Cemeteries and graveyards, full of love, betrayal, tragic deaths, murder, and suicide. What will you find?

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Charles West Cope R.A - Artist to The House of Lords

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.

Monument to Charles West Cope and his second wife Eleanor Mary, All Saints Maidenhead Cemetery, All Saints Avenue, Maidenhead Berkshire.

"In Loving Memory of Charles West Cope. R.A   Born July 28th 1811 - Died August 21st 1890.  Thine eyes shall see the King in all his beauty."

You can see Sarah Beesleys grave just behind

"Also of Eleanor Mary Cope his second wife who died 20th October 1918 aged 87"

Charles West Cope was born on 28th July 1811 in Leeds Yorkshire to Charles Cope, a water colour painter and art teacher and Ellyn Hill.  He was given the middle name West after the celebrated artist and friend of his father, Benjamin West.  As a child Charles was sent to a boarding school in Camberwell London and later attended school in Great Marlow Buckinghamshire where he suffered a broken elbow in a bullying incident.  In 1827 Charles father died in a stage coach accident, that same year Charles entered the Sass's Academy before becoming a student of the Royal Academy of Arts.

On the 1st September 1840 Charles married Ann Charlotte Benning daughter of Henry Benning, a surgeon and Ann Stockdale.

Charles submitted designs for a competition to decorate the interior of the Houses of Parliament. In 1843, his drawing 'The First Trial by Jury' earned him a prize of £300. In 1844 he submitted a further design called 'Meeting of Jacob and Rachel,' and was one of the six painters commissioned in July of that year to prepare preliminary drawings, coloured sketches, and specimens of fresco painting for the decoration of the House of Lords. He also received 400 pounds for his design of 'Prince Henry Acknowledging the Authority of Judge Gascoigne'. Charles received a commission to execute this design in fresco, and also another of 'Edward the Black Prince receiving the Order of the Garter'.

Charles West Cope

In 1865 and 1866 Charles finished his best frescoes in the House of Lords - 'Meeting of Train Bands to relieve the Siege of Gloucester' and 'Speaker Lenthall asserting the Privileges of the Commons.' In 1867 he was appointed professor of painting at the Royal Academy, and delivered six lectures a year till 1875. In 1867 also he painted a third scene Moonlight from 'Othello' exhibited 1868.

Sadly in 1868 Charles wife Ann was to pass away aged 50.

In 1879 Charles married his second wife Eleanor Mary Smart.  They moved to 11 Craufaud Rise, Maidenhead Berkshire where Charles continued to exhibit his paintings at the Royal Academy of Art until 1882.   In 1883 he retired as a professional artist though he continued to paint for his own enjoyment and also took up boating and cycling. He wrote his autobiography, "Reminiscences", which was completed in October 1889.

Charles died in Bournemouth on 21 August 1890, after a brief illness.

Notice of Charles West Cope's death

The Slough, Eton & Windsor Observer reported on Charles's funeral;

"Funeral of Mr. C. W. Cope, R.A. -
On Monday at mid-day, the remains of the late, Mr. Charles West Cope, R.A. were interred at Maidenhead Cemetery, the first part of the service being read at St. Luke's Church, in the parish of which Mr. Cope had resided for the last ten years.  The Rev. W. G. Sawyer, the late Vicar, conducted the service.  The funeral was of a private character, being attended only by the nearest relatives and friends.  Owing to the time of year, when nearly everybody is away, none of the members of the Royal Academy were able to be present, and tokens of sympathy and regret for unavoidable absence were received from Sir F. Leighton, President Royal Academy, and from Messers. Richmond, Alma, Tadema, Horsley, Wells, and others.
The funeral arrangements were satisfactorily carried out by Mr. J. C. Webber, High Street.  Mr. Cope, who had resided in Maidenhead for some considerable time, died at Bournemouth, after a short illness, with comparatively little suffering, and in full possession of his intellectual powers till the last day of his life.  He had just entered his 80th year, his birthday being the 28th of July and the day of his death  the 21st of August."

Eleanor moved to Henlow, Kidwells Park, Maidenhead, where she remained, alone apart from her cook and parlour maid until her death on 20th October 1918

For more Taphophile Tragics, please click here.
For more Tombstone Tuesday posts, please click here.


  1. This artist certainly gained some artistic respect in hight places if he was asked so many times to paint art for political places! An impressive life!

    1. Amazing the people you find buried in your local cemetery when you really look. Before I started this blog I had no idea Charles West Cope existed, let alone lived and was buried in my home town.

  2. Nicely researched and that's a very stylish gravestone - beautiful lettering.

  3. I expect he was well known locally in his day. I wonder how he was perceived - his paintings seem quite mainstream so he was probably a respected, professional man.

    1. I think he was from what I have been able to find. However, I never knew of this man until I stumbled across his grave.

  4. Such interesting stones. I enjoy seeing different kinds of cemeteries and stones.

    1. The internet is such a wonderful community. Through other's posts I have been able to visit many wonderful cemeteries.

  5. Every gravestone has a tale to tell, well done for getting to the bottom of this one. Stylish headstone too.

  6. To my eye, the font is surprisingly modern on the marker. I do like the weathered green effect.

    Isn't it amazing that someone so well respected (and known) in his day, is not commemorated somewhere else in his own community, other than the graveyard! Memories of Shelley's "Ozymandias" ...

    Two other things: I did not realise that you could have an RA after your name to indicate that you were a member of the Royal Academy; and, the image of the Black Prince investiture is labelled a 'cartoon'. I wonder why that latter is? It does not look at all cartoonish to moi!

    Loved the detail in this post. Taa ...

    1. Thank you.

      The greenish effect it due to rain and the copper lettering. Adds to the gravestone I feel.

      I have no idea why that painting would be labelled a cartoon, but then I'm not very up on the world of art.

      Charles could possibly be commemorated elsewhere that I am not aware of. However I had no idea he existed, let alone lived and was buried in my home town. I really think they should teach more local history in schools.

  7. That is the kind of monument that I would be attracted to.. and then to find such an exciting history!
    His stone looks surprisingly more modern than his Sarah's, but then it also looks like a style that might have been more suited to 1918.

    1. It is rather modern compared to the other monuments around it. Maybe being a celebrated artist he had certain standard to up hold. The collumn is massive and getting a picture of the cherubs on top proved difficult.

  8. yes, the greenish lettering is beautiful! never saw something like that before...

    1. The green is caused by the copper used oxidizing. When the monument was first erected the lettering would have been a brilliant gold colour.

  9. A fine stone I note that he attended a school in Marlow Would anyone know the name of that school Thank you


Thank you for your comment.

Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain