Memory Lane: Talented artist captured photo style

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WHEN is a photograph not a photograph? The answer, according to proud grandson Michael Ardron, is when it looks like one, but is really a work of art produced by your talented grand- father.

Michael, 75, whose family had an ironmongery business, with branches around Blackpool, contacted Memory Lane after seeing last Saturday’s article on the funeral 100 years ago of Dr William Henry Cocker.

Robert Berry

Robert Berry

Featured was a portrait of Dr Cocker, as first Mayor of Blackpool, which still hangs in the Town Hall today. And while it looks like a photograph, it was one of artist Robert Berry’s many drawings to grace walls around the North West – including Michael’s home in Hardhorn Road, Poulton.

Among Michael’s memorabilia are newspaper cuttings, including one published in The Gazette and News 100 years ago this month, which says of what was Robert’s latest work: “Robert Berry, photographic artist, of Church Street, may be congratulated on this portrait being a masterpiece.

“It is NOT a photograph, as many people think, but a pure drawing, as may be gathered by the way in which the artist has signed it. But one may well be excused mistaking it for a photograph, because of the delicate, velvet-like nature of the drawing.” Like his grandfather before him, Michael worships at what is now New Central Methodist Church, in Adelaide Street, Blackpool.

More than a century ago it was the site of Adelaide Street Wesleyan Sunday School, and Robert created a memorial picture, on behalf of the scholars and teachers, of William Howarth, who had died in May, 1902.

Michael says: “William was the Sunday School’s superintendent for 16 years, and the portrait my grandfather drew was hung for many years in the Sunday School of what became Central Methodist Church and then stored away.

“When the building was demolished as part of the redevelopment in the early 1970s I rescued the portrait, which carries the words ‘chalk drawing 1902’ in the bottom right-hand corner. It now takes pride of place on the landing of my home, and is so realistic you feel William Howarth’s eyes move with you as you walk past.”

Robert taught art for 30 years or so at schools including Baines Grammar, Poulton, Elmslie Girls’ School, Blackpool, and the Blackpool High School. He died, aged 63, on November 27, 1932 and is buried in Layton Cemetery.