Charles Haigh-Wood

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Charles Haigh-Wood
Born Template:Birth date
Bury, Lancashire, England
Died Template:Death date and age
Hastings , England
Resting place Ocklynge Cemetery, Eastbourne
Education Bury Grammar School; Manchester School of Art; The Royal Academy of Arts
Occupation Artist
Spouse(s) Rose Esther Robinson (1860–1941). Married Kensington, London, 1886
Children Vivienne Haigh-Wood (1888–1947) and Maurice Haigh-Wood (1896–1980)
Parents Charles Wood (circa 1809–1881) and Mary Haigh (circa 1817–1890)

Charles Haigh-Wood (9 May 1854 – 25 March 1927) was an English artist who studied at Manchester School of Art and at the Royal Academy of Arts. He was a respected painter of portraits and genre works, having 42 paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy during his lifetime but is equally known as being the father-in-law of T S Eliot.


The artist's father, Charles Wood, is listed in a Bury, Lancashire, directory as a carver and gilder on Rock Street in 1837.[1] A James Haigh was also listed as living in Paradise Street at that time. These two separate families, the Haighs and the Woods, would later become intertwined.

In the 1841 census we find Charles Wood, born in Halliwell, living in Union Square, Bury. James Haigh and a young relative, Mary, born in Dublin, were in Paradise Street, though the relationship between the two occupants is not stated.

In August 1850 Charles Wood married Mary Haigh, not in Bury but in Bramham, West Yorkshire, and in the following year the census reveals they were living at 22 Fleet Street, Bury, two doors away from the Hand and Shears inn. His shop, with its frontage much altered, still stands and is now Lepps the jewellers. Charles became a Freemason, joining the Bury Lodge of Relief, the second oldest Lodge in Lancashire. They met at the Hare and Hounds on Bolton Street and their members had been present at the laying of the foundation stone ceremony of Union Square where Charles Wood had once lived.

Charles and Mary had two daughters, Laura Annie (1851–1904) and Sylvia (1852–1854), before their first son, Charles Haigh Wood was born on 9 May 1854[2] at their Fleet Street premises. Sylvia died later that same year and was buried with her mother's relatives, the Haighs, in Brunswick Cemetery, Bury, now covered by a Tesco Car Park. Charles and Mary had another three children: James Atkinson (1856–1865); Emily Spencer (1858–1919); and Sarah Ann (1860–1912). Young Charles attended Bethel Congregational Sunday School, and also Bury Grammar School.

Early years

In 1870, Charles, aged 16, attended Manchester School of Art where he was awarded a Bronze Medal, but he soon left Lancashire for pastures new. In an interview for the Bury Times[3] in 1899 he said, "... when I was 17 years old I left this town and became a student at the Royal Academy in London. There I remained for two or three years ... the method of procedure is that two Academicians visit the schools each month for the purpose of overlooking the work of the students."

He exhibited in the capital in 1874 but his first success at the Royal Academy of Arts summer show came in 1879. He went on to have a total of forty-two works shown there in his lifetime.[4]

Charles took up residence in Kensington but returned to visit his family in Bury from time to time. They had moved to a brand new house, 14 Albion Terrace, on the outskirts of town, keeping the shop in Fleet Street as a lock-up. The house still stands. Their next door neighbours at number 16 were the Crompton family. John Crompton was a chemist in Fleet Street and of their seven children shown on the 1881 census seventeen-year-old Clara deserves some mention. Seven years later she married the Reverend Edward Lamburn, curate of nearby Parish Church of St Mary, Radcliffe. The local paper of the day gives a lengthy report, which even details the wedding gifts that the couple received, including from a Mrs Wood, a picture. Was this Clara's next door neighbour, and was the painting executed by Mrs Wood's son, Charles Haigh Wood? And did it pass down to Clara's second daughter, Richmal Crompton, born in 1890, and who went on to be the creator of Just William?

Back to 1880 and Charles' first one-man exhibition in his hometown was held at the Athenaeum and featured a portrait of Mayor John Heap, founder of the Bury Times. Other paintings, mainly landscapes, and a few genre works, were loaned by such local dignitaries as William Handley, proprietor of the Derby Hotel; James Farrar, borough surveyor and civil engineer, and James Maxwell and Charles Tuke, architects, responsible for Blackpool Tower. The following year the artist's father died and he was buried with his daughter in Brunswick Cemetery. His shop in Fleet Street was sold to a local watchmaker, Matthew Waldvogel.

Family Man

In 1886, Charles Haigh Wood married Rose Esther Robinson and the couple settled in Hampstead. They journeyed to Bury in 1888 to oversee Charles' one man show staged at the Princess Club in Manchester Road. This featured a portrait of Mrs John Horridge. The painting was sold at Sotheby's in Chester 100 years later for £920 whilst an oil of her two sons, George and Leslie, sold for £2600. Whilst in Bury for the exhibition their first child Vivienne was born on 28 May in Knowlsey Street. The birth certificate[5] doesn't give a property number so it has proved impossible to find the exact location. Four months later in St Louis, USA, Thomas Stearns Eliot was born.

It seems likely that the family only remained in Bury for a matter of weeks, so although born in Bury, Vivienne would never consider herself a Lancashire lass. A letter written in 1916 to her brother-in-law reveals, "We have a number of friends who live in Lancashire and North Wales. They are most dreadful people really – very very rich manufacturing people – so provincial that my American friends tell me they are very much like Americans."[6]

Meanwhile Charles' artistic achievements flourished, with several of his works gracing the walls of Manchester City Art Gallery and Liverpool's Walker Gallery. He obviously kept returning north as he was to paint portraits of mayors of both Bury and Rochdale and it was at this time he had rooms in Castle Chambers, Bury, the frontage of which has survived and houses the Robert Peel Wetherspoons pub. A panel inside gives brief details of Charles and his daughter Vivienne.

A son, Maurice was born in 1896 and about this time the young Vivienne suffered from tuberculosis of the wrist. She was operated on by Frederick Treves, later to become physician to the royal family. It was Treves who helped John Merrick, the Elephant Man, and who came to Bury to officially open the Whitehead Gardens and Clock Tower which was designed by architects Maxwell and Tuke and commemorates Walter Whitehead, an eminent surgeon. Also in the late 1890s the artist added the hyphen to his name and became Charles Haigh-Wood.

In 1909, it was decided to hold an exhibition of Haigh-Wood's work at Bury Art Gallery (since renamed Bury Art Museum). This exhibition opened the following year with 42 works on display – the same number of his paintings shown at the Royal Academy over the years. Most of the items were on loan from their owners who included the Sheriff of London, Raphael Tuck publishers, and the Dewar Family of distillers.

In 1915, after a whirlwind romance, Bury-born Vivienne married T S Eliot and they lived in a flat which they shared with Bertrand Russell. Much has been written elsewhere about the stormy marriage and indeed a 1994 film, Tom and Viv, gave a graphic account. From Tom's letters home we learn that, "she (Vivienne) takes more after him (her father) and his side of the family and understands him better than others do. He has no living relatives except very remote ones. He is a sweet, simple man, perfectly happy when he is in the country painting and drawing."[7]

Charles Haigh-Wood died in Hastings in 1927 and was buried in Eastbourne's Ocklynge Cemetery near two of his spinster Bury-born sisters, Emily (1858–1919) and Sarah (1860–1912).

Eliot left Vivienne in 1932 and six years later she became an involuntary patient in Northumberland House Sanatorium in Finsbury Park where she died aged 58 in 1947. She was buried that winter in Pinner Cemetery beside the grave of her mother.

Maurice married an American, Emily Cleveland Hoagland, in Hampstead in 1930. He served in both World Wars and died in Bristol in 1980. Maurice and Emily had one child, also a Charles Haigh-Wood, a writer and poet whose work is not widely known but a volume of poems was published by friend and author Gerland Guinness. Charles married Mildred Gathergood and they had two daughters, Mary Jane Haigh-Wood and Cecelia Anne Haigh-Wood. The first child of the former continuing the family tradition as contemporary artist and illustrator Dawn Holliday whose illustrations can be seen on clothes produced for London-based fashion brand Brat & Suzie.


Haigh-Wood paintings continue to sell in auction houses around the world.[8] One,'Fair Deceivers', sold for £10,000 in 1984 and was resold eight years later for £21,000. Another, 'The Old Love And The New', which was originally exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1901 where it was purchased by the greetings card publishers, Raphael Tuck, was auctioned by Bonhams in New York under the title 'The Engagement', on 25 April 2012 for £10,828 ($17,500 including buyers premium).[9] Bury Art Museum have two of his works often on display, 'Fisherman's Cottage, Runswick Bay;' and 'The Peace Offering', the latter being a portrait of his two young children. You can see examples of the artist's works at the BBC Your Paintings website and at the Wikigallery.


  1. The Victorian Painter and the Poets Wife, Ken Craven (Kindle Books 2012)
  2. FreeBMD
  3. Bury Times (microfilmed copies at Bury Reference & Information Services)
  4. Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Catalogues 1879–1916
  5. Birth of Vivienne Haigh Wood - copy at Bury Reference & Information Services
  6. Eliot, Valerie (Ed) The Letters of T.S. Eliot 1898–1922 (Faber 1988)
  7. Eliot, Valerie (Ed) The Letters of T.S. Eliot 1898–1922 (Faber 1988)
  8. Blouin Art Sales Index
  9. Bonhams Auction Results

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