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Ye Attick Abode

from The Barwicker No.9 March 1988

In the publication "Bygone Barwick", on pages 3 and 11, reference is made to a thatched cottage which appears on the two photographs of the old main village street. This modest dwelling, already self-conscious with old age at the turn of the century, was demolished without fuss or obituary in about 1911. The loss was not merely architectural for there went with it the last visible reminders of an albeit short but stimulating interlude in Barwick's long history. Indeed, whatever might have broken the monotony of village life in previous periods, nothing was to do it with greater effect than the arrival of the strange new occupants into this cottage in the winter of 1895.

The building soon proclaimed its change of ownership - portrait paintings in oils appeared on the wooden shutters to the main street, a notice in one window announced "No Vacancies" and in the other "Hearb bear sold hear", and the front door was enlivened with signatures of the new occupants and their many guests. But the main change which was to spread the fame of this cottage far beyond the parish boundary, was its new name - "YE ATTIC ABODE".

This somewhat inappropriate title emanated from Leeds. Here, Edmund Bogg had attracted around him a number of young artists to sketch specific scenes as illustrations for his books on the Yorkshire Dales. These projects naturally required editorial meetings which, due to the fluidity of their agendas, generated a lot of interesting talk and smoke, From these emerged the Leeds Savage Club, a coterie of whose members then rented the top floor of No.9 South Parade to study live models two nights a week. Calling themselves "Ye Attic Arts Club", they then extended their activities by leasing this cottage in Barwick for weekend usage and "abode".

The prime movers in this rural adventure had a common denominator of youthful talent and joie de vivre which permeated their work and lifestyle with an infectious optimism. This particular quality is most marked and reflected in the "Attic Abode Log Book". This fascinating document, consisting mostly of original sketches of both the village and many of its residents, was compiled by various "Aboders" during their sixteen year sojourn in the cottage. I have used this, together with press cuttings and later obituary notices, to substantiate the belief that the subsequent achievements of many of these young men justify specific mention in any historical records of Barwick.

Here are brief biographical sketches of some of the main characters:

ERNEST FORBES: Born in 1877. Painter, writer and cartoonist, he was one of the original Aboders whose sketches of Barwick personalities (Sally Grattan, Alice Fenwick, Ivy Collett, etc.) feature prominently in the Log Book. Appointed cartoonist on the old "Yorkshire Evening News", where, as "The Hermit", his increasing skill as a caricaturist attracted attention beyond Yorkshire. Leaving Barwick, he took a large studio in Chelsea where, for a short time, he enjoyed sudden fame through a series of brilliant caricatures of famous personalities for the "Illustrated London News". Accepted by socialites, his work commanded high prices, but, as a distinguished art critic wrote at the time: "Forbes is a supreme paradox. He is the antithesis of Chelsea, but lives there. He is by nature a strong, silent man, but he will talk by the hour. He has captured London's heart, but his own heart is elsewhere."
This was true. He returned to Yorkshire and produced a memorable series of pictorial articles for the "Yorkshire Post" entitled "This Mellow Shire". Living at Askwith after the last war, his affinity with the landscape and the Dales folk is apparent in all his best work. He died in Harrogate about 30 years ago. A recent article (Oct. 1987) in The Dalesman entitled "The Life and Times of Ernest Forbes" pays belated tribute to an artist who turned his back on fame and fortune.

J.T.FRIEDENSON: An adventurous original Aboder who also considerable talent (recognised by the accolade of a one show in London's Baillie Bond St. Gallery in 1910). He a nomad artist, who inter alia worked on the railways in Buenos Aires, on a cattle boat in South Africa, in a gold mine in Australia and as a potential millionaire (as a result of taking a troupe of girls to a New York theatre to illustrate "Living Statuary").
The Log Book contains numerous references to "Friedy", return to Barwick after each adventure generated very lengthy celebrations, with most of the village dancing and sinking around the old stone cross for most of the night. His pen and ink drawings of a number of local children, notably Ernest Woodhead, aged 13, and Walter Mosby, aged 12, provide an interesting record of some of the younger element in the village at that time. An exhibition of his etchings in London in 1929 drew immediate attention to both his talent and his plight. A unique gesture by the Royal Academy sent him to Cannes to bolster his failing health. It was too late. He died there in 1931.

J.H.DODGSON: A tall humorous character, who, unlike the other early Aboders, had a well paid job as cartoonist on the "Yorkshire Evening Post". He called himself "Kester11 and he created a Yorkshire Tyke, who gave a forthright commentary on local affairs for 25 years, and this made Kester a well known figure in the Leeds area. His local claim to fame was his graphic account of how the maypole had once again been raised in Barwick in 1910. According to the "Evening Post" it had been an unusually long job and very thirsty work, The most unusual feature of that year's ceremony, however, was that visitors read an account of it while waiting for it to take place. Kester, having sent his copy to the paper in advance of the event, omitted to inform them that it had been postponed. Kester died at his home in Linton, in 1953, aged 80.

R.C,OLDHAM: Originally a scenic artist at the Grand Theatre in Leeds, Dick Oldham, an original Aboder, started and became President of the one and only Barwick Golf Club. The Log Book contains many references and photos of the somewhat Bohemian approach members had to the game. The annual club dinner took place in Leeds and was invariably followed by a play performed by the Aboders and written by Oldham. One of these so impressed the Director of the Grand Theatre that it resulted in Dick writing and producing pantomimes for that theatre for the next 18 years. Nicknamed "King of the Pantomime Writers" by the theatrical profession, Dick married Lillie Howard, one of the best known principal stars. They lived for many years at Scholes Hall.

MARK SENIOR: One of the oldest and most gifted landscape artist members of the Attic Arts Club. Most of his best work was carried out around Runswick Bay where he lived for a number of years. His work now commands very high prices as illustrated by an exhibition of his work at the Parkin Gallery, in London, in 1974 - nearly 50 years after Mark Senior's death at the age of 63.

OWEN BOWEN: Now probably the best known of the original Aboders. Bowen's output of paintings during his very long life was prodigious. Eschewing "modernism", his picturesque traditional rural landscapes continue to have great popular appeal. To celebrate his 85th. birthday in 1958 an exhibition of his paintings took place in Collingham (where he lived and worked for many years) and resulted in every exhibit being sold within a few hours of its opening.

W.ALBAN JONES: Architect. At the age of 16 Billy Jones ran away to sea. His sketching talent was soon noticed by Captain C.B.Fry (the celebrated cricketer) who promptly enrolled and paid for him as a student at the Royal College of Art in London. Here he gained a number of awards before settling in Leeds, where, at a very early age, he won a series of important national architectural competitions. His predominant interest, however, was in housing and, with his partner, he made the -firm of Jones and Stocks well known for its distinctive domestic work in the Yorkshire tradition.
Moving out to Linton, near Wetherby, he devoted care and skill in the creation of a virtually new village out of an erstwhile hamlet. The result earned considerable praise and the village was named by the Town Planning Institute as probably the most sympathetic example of rural development in England. Billy Jones was not only a founder member of the Attic Arts Club but he was also Secretary of the Leeds Arts Club. At the age of 78 he won a national award for his house designs in Yorkshire and died aged 85 - the day after completing the design for a cottage in Linton.

HENRY OSPOVAT: Caricaturist. His name frequently appears in the Log Book. His work was highly regarded by the Attic Aboders. His brilliantly cruel caricatures of the theatrical profession in the Daily Mirror made him nationally famous. He died of cancer in 1909 at the early age of 31, and his obituary notice in the Times stated: "Mr Ospovat was undoubtedly the most brilliant caricaturist in England., ..the best we have had since Gilray and Rowlandson..." Ospovat did many drawings of local Barwick residents during his visits from London and some of these are probably now fading in forgotten drawers in the area.

A.R.ORAGE: Writer and gifted speaker who had the most profound influence on the literary and artistic coterie in Yorkshire at the turn of the century. With his friend Holbrook Jackson, he founded the Leeds Arts Club which soon established itself as probably the most stimulating centre for intellectual discussions outside London. His friendship with many famous writers brought some of them to the club. These included G.K.Chesterton and G.B.Shaw who both gave lectures to members in February 1905. (Shaw aroused controversy by suggesting that Leeds should be burned down.)
Moving to London he founded "New Age" and then became the editor of "The New English Weekly" which, under his influence, are now accepted as the two most outstanding literary periodicals of that period. He died in 1935 at the age of 61, within hours of broadcasting to the nation on Social Credit. Orage was a spasmodic visitor to Barwick and the Log Book itself was started at his suggestion on a visit.

I suggest that such a concentration of youthful talent in one place is worth recording in the annals of this ancient village.


Billy Jones married Bertha Cuss in 1911 - the first of the group to settle down. He and Annie Bertha, often referred to in the Log Book, lived at 22, The Boyle, which they renamed "The Attic Abode", They were the parents of the writer of this article, who was born in Barwick, We are most grateful to him and to his brother Denis and sister-in law Mary, who delighted the Society with a programme of illustrations and readings in November 1987

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