William Brockedon
William Brockedon was a 19th century English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...


Early life

He was born at Totnes
Totnes is a market town and civil parish at the head of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon, England within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty...

 on 13 October 1787, son of a watchmaker. He was educated at a private school in Totnes, but learned more from his father, taking over the business during the illness of nearly twelve months which ended in his father's death in September 1802. Brockedon then spent six months in London in the house of a watch manufacturer.

On his return to Totnes he continued to carry on the business for his mother for five years. Robert Hurrell Froude, then rector of Dartington
Dartington is a village in Devon, England. Its population is 1,917. It is located west of the River Dart, south of Dartington Hall and about two miles from Totnes...

, encouraged him to pursue painting as a profession, and supported him during studies at the Royal Academy
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and...

. Brockedon found another generous patron in Arthur Howe Holdsworth
Arthur Howe Holdsworth
Arthur Howe Holdsworth was a Devon merchant named Governor of Dartmouth Castle, a position held by his father Arthur from 1760 to 1777, in 1809. He was elected member of Parliament for Dartmouth in 1802, holding the seat until December 1819, when he vacated it in favour of Charles Milner Ricketts,...

, governor of Dartmouth Castle
Dartmouth Castle
Dartmouth Castle is one of a pair of forts, the other being Kingswear Castle, that guard the mouth of the Dart Estuary in Devon, England .A small fortalice was built in 1388 under the direction of John Hawley...



From 1809 he pursued his studies in London as a painter with little interruption till 1815. Immediately after the battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 he went to Belgium and France, and saw the gallery of the Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

 before its dispersion. From 1812 to 1837 he was a regular contributor to the exhibitions of the Royal Academy and the British Institution
British Institution
The British Institution was a private 19th-century society in London formed to exhibit the works of living and dead artists; it was also known as the Pall Mall Picture Galleries or the British Gallery...

. In these twenty-five years he exhibited 65 works, historical, landscape, and portraits: 36 at the Academy and 29 at the British Institution. The works he exhibited in 1812 were portraits of Governor Holdsworth, M.P., and of Samuel Prout
Samuel Prout
thumb|right|Samuel Prout painted by [[John Jackson]] in 1831thumb|right|Market Day by Samuel Proutthumb|right|A View in Nuremberg by Samuel Proutthumb|right|Utrecht Town Hall by Samuel Prout in 1841...

, who was, like himself, a Devonshire artist. He next exhibited a portrait of 'Miss S. Booth as Juliet', pictures on scriptural and other subjects, portraits of Sir Alexander Burns and Sir George Back, and landscapes of Alpine and Italian scenery. Another large picture, representing the 'Delivery of the Tables of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai,' was presented by him to Christ's Hospital in 1835. A picture, painted at Rome in 1821, the 'Vision of the Chariots to the Prophet Zechariah,' was by permission of Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII , born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was a monk, theologian and bishop, who reigned as Pope from 14 March 1800 to 20 August 1823.-Early life:...

 exhibited in the Pantheon.

Brockedon was elected a member of the Academies of Rome and Florence. In compliance with a law of the Florentine Academy he presented it with his portrait painted by his own hand. Brockedon's portrait was hung in the Uffizi of the Florence Gallery near those of Reynolds and Northcote.


Brockedon was meanwhile earning for himself a reputation as an author. In 1824 he made an excursion to the Alps for the purpose of investigating the route of Hannibal, and the idea of publishing Illustrations of the Passes occurred to him. During the summers of 1825, 1826, 1828, and 1829, he was led in the course of his journeys to cross the Alps fifty-eight times, and to pass into and out of Italy by more than forty different routes. The result was the publication, in 1827, of the first part of his Illustrations of the Passes of the Alps by which Italy communicates with France, Switzerland, and Germany. The work, containing 109 engravings, was issued in twelve parts, from 1827 to 1829, forming when complete two royal quarto volumes, and was dedicated to his earliest patron, Archdeacon Froude. The drawings, which were entirely by Brockedon's own hand, were done in sepia, and were sold in 1837 to George Venables-Vernon, 5th Baron Vernon
George Venables-Vernon, 5th Baron Vernon
George John Warren Vernon, 5th Baron Vernon was the only son of George Charles Venables-Vernon, 4th Baron Vernon of Sudbury, Derbyshire, and Frances Maria, only daughter of Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren. He was one of the last Members of Pariament for Derbyshire and the first for South Derbyshire...

 for 500 guineas.

In 1833 he published in one volume his Journals of Excursions in the Alps, the Pennine, Graian, Cottian, Rhetian, Lepontine, and Bernese. He also edited William Finden
William Finden
William Finden was an English line engraver.He served his apprenticeship to one James Mitan, but appears to have owed far more to the influence of James Heath, whose works he privately and earnestly studied...

's Illustrations to the Life and Works of Lord Byron. In 1835 he edited for the Findens the Illustrated Road Book from London to Naples, with thirty illustrations by himself and his friends Prout and Stanfield. In 1836 he wrote for Blackwood's Magazine
Blackwood's Magazine
Blackwood's Magazine was a British magazine and miscellany printed between 1817 and 1980. It was founded by the publisher William Blackwood and was originally called the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine. The first number appeared in April 1817 under the editorship of Thomas Pringle and James Cleghorn...

 Extracts from the Journal of an Alpine Traveller, and he subsequently wrote the Savoy and Alpine parts of Murray's Handbook for Switzerland. His next work, published in folio in 1842-4, was Italy, Classical, Historical, and Picturesque, illustrated and described, with sixty engravings from drawings by himself, Eastlake, Prout, Roberts, Stanfield, Harding, and other friends. In 1855, in conjunction with George Croly
George Croly
George Croly was a poet, novelist, historian, and divine. He was born at Dublin, his father was a physician. Graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with an MA in 1804 and LLD in 1831. Croly married Margaret Helen Begbie in 1819.-Service:After becoming ordained in 1804, he first labored in Ireland...

, he wrote part of the text of David Roberts
David Roberts (painter)
David Roberts RA was a Scottish painter. He is especially known for a prolific series of detailed lithograph prints of Egypt and the Near East that he produced during the 1840s from sketches he made during long tours of the region . These, and his large oil paintings of similar subjects, made him...

's Views in the Holy Land, Croly writing the historical, and Brockedon the descriptive portions.


In 1819 he turned attention to the mode of wire-drawing then in use. Brockedon invented a mode of drawing the wire through holes pierced in sapphires, rubies, and other gems. He patented this invention, and visited Paris in connection with it; but it was not a source of profit. In 1831 he invented and patented, in conjunction with Mr. Mordan, a pen of a form called the 'oblique,' from the slit being in the usual direction of the writing. He next turned his attention to the preparation of a substitute for corks and bungs by coating felt with vulcanised india-rubber. He took out a patent for this invention in 1838, and in 1840 and 1842 enlarged its scope by other patents for retaining fluids in bottles, and for the manufacture of fibrous materials for the cores of stoppers. This invention led to his forming business relations with Messrs. Charles Macintosh & Co. of Manchester. About the year 1841 he submitted to them his patents for a substitute for corks, through which he was interested in their business till 1845, when he became a partner, and retained that position till his death.

In 1843 he patented an invention for the manufacture of wadding
Wadding is a disc of material used in guns to seal gas behind a projectile or to separate powder from shot.Wadding can be crucial to a gun's efficiency, since any gas that leaks past a projectile as it is being fired is wasted. A harder or more carefully designed item which serves this purpose is...

 for firearms; another for condensing sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate , Na2CO3 is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. It most commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate, which readily effloresces to form a white powder, the monohydrate. Sodium carbonate is domestically well-known for its everyday use as a water softener. It can be extracted from the...

 and potassium carbonate
Potassium carbonate
Potassium carbonate is a white salt, soluble in water , which forms a strongly alkaline solution. It can be made as the product of potassium hydroxide's absorbent reaction with carbon dioxide. It is deliquescent, often appearing a damp or wet solid...

 into the form of pills and lozenges; and for preparing or treating plumbago
Plumbago is a genus of 10-20 species of flowering plants in the family Plumbaginaceae, native to warm temperate to tropical regions of the world. Common names include plumbago and leadwort...

 by reducing common black lead to powder, and then compressing it in vacuo, so as to produce artificial plumbago for lead pencils purer than any that could then be obtained, in consequence of the exhaustion of the mines in Cumberland
Cumberland is a historic county of North West England, on the border with Scotland, from the 12th century until 1974. It formed an administrative county from 1889 to 1974 and now forms part of Cumbria....

, and especially valuable to artists because free from (diamond) grit. The invention was first worked for him by Messrs. Mordan & Co., but at his death in 1854 the plant and machinery were sold by auction, and bought by one of the merchants connected with the lead industry at Keswick
Keswick, Cumbria
Keswick is a market town and civil parish within the Borough of Allerdale in Cumbria, England. It had a population of 4,984, according to the 2001 census, and is situated just north of Derwent Water, and a short distance from Bassenthwaite Lake, both in the Lake District National Park...

. In 1844, 1846, and 1851, he patented inventions for various applications of vulcanised india-rubber.

Later life

In 1830 Brockedon took an active part in the formation of the Royal Geographical Society
Royal Geographical Society
The Royal Geographical Society is a British learned society founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences...

, and was elected a member of its first council. He was afterwards the founder of the Graphic, an art society. On 12 June 1830 he was elected a member of the Athenæum
Athenaeum Club, London
The Athenaeum Club, usually just referred to as the Athenaeum, is a notable London club with its Clubhouse located at 107 Pall Mall, London, England, at the corner of Waterloo Place....

. On 18 December 1834 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

He died on 29 August 1854, in his sixty-sixth year, at 29 Devonshire Street, Queen Square, Bloomsbury, and was buried in the grave which contained the remains of his first wife and his son in the burial-ground of St. George the Martyr
St. George's Church, Bloomsbury
St George's, Bloomsbury is a parish church in Bloomsbury, London Borough of Camden, United Kingdom.-History:The Commissioners for the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711 realised that, due to rapid development in the Bloomsbury area during the latter part of the 17th and early part of the 18th...

, in Hunter Street, Brunswick Square.


He married in 1821 Elizabeth Graham, who died in childbirth on 23 July 1829, in her fortieth year, leaving two children, Philip North, born at Florence on 27 April 1822, and Mary, married to Joseph H. Baxendale, the head of the firm of Pickford & Co. The son, who was educated as a civil engineer, became the favourite pupil of Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

, but died of consumption at the age of 28, on 13 November 1849. On 8 May 1839 Brockedon married, as his second wife, the widow of Captain Farwell of Totnes, who survived him, and by whom he had no issue.
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