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(by the late Fred Ellingham)


This article was sent to the Society earlier in the year by Carole Payne of Marple Bridge whose late neighbour, Joy Ellingham, was the daughter of Fred Ellingham. He was an artist who worked for Crown Wallpapers in the early 20th century and lived in or near Derby. It recounts his days sketching in Markeaton Park and his meeting with Mrs Mundy. The article has now been deposited in Derby Local Studies Library.

“I joined the Derby Sketching Club, and there I spent the happiest days of my life. I was brought up to use a brush, so soon became an active member and again tramped all over Derbyshire, this time with my sketching pack on my back, with some very charming artists. They were much older than I was and a different kind of gentleman than I had met before, they were full of fun and good humour.

They informed me one night at the Club that Mrs. Mundy allowed members of the Club to sketch on her estate. Her estate joined the town of Derby and extended several miles until it joined Lord Curzon's estate at Kedleston, but they did not tell me to write for permission.

So one afternoon I went on to her estate, which was quite near where I lived and sat me down by the trout stream, a beautiful subject with a white stone foot bridge crossing the brook and autumn trees in the background, There I made myself comfortable and started on my picture. I had not been there long when I heard and saw Mrs. Mundy's carriage pass by, but I was surprised to hear it stop in a few moments. Presently, to my surprise, a gentleman came across the bridge and came up to me and said "Mrs. Mundy wants to know what you are doing on her grounds". I told him I was sketching and I was a member of the Derby Sketching Club and understood that Mrs. Mundy had given permission to the members of the Club to sketch there. He was very nice and said I had better come along and have a word with her.

Now I had heard a lot about Mrs. Mundy - her husband was the famous Colonel Mundy (deceased) and she was one of the first ladies of the land, having been a Cavendish. She was most autocratic, proud and domineering, so I knew what to expect. When I arrived at her carriage I raised my hat with a sweep and a low bow, as I have seen in pictures of Sir Walter Raleigh bowing to Queen Elizabeth. She gazed at me for a moment, then held her lorgnettes up to her eyes and said "Who are you and what are you doing on my grounds?". I said my name is Ellingham and that I was sketching. "Who gave you permission" she said. "I understood that members of the Derby Sketching Club had been given permission" I answered. "Certainly not. Have you written asking for permission!". I said I had not. Then she spoke in a loud voice, "How dare you trespass on my land". I was quite calm, I bowed once again, "Madam", I said, "I had no intention of trespassing on your estate, and I will at once pack up and go". (Another bow). She looked at me through her lorgnettes and said "No: you go and make your sketch and when I come back I will come and see what you have done". I thanked her and bowed once again, then she drove off.

I returned to my sketch and started putting all my best into it and after about one hour and a halfs hard work, in my opinion, it was looking quite good and I was just wondering how long she would be when I heard the carriage and saw the tall stately figure with long train walk across the bridge.

As she approached me I stood up and bowed. She asked me how I was getting on with my sketch, then holding her lorgnettes up gazed at my efforts. "How lovely" she exclaimed and "what a lovely subject". Then she asked me where I had learned painting and a lot of things about myself. Then came the big surprise. I was to leave my things just as they were and go with her into her big Georgian Mansion and see some of her work.

She had done some grand work, having studied in Italy. Also hanging round this enormous room were some grand pictures, mostly by Italian Masters, One picture made me stop and remark "what a lovely young lady". It was a large picture with oval mount, the workmanship (Italian) was absolutely perfect and also the colours, the face was beautiful with such a kind expression, and the pale blue evening gown with a full crinoline skirt completed the lovely picture.  She looked at me and almost blushed, and with one finger to the side of her mouth, she curtseyed and said "that was me when I was young". I could not have said a more fortunate thing, although it was from the bottom of my heart.

Later, when she showed me out at the front of the house and down the long flight of stone steps, she said "Goodbye", and "Mrs. Mundy grants Mr. Ellingham permission to sketch in her park whenever he likes". I returned to my easel, packed up my things and went on my way rejoicing, with much to tell the Club.

I was to meet Mrs. Mundy many times after that, and many the commissions she gave me to do and many the picture she bought from me, always giving me more than I asked.

The next time I went sketching in Mrs. Mundy's park, I put the picture that I had finished and nicely mounted in my bag, as she had asked to see it when it was finished, and I hoped she would be tempted to buy it. I did meet her and she asked me if I had the picture, so I produced it. She admired it very much and said "how can Mrs. Mundy become the possessor of the picture". I once again bowed and said "if Mrs. Mundy would accept it, I would indeed be honoured". I could have done with the money just then, but I am glad now I did not ask any money for it. The next time I saw that picture it was hanging on the wall with the Italian Masters.

Every time I went in to the Park to sketch she always found me. I think the men on the estate would tell her. Sometimes we would sit on a seat and talk and she would laugh like a young girl. She must have been over seventy.

If she wanted me to paint her a picture she would write to me asking me to call and I would be taken upstairs by the smiling butler. She had four nephews and wanted to make them each a present of a picture of the house. The house was very large, it was of mellow red brick and had about 50 windows, a beast of a thing to do. Each picture had to be from a different position, she finding the place and taking me to it.

She also wrote and asked me to call and meet General Sir Binden Blood as he wanted me to paint him a picture of the house. He was a grand type of soldier, very upright in his frock coat and top hat, but with a nasty scar down one side of his face, it looked like a sabre cut, it is a wonder it had not cut his head off. When I had finished the picture, of course, I had to show it to Madam. She found one or two minor faults, and then asked me how much I was going to charge him; I said "a fiver", she said "make it a tenner, he has lots of money".

I was invited one Sunday morning to call and help her with mounting some of her old sketches for her Church Bazaar. The church was on her own estate. I had forgotten to take my penknife, so she rang for the butler to bring the knife box up. I never saw such an odd lot, long handles and hardly any blades left. When I said they were worse than ours at home, she roared with laughter. I expect they belonged to the kitchen. At any rate I made her sketches look very nice and she sold every one for her church.

Unfortunately for me she met with a serious accident, slipped as she was getting out of her carriage and broke her thigh. She never walked again. In fact I do not think she ever got out of her bed. She used to write to me sometimes and ask me to bring my pictures to show her. I used to go and sit by her bedside and chat with her. She offered to send me abroad - Italy to study - but I was under an agreement with the Company.

One day there came a new nurse. She was Russian, a beautiful dark young woman with dangerous flashing eyes. She soon let me know I was not wanted, and it was not very long after that, that Mrs, Mundy died. Her estate known as Markeaton Park was taken over by the Town of Derby and turned into beautiful playing fields and gardens and the house a Museum etc. The last letter she wrote to me I still have and she refers to the place of our first meeting.”

A photographed copy* of the above was OCR read to create a text file for web use, markeaton info makes and has no claim on the above information.  Thank you to Fred for recording this and to all those who helped in providing it to us all. Brian.

*By Don Farnsworth

Meeting Mrs Mundy

This could be called a story of two artist friends, but I doubt Mrs Mundy would like that; nevertheless the story is a nice account of the Lady’s gentle interests and the period. Don this is from the CD collection you gave me ta.

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Churchill writes on Bindon Blood