Ravenstonedale Kirkby Stephen Cumbria

Contributed by Martin Hockley

Edward Jeffrey, a very accomplished Landscape painter and illustrator of the 'Toby Twirl' children's books, published 1946 - 1958, lived in Ravenstonedale.

Extract from 'The Toby Twirl Adventure Books - A Collector's Guide' by Martin Hockley ISBN 0-9544720-0-4
Copyright Toby Twirl Ltd 2003 (www.tobytwirl.co.uk)

Toby Twirl

The illustrator of 'Toby Twirl' was Edward Jeffrey, having based Toby on a soft toy that his wife was making at the time, he used his unique drawing skills to bring 'TT' to life. His genius portrayal of movement and attention to detail made the drawings almost move by themselves. 'EJ' was probably the greatest character artist of the 20th century, compare his 'Toby Twirl' artwork to that of 'Rupert' and you will see the difference in detail and depiction of movement. 'EJ' was born on 17th September 1898 and later studied art at Armstrong College, Durham University, Newcastle upon Tyne. He was also a most accomplished landscape painter and exhibited his works at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Welsh Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy, the National Society of Painters, Sculptors and Gravers, and widely in the provinces.

Prior to illustrating 'Toby Twirl' 'EJ' had worked for Sampson Low producing a large number of book cover illustrations for various novels, he had also worked on the newspaper strips for 'Rupert' and was the obvious choice of illustrator for TT'. In 1946 'EJ' and his family moved to 'Chantry Studios' Ravenstonedale, Kirkby Stephen, Westmorland (now Cumbria). 'The Chantry' is where Edward Jeffrey did most of his Toby Twirl illustrations. The family shared the house and studio at this time with R.S. Clark the colour artist who coloured some of the early Toby Twirl work.

From this studio 'EJ' could see out across the Westmorland countryside and used these views in many of his 'TT' drawings, for example the background scene on the cover of the 1950 TT annual. 'EJ' continued to live and work at Ravenstonedale, moving to 'The Stables' another studio in the village, sometime in the mid 1950's. In later years he would also undertake commercial commissions, despite being almost crippled by arthritis, he painted many 'Pub Signs' for a major brewery, hanging them in the yard of 'The Stables' and painting them from a step ladder, one of his signs can still be seen at 'The Punchbowl' Public House in Underbarrow, Cumbria.

He also designed many greetings cards, often featuring the birds that visited his bird table just outside his studio window. His great love of the Cumbria wildlife, people, landscape and buildings is reflected in his fabulous paintings. His success as a landscape and wild bird painter meant he did many paintings for the card manufacturers 'Valentines' of Dundee, and had submissions selected exclusively for The Queen Mother and The Queen.

'EJ' was also a member of the Lake Artist's Society and the Kendal Art Society, as many as 160 of his colour paintings appeared as cover illustrations for 'Cumbria Magazine' beginning in 1959. His great enjoyment in sketching and painting the Cumbria landscape, particularly it's characteristic features of trees, wildlife, people and buildings, led to his own book 'Edward Jeffrey's Lake District Sketchbook' being published in 1972 by Dalesman Books. His family say that people would visit his studio and buy his paintings off the walls, and when he didn't have any he would hang up his sketches and people would buy them. He was asked to do another painting for The Royal Family, but by that time his wife had died, who had been his life and inspiration, and his hands were so twisted by arthritis that he< said he did not want to do a bad painting, despite this he was still painting fabulous pictures and had a book full of commissions when he died in 1978.