In Search of the Cambridge Art Workmen of 1882

Shelley Blogs 7

A chance encounter upstairs in the dining room at the Museum of Cambridge during the recent Cooks and Colours Leach exhibition led to the identification of another of the members of the Leach workforce in this marvellous photograph of them all on a works outing up the river at Clayhithe in 1882.

One morning in September, as I slid back the front of a display case to replace one of the Leach notebooks I had been working on, a voice at my shoulder asked whether I knew anything about the men in this photograph which was displayed in an adjacent cabinet.

I told the story of the photograph as far as we knew: I had first come across it in the Leach family archive but another copy of the photograph had been printed in the Cambridge Chronicle in 1928 thanks to a Mr J. Flack. This was James Flack who, at the time of the original photograph, was an apprentice painter. He is seated on the ground, bottom right, in a striped boater. 46 years later, he was able to recall the names of all but one of his fellow workers. From this list of names I had recognised five of the names: there was Frederick Richard Leach himself, founder of the firm, who is seated cross-legged on the ground with his hat in his lap, Frederick’s eldest son Barnett MacLean Leach (recalled as ‘M. Leach’ because he was known as ‘Mac’, ‘Max’ or ‘Maxwell’), Frederick’s brother-in-law Charles Jeffs Goodenough, who went on to set up his own firm in Cambridge a few years later, Edwin Charles Ogle who became clerk and then manager of the Leach firm and, of course, David Daniel Parr, looming in the back row in his deerstalker, future owner and painter of 186 Gwydir Street, Cambridge – the David Parr House.

“Well, I am related to ‘J. Horn’”, responded the visitor and within a few moments another of these skilled Cambridge craftsmen had come to life. He was John Horn, born in Bethnal Green in 1863, the son of Henry Horn, publican of the Free Press in Prospect Row, Cambridge where he lived as a child. He was a wood turner. Three years after the photograph, in 1885, he married Harriet Brown and they had eight children. His great great niece also told me that he later moved from the Leach firm to work at Coulsons, the builders, in Cambridge.

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Telling the stories of skilled Cambridge artisans, like John Horn, is one of the research projects we hope to be able to undertake over the next few years. If you can tell us any more about the men in this photograph or are interested in helping us to find out, please contact us at info@davidparrhouse .org to let us know.