby my great grandparents were also living in the town.

But that I think is the point to stop and instead promise more of his work over the next few days with a bit more explanation of each drawing.

Locarion; Eltham, London

Picture; the old bridge over the moat of Eltham Palace, and At the crossroads, Llwyd Roberts, circa 1929-30, from Old Eltham, 1966, courtesy of Margaret Copeland Gain

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