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Honiton High Street by Alfred Leyman
The watercolour of Honiton High Street was painted by Alfred Leyman in 1901. The
picture is a reminder of the passing of time, and depending on your view; either
how little things change or indeed how much they change. April Cottage, the house
on the right, has recently been on the market, along with many other properties
on the high street in Honiton. The unmistakeable square tower of St Paul's Church
is clearly visible in the distance and Leyman has captured the characteristic topography
and contours of this long straight road which was an important stopping point along
The Fosse Way, the Roman road linking Exeter and Lincoln. I particularly like the
group in the left foreground which includes a beautifully painted collie dog, demonstrating
the skill of this local artist.
Leyman was born in Summerland Street in Exeter in 1856 and was the son of John Francis
Leyman, a seaman in the Merchant Service. He moved to Honiton in 1888 and became
Art Master at Allhallows School in 1893, a post he filled for forty years until
1933. This seems an extraordinary feat based on the evidence of one pupil who said
that Leyman 'had no real teaching ability and he would have been happier alone with
his easel, and away from the gathering of rowdy boys'.
Away from the trauma of the classroom and the gang of rowdy boys Leyman clearly
loved the Devon countryside and covered hundreds of miles along the lanes and roads
with paint box and easel in hand. He clearly enjoyed painting landscapes and landmarks,
villages, rivers and coastal scenes, rarely in any other medium other than watercolour.
He seldom left Devon, with the exception of short trips to West Dorset and Somerset,
to places like Porlock and Lynton. He supplemented his teaching income by painting
popular resorts for the visitors and we regularly see Leyman watercolours of The
Guildhall in Exeter, The Butterwalk in Dartmouth, Dittisham, cottages in Clovelly
and the street in Otterton.
In the period Leyman was at his most prolific, Elands Art Gallery in Exeter were
showcasing local artist and staged biannual exhibitions, one in April and one in
August. In 1906 sixteen Leyman watercolours were shown and one still finds authentic
Eland Gallery labels attached to the old backing boards of Leyman watercolours.
Elands were in fact more booksellers than art dealers and the business continued
until 2006 when the premises at Mol's Coffee House in Exeter were closed for the
last time. I mention this because Frank and Fowler Eland, who were contemporaries
of Leyman, did their bookselling apprenticeships with Messrs Bumpus & Bumpus, "the
booksellers of Old London Town", and any business with a name like that surely warrants
Leyman was a true son of Devon with a particular connection to Honiton and the nearby
villages. The watercolour of Honiton High Street was sold by Bearnes Hampton &
Littlewood in 2008 and good examples by Leyman can be bought for between £300-£1500.
- Alfred Leyman (1856-1933)
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About the Author
Daniel Goddard is a Director of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood. He is also Head of the Picture Department.
Daniel Goddard was educated at The Kings Grammar School, Ottery St Mary and The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He was commissioned in 1982 serving in Northern Ireland, The Falklands and Canada and in the 1990s completed an Open University degree in Art History and Humanities.
In 1988, he worked in Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand and attended The Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. On his return to East Devon, Daniel joined Lawrences in Crewkerne as a saleroom porter and progressed to valuation and rostrum work.
In 1996, Daniel joined Bearne's in Torquay to head the Works of Art Department and transferred to Head of the Picture Department in 2000. He continues to run this busy department in the merged firm of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.
Daniel Goddard has been a director of the firm since 1999 and is an experienced valuer and auctioneer with a good broad range of knowledge and specialist expertise in paintings. He was responsible for the organisation and cataloguing of the two major sales of paintings by Robert Lenkiewicz (1941-2002), which raised in excess of £3 million.
Honiton High Street was written on Friday, 2nd January 2009.