Clarence Bicknell: the rock he sent to the British Museum

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

301 British Museum AN00790984 001 lIn 1897 Clarence Bicknell sent by mail to the British Museum in London an entire detached rock with a horned figured on it. Read Valerie Lester's account in MARVEL on page 121. I mention it now because the British Museum has digitised much of its archive. Their report to the UK Government each year list new acquisitions. Here is the record of Clarence's contribution:


The foreign illustrations include : —

A slab of rock with picked design representing the head of
an ox, probably of the Bronze age, from the north side of the
val Fontanalba, near Bordighera ; presented by Clarence
Bicknell, Esq.

RETURN to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons,
dated 24 February 1898 ;— /or,

ACCOUNT "of the Income and Expenditure of tne
British Museum (Special Trust Funds) for the
Year ending the 31st day of March 1898 ; and
Return of the Number of Persons admitted to visit
the Museum and the British Museum (Natural
History) in each Year from 1892 to 1897, both Years
inclusive ; together with a Statement of the Progress^
made in the Arrangement and Description of the
Collections, and an Account of Objects added to
them in the Year 1897."

MARVELS - more excerpts made available online

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

To coincide with the price reduction of MARVELS: The LIfe of Clarence Bicknell by Valerie Lester we have made available online some more excerpts from the book. You can buy the book itself, for £10, at

Here is the list of the material presently available free of charge:

MARVELS - the index of Valerie Lester's 2018 biography 2018 - Valerie Lester
MARVELS - prologue of Valerie Lester's 2018 biography 2018 - Valerie Lester (including titles, contents and family tree)
MARVELS - chapter 1 of Valerie Lester's 2018 biography 2018 - Valerie Lester (Herne Hill)
MARVELS - chapter 10 of Valerie Lester's 2018 biography 2018 - Valerie Lester (The Rock Engravings)
MARVELS - end notes, acknowledgements, bibliography, index 2018 - Valerie Lester

MARVELS price reduction

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

We are delighted to announce a massive price reduction for MARVELS, the extraordinary biography of Clarence Bicknell. Now might be the time to read it yourself or to send copies to friends.


(approx €11.50 or $12.75 - plus postage  - Amazon price £18-£20)  
Purchase your copy or have one sent to a friend at - worldwide shipping available. PayPal, cheque, transfer or card

About the Book

A treasure trove of research discoveries enlightens Valerie Lester’s biography of the captivating scientist and artist, Clarence Bicknell. Over 5 years, Lester pored over hundreds of newly-discovered letters, botanical watercolours and arts-and-crafts designs in archives including the Natural History Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Conservatoire Botanique in Geneva and Genoa University. Every letter and diary entry provides Lester with Clarence’s voice; and each of his vellum-bound albums reveals drawings, watercolours and whimsical creations. The biography’s text, supported by more than 200 images, gives remarkable insights into how and why this man strove for perfection in each subject he tackled. 

Published by Matador in 2018, ISBN 9781 7890 1494 5 hardback. You can buy it direct ex-stock from the book’s producers, the Clarence Bicknell Association for £10 + postage. Our price was £18.95 and it remains at £18 - £20 on Amazon. We will ship to you direct from our bulk stock near London.

Download this information in English in A4 pdf here

Télécharger ces infos en français ici

Scarica queste informazioni in italiano qui

About the Author

Valerie Browne Lester, an independent scholar, writer, and translator was descended from Clarence Bicknell’s maternal grand-parents. She was the author of Fasten Your Seat Belts! History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin (1995; Phiz, The Man Who Drew Dickens (London, 2004), a biography of Hablot Knight Browne, Dickens’s principal illustrator (Clarence Bicknell’s uncle and Valerie’s great-great-grandfather); and Giambattista Bodoni: His Life and His World (David Godine, Boston, 2015), her biography of the great Italian printer Giambattista Bodoni (1710-1813). She sadly died of cancer at her home in Hingham Massachusetts in 2019.

Association accounts published

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Marcus Bicknell has announced the publication of the accounts of the Clarence Bicknell Association, and the convocation for the General Meeting for 2020. The accounts have been published every year since the inception of the Association.

Accounts for 2019

General Meeting for 2020




Research - the dogs in Clarence's life

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

The sharing of three dozen black-and-white photos of Casterino from Clarence's photo album on the Facebook page "Tu sais que t'es tendasque quand..." led to warm reactions from its readers and a warm interchange with Elisabetta Massardo, engaged in the translation of MARVELS into Italian. Some of the exchange was about the identity of dogs in the various photos. I therefore ran through MARVELS and my other files to put some order in my mind about which dog was which.

My paper was initially entitles "3 dogs in Clarence's Life" but it turned out quickly to be "4 dogs in Clarence's Life"...

  • Mahdi, Clarence's dog
  • Leo, Margaret Berry's dog
  • Capi, Nora Bicknell's poodle, and
  • Robber, Margaret Berry's earlier dog.


Fritz Mader - new research by Graham Avery

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

mader vip bookWe have the honour to publish today a fascinating new paper by our Association's Vice-Chairman and most active researcher Graham Avery on a subject which had not been studied in the past.

Fritz Mader was a geographer and natural historian who had a significant influence on the course of Clarence Bicknell's life. It was a letter sent to him in 1897 by Mader that triggered the passion for exploration of the rock figures that occupied him for much of the rest of his life. Without Mader, Graham argues, it is likely that Bicknell would not have been a pioneer in the study of the prehistoric rock engravings in the Maritime Alps.

Our image, right, shows the page which
Clarence dedicated to Mader in his
Book of Guests at the Casa Fontanalba,
all in in Esperanto


Here is how Clarence describes the tip-off from Mader which changed the course of his career...

‘In 1897 I heard that a house in Val Casterino, belonging to Signor Pellegrino of Tenda, was to be let, and I took it for the summer, partly with the intention of botanizing, but partly with that of seeing more of the rock figures of the Meraviglie, which had from the first greatly fascinated me. About the end of June I wrote to the Secretary of the Italian Alpine Club to ask if he could give me any information about the works already published on the Meraviglie, and he referred me to Dr. Fritz Mader, an Associate who had a thorough knowledge of the Maritime Alps, and who spent his summers in Tenda. It was then, through the full and courteous reply to a letter that I wrote to Dr. Mader, that we first heard of there being inscriptions in the valley near us, and we immediately went up to search for ourselves. I had, only a few weeks previously, been up the Val Fontanalba for the first time with a nephew. We passed over a number of smooth yellow rocks, and I remember observing that they were exactly like those at the Meraviglie, but intent on looking for plants, I noticed no figures, though I now know that I must have passed close to many’.

(page 40 of Clarence's A guide to the prehistoric rock engravings in the Italian Maritime Alps, Bordighera, 1913.)

Who was Fritz Mader? Read Graham's paper in full at


Images below:
Left: Another page from Clarence's diary in which he refers to a 6.20 start with Mader and one other for an expedition up the Val Fontanalba
Right: A post card of the Cima Bicknell, 2,686m., which Fritz Mader named after Clarence Bicknell

mader diary entrycima bicknell card

Clarence Bicknell in the Catalogue of Ligurian Libraries

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Publications referring to Clarence Bicknell in the Catalogue of Ligurian Libraries

and search for "Bicknell"

Bicknell, Peter
Clarence Bicknell, his family and his friends / Peter Bicknell
Fa parte di: Rivista Ingauna e Intemelia : bollettino della Deputazione di storia patria per la Liguria. Sezione Ingauna e Intemelia

Bicknell, Marcus
Clarence Bicknell, l'homme. Londres 1842-Casterino 1918 / Marcus Bicknell
Fa parte di: Rivista Ingauna e Intemelia : bollettino della Deputazione di storia patria per la Liguria. Sezione Ingauna e Intemelia

Museo Bicknell di Bordighera
Fa parte di: Rivista Ingauna e Intemelia : bollettino della Deputazione di storia patria per la Liguria. Sezione Ingauna e Intemelia

Museo Bicknell di Bordighera
Fa parte di: Rivista Ingauna e Intemelia : bollettino della Deputazione di storia patria per la Liguria. Sezione Ingauna e Intemelia

Museo Bicknell di Bordighera
Fa parte di: Rivista Ingauna e Intemelia : bollettino della Deputazione di storia patria per la Liguria. Sezione Ingauna e Intemelia

Un incendio al Museo Bicknell
Fa parte di: Rivista Ingauna e Intemelia : bollettino della Deputazione di storia patria per la Liguria. Sezione Ingauna e Intemelia

Bicknell, Clarence
The common fig tree / C. Bicknell
Bordighera : Giuseppe Bessone, 1912

Bicknell, Clarence
Parnassia palustris / Clarence Bicknell
Milano: Gianfranco Giorgi, [s. d]
Fa parte di: La Revuo : internacia monata literatura gazeto

Bicknell, Clarence
La Piemonta valo Pesio / Clarence Bicknell
Paris: Esperantaj Prozajoj, 1902
Fa parte di: Esperantaj Prozajoj

Bicknell, Clarence
Una gita primaverile in Sardegna / per Clarence Bicknell
[Italia : s.n., dopo il 1904]

 I did not know about the fire in the Museo Bicknell. When was that? And does any reader have a copy of this paper. I will see if I can get it.

With thanks to Graham Avery for alerting me to this source of information.


Clarence Bicknell: Mountain landscapes and botany

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) dans les Alpes Maritimes : Entre Paysage et Botanique

By Raffaella Bruzzone, Robert Hearn, Pietro Piana

Download the paper here

This paper establishes the importance of the figure, and the scientific and artistic production, of Clarence Bicknell, the British amateur botanist and archaeologist who lived between the Ligurian Riviera and the Maritime Alps for most of his life . Thanks to his works concerning botany and landscape (held in Italy and the UK) we can investigate the historical geography and the landscape history of the area.

Keywords: Clarence Bicknell, geohistory, Riviera, Maritime alps, botany, historical geography, topographical art

This paper. which is in French, was completed between 2017 and 2019 and is published in French. It was presented in an early form at the 12th October 2016 conference in Toulouse on Environmental Geo-history and Landscapes, a report of which, Géohistoire de l'Environnement et des Paysages by Philippe Valette and Jean-Michel Carozza is available at
(Les préoccupations environnementales et paysagères se positionnent au cœur des questions sociétales actuelles. Focalisés sur les futurs possibles et la prospective, de nombreux travaux scientifiques sous-estiment l’enracinement de ces problématiques dans le temps long des dynamiques sociales et naturelles.)

Dr Raffaella Bruzzone is Research Associate in the School of Geography, University of Nottingham, UK. She has been Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences, Nottingham University, now writing a thesis on the methodology of research in Liguria and the Merveilles, from the angle of an Earth Scientist. She graduated from Genoa University, Italy and wrote her PhD on Ligurian botanical history, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Her full CV is at

Dr Robert Hearn is a researcher and university lecturer specialising in Environmental History. Upon completion of his PhD, h held a two-year position as the Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Fellow at the Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy. Since August 2016, he has been an Assistant Professor in Cultural and Historical Geography at the University of Nottingham, UK. Robert Hearn’s CV is at

Dr Pietro Piana is Research Assistant at the School of Geography, University of Nottingham. He is currently working on a Leverhulme Project on British Amateur Topographical Art and Landscape in NW Italy, 1835-1915. He is co-author of Travelling in Italy during Turner’s Lifetime Pietro Piana’s CV is at

Clarence Bicknell "entre paysage et botanique"

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Madonna del lAnnunziata San Biagio Cuneo 1905"Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) dans les Alpes Maritimes: entre paysage et botanique".

Nous sommes fiers de pouvoir publier dans les pages de notre site web un papier au sujet de la contribution de Clarence Bicknell pour la géographie historique et l’histoire du paysage des Alpes Maritimes. Le papier est écrit par trois amis de la famille Bicknell qui on rendu visite à notre domicile prés de Londres afin d'étudier (et de photographier quelques images inédits pour ce papier) Raffaella Bruzzone (Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow, School of Geography and Department of History, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.), Robert Hearn et Pietro Piana (tous les deux; School of Geography, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)


"Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) dans les Alpes Maritimes: entre paysage et botanique". Cet article porte sur la figure et la production scientifique et artistique de Clarence Bicknell, un botaniste et archéologue amateur britannique, qui vécut entre la Riviera de la Ligurie et les Alpes-Maritimes pendant la plus grande partie de sa vie. Ses travaux concernant la botanique et le paysage (conservés en Italie et au Royaume-Uni) sont une contribution majeure pour la géographie historique et l’histoire du paysage de la région.

Vous pouvez télécharger le papier à l'adresse suivante...

L'image: Madonna del l'Annunziata San Biagio Cuneo, aquarelle de Clarence Bicknell, 1905. Bicknell Family Collection.

Clarence Bicknell - Citizen Scientist. Paper by Mauro Mariotti

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

mauro mariotti jan2019It's a year since that wonderful conference at the Hanbury Gardens on 26 January 2019! Time to celebrate with this remarkable paper by Mauro Mariotti. For the first time we heard the title

"Clarence Bicknell - Citizen Scientist".

What is meant by that? Mariotti says "In recent times the term citizen science has been coined to indicate that complex of activities related to scientific research involving simple citizens or, better, "scientific activity in which non-professional scientists voluntarily participate in the collection and analysis of data, the development of technologies, the evaluation of natural phenomena, and their dissemination" and that Clarence Bicknell fits the description and more.

This is rare and very valuable contribution by Professor Mauro Mariotti (photo, left, at the event). He is not only Director of the Hanbury Botanical Gardens but also Director of the Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Ambiente e Vita at the Università degli Studi di Genova (therefore the de facto curator of their collection of some thirteen thousand Clarence Bicknell watercolours, rock engraving copies, field diaries and plant samples).

You can read Professor Mariotti's paper in full, in English or Italian, at

hanbury bicknell 26jan2019

The Jan 2019 event was the last of the 40 events in eight countries marking the Clarence Bicknell 2018 Centenary, but by some measures one of the best. I had been keen for several years, since hosting the friends of the Hanbury Gardens in London in 2016 and hearing their presentations at the Italian Institute, to be able to have a Bicknell-Hanbury event at the famous Hanbury Gardens. Prior to Mariotti, Carolyn Hanbury welcomed us with some introductory remarks.

Thereafter, Dssa. Daniela Gandolfi, head of the International Institute of Ligurian Studies and of the Museo Bicknell which it owns, was fully justified blowing the trumpet in her paper about their contribution to the 2018 Clarence Bicknell Centenary. Their efforts in putting together their exhibition, for which Daniela as director was supported over the preparation period of two years by a team of staff and volunteers such as (those I know and have mutually supported) Franca Porra, Elena Riscosso, Bruna Di Paoli, Dr Giovanni Russo, Claudio Roggero, Gisella Merello, and others. The exhibition, whose run had just been extended to the end of March 2019 and which then move don the Finale Ligure. It included classic material from the Museo, loan items from collections like the Bicknell Collection which I look after and new items (Lotto 2017) purchased by the IISL. Claudia Littardi presented a paper on the plants of the garden of the Museo Bicknell in Bordighera and Alessandro Bartoli, the chairman of the event and secretary of the Amici dei Giardini Botanici Hanbury, presented a beautifully-illustrated paper on Foreigners in Liguria in the 19th and 20th Centuries, for which we are seeking permission to publish on along with the papers from Messrs. Gandolfi and Littardi.

I, Marcus Bicknell, spoke on Clarence Bicknell and Sir Thomas Hanbury: what sort of friends would they have been?

You can read my full report on the conference at

You can read my paper on the relationship between Bicknell and Hanbury at

The restoration of the theatre screen by Piana

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

paravento daniela riccardoGrazie per un altro grande evento sabato 11 gennaio 2020, un altro passo avanti per Bordighera e il Museo Bicknell.


Osservazioni di Marcus Bicknell alla presentazione al pubblico del Paravento Piana...

“Sono passati sette anni da quando ho iniziato ad aiutare attivamente la causa di Clarence Bicknell a Bordighera e in tutto il mondo. È stato un piacere e un onore inaspettati giocare un ruolo nella realizzazione di un film così bello su di lui, la pubblicazione di MARVELS, la sua biografia di Valerie Lester, la riproduzione del Libro dei Visitatori de la Casa Fontanalba e le mostre e gli eventi che hanno ha segnato il lungo periodo del suo centenario.paravento detail

“Questa energia ha suscitato entusiasmo e contributi da molte parti diverse. Ce ne sono due che vorrei sottolineare.

“In primo luogo, ero con alcuni amici italo-americani in visita al Museo Bicknell per la prima del nostro film nell'ottobre 2016 (duemilasedici); loro, come tutti noi, si sono innamorati del posto e dell'eredità di Clarence. Diversamente da tutti noi, sono stati in grado di influenzare la decisione di una fondazione di beneficenza negli Stati Uniti di effettuare donazioni sostanziose. Li ringraziamo vivamente: non solo per il restauro del paravento teatrale opera di Giuseppe Piana, ma anche per il loro contributo alla costruzione del nuovo ingresso al giardino che ha avuto un impatto così positivo sui visitatori del museo.

“In secondo luogo, queste energie hanno rivitalizzato le persone più profondamente coinvolte nella gestione del museo e dell'Istituto. Mi congratulo con Daniela Gandolfi per il ruolo da protagonista nell'ottenere finanziamenti aggiuntivi per questi vari progetti, in particolare dalla Compagnia di San Paolo. Penso ora che oggi ci potrebbero essere ancora dei finanziamenti e dei finanziatori disponibili. Penso infatti che molti Enti e persone influenti come il Comune di Bordighera e altre associazioni vedano il Museo Bicknell e l'eredità di Clarence come una parte fondamentale del carattere di questa città e della sua gente. Se chiudiamo gli occhi, possiamo sentire il “ronzio” che la città deve aver vissuto in quei tempi.

“Ringraparavento crowdzio il Laboratorio Bonifacio per aver fatto un ottimo lavoro sul restauro del paravento. Ringrazio la Soprintendenza Alle Belle Arti della Regione Liguria, nella persona del dott. Alfonso Sista, per l'approvazione dei lavori di restauro. Questo complemento d’arredo teatrale, che Clarence adorava, è stato riportato in perfette condizioni. Nel fare questi miglioramenti relativamente piccoli al tessuto materiale del Museo Bicknell, penso che ri-stimoliamo il nostro rispetto per il "patrimonio culturale immateriale" che rappresenta.

“Siamo tutti definiti dal nostro passato. In questi tempi difficili, la mia speranza è che, più che dal nostro presente, possa essere il nostro passato a ispirare chi siamo e il nostro futuro. Lo dobbiamo certamente l'un l'altro, come esseri umani e ai nostri figli, che rendiamo visibile e fruibile il nostro patrimonio culturale. Questo è ciò che ci rende esseri umani, interessanti e produttivi.”

English translation:

It has been seven years since I started actively helping the cause of Clarence Bicknell in Bordighera and worldwde. It has been an unexpected pleasure and honour to play a role in the making of such a beautiful film about him, the publication of MARVELS, his biography by Valerie Lester, the reproduction of the Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book and the exhibitions and events which have marked the extended period of his centenary.

This energy has triggered enthusiasm and contributions from many different sides. There are two which I would like to emphasise.

paravento locandina 11 gennaio 2020Firstly, I was with some Italian-American friends of a relation of mine visiting the Museo Bicknell for the premier of our film in October 2016; they, like all of us, fell in love with the place and with Clarence’s legacy. Unlike you and me, they were able to influence the decision of a charitable trust in the USA to make donations in the tens of thousands of euros. We thank them warmly not only for the restoration of the theatre screen by Giuseppe Piana but also for their contribution to the construction of the new entrance to the garden which has made such a positive impact on visitors to the museum.

Secondly, these energies have revitalised those most deeply involved with the running of the museum and the Institute. I applaud Daniela Gandolfi for playing the lead role in getting additional funding for these various projects especially from the Compagnia di San Paolo. There is a belief now that there is funding available if you go and look for it. I think that many influential people in particular, the town hall and the other associations see the Museo Bicknell and Clarence’s legacy as a fundamental part of the character of this city and of itparavento marcus speakings people. We all feel the buzz that the town must have lived at the end of the 19th century.

I thank the Laboratorio Bonifacio for doing such a great job on the restoration of the screen. I thank Superintenze Ligurie, Dottore Alfonso Sista, for approving the restoration works. This theatre prop, which Clarence adored, has been put back to pristine condition. In making these relatively small improvements to the material fabric of the Museo Bicknell, I think we re-stimulate our respect for the “intangible cultural heritage” which it represents. We are all defined by our past. May I say, in these troubled times, that I hope we are defined better by our past than by our present and our future. We certainly owe it to each other, as human beings, and to our children, that we make our cultural heritage visible and actionable. This is what makes us interesting and productive human beings.


MB 11 Jan 2020

Research - Marcus's 1998 paper on Clarence

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

For the sake of completeness I have scanned and uploaded the paper I presented in 1998 at the Musée des Merveille in Tenda. It is in French and entitled "Clarence Bicknell, L'Homme". The Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri then published it in full in 2003 in their research revue Rivista Inguana e Intemelia LIV-LV 1999-2000 from which I have taken these scans.

Download "Clarence Bicknell - L'Homme" here

Book Review - MARVELS in Antiquity

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Cover of Antiquity journal, Oct  2019

Christopher Chippindale, Reader in Archaeology at Cambridge University, and specialist in rock art and Stonehenge, studied and wrote on Clarence intensively from the early 1980s through the 2010s. This month he reviews for Antiquity, archaeology's foremost journal, Valerie Lester’s MARVELS, The Life of Clarence Bicknell. Christopher writes

  • "The book shows how valuable biographies of individual archaeologists are – even though Bicknell is so obscure...
  • "Lester's  biography of Clarence is finely and artfully written - artfully in the good sense as it is not obvious that in its flowing narrative that spources for the life our fragmentary, and so for many aspect are slight  or absent - fully and well illustrated, handsomely deisgned and published at quite a low price.
  • "It is full of insights and anecdotes about his energy and his several idealisms."

Download the article here.

The version we have is only a draft but we will put a definitive one up when it's available, with thanks to Antiquity. You can read more about the journal at and subscribe at

Chippindale, C. (2019). Alpine rock art: Then and now, and into the future? Antiquity, 93 (371), 1378-1380. doi:10.15184/aqy.2019.46

News - Clarence in the UK press

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

fitzwilliam floral fantasies poster compressedI came across this interview for the first time today even thought it came out last year. It is quite a useful record of Clarence's notoriety in the UK.

Here is someone with great talent totally ignored because he didn’t live in Britain or seek publicity but just created art for the pleasure of doing it.” Artist, botanist, archaeologist, humanitarian, Esperanto enthusiast, Clarence Bicknell remains another story of Victorian genius needing to be told. This is certainly the view of Marcus Bicknell, the great-grand nephew of Clarence who has been devoted to uncovering the mysteries of his ancestor since 2012, a view more recently shared by the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge who have included a selection of his art in their upcoming collection Floral Fantasies [poster, right] running from the 5th June to the 9th September 2018.  We interviewed Marcus Bicknell, head of the Association Clarence Bicknell to gain a unique perspective on the life of Clarence and why it is important to reflect on his legacy."

The publication TCS stands for The Cambridge Student and the interview was by a fine arts student Blanca Schofield-Legorburo with the help of Alicia Lethbridge

Elhanan Bicknell - Turner Collector - Marcus Bicknell's new paper

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

elhanan bicknell pose cWhere did Clarence Bicknell's inheritance money come from? What do we know about his wealthy father Elhanan?

I am pleased to let you know that I have finished the full version of my paper presented in short at The Independent Turner Society evening “Two Turner Collectors who were Friends of Ruskin” on Wednesday, 20 November 2019 in London. The paper examines Elhanan's origins, his business, his relationship with Turner and other artists and the way in which his Herne Hill house became a noted private art gallery. The paper is available now for you to download and peruse, along with some other related documents.

Right: Elhanan Bicknell in about 1840

The full version of my paper:…/elhanan_bicknell_turner_…

I have drawn from previously-untapped sources such as; notes by the late Valerie Lester for MARVELS, her biography of Clarence Bicknell; Sidney Bicknell’s hand-written memoirs in the East Sussex Record Office and in the Bicknell family collection; Brian Green’s 2014 paper for the Dulwich Society; Edgar Browne, Phiz and Dickens; Mark Howard’s unpublished, Elhanan Bicknell - Oil Merchant and Shipowner; and previously unavailable 19th century maps of Herne Hill.

The slides I showed on 20th Nov 2019 are available here in pdf:…/elhanan_bicknell_mb_slid…

As my research into Elhanan’s collection continues, details of Elhanan's paintings other than Turner's will be available on our research page. Today, just the Turners are listed:…/elhanan_bicknell_collect…

turner blue righiHere is a link from the Turner in Tottenham site giving a report on the evening including photos of the event and the introductory remarks by Dr Selby Whittingham, Secretary of the Independent Turner Society:…



Left: J.M.W. Turner 1775–1851 - The Blue Rigi, Sunrise - Watercolour 1842. Bought by the Tate Gallery at Christie’s 6 June 2006 for £5,832,800

Research - Clarence bought a picture from his father's collection

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

lincolnshire stackyard peter de wintClarence purchased a painting from his father's collection in the 1863 auction at Christies after Elhanan's death in 1861.

I have been analysing the paintings, espcially those by Turner, collected by Elhanan Bicknell (1788-1861) whale oil millionaire of Herne Hill. I am preparing my paper next Wednesday at the Independent Turner Society talk in London. My source material includes three copies of the Christies catalogue with hand-written notes inside... the price, the buyer, what Elhanan originally paid.

To my surprise I found that Clarence Bicknell, his 13th child, bought one of the 500 works on sale, lot No.90, A view near a Stackyard by Peter De Wint. There are some surprising features to this discovery. Firstly, Clarence was a second year, 20 year old student at Trinity College, Cambridge University in spring 1863; he must have made the effort to travel to London for the auction which spread over several days. Secondly, he spent quite a lot on a relatively hum drum picture, £47.5s.00d. That makes about £16000 or €20,000 euros today. That makes us wonder, thirdly, where he got the money from. Although the art had not been sold up till this day, much of Elhanan's estate (more than 5 times the amound realised for the art) had been through probate and here would have been large sums already flowing to the bank accounts of the happy children.

Now I have to find out who Clarence sold the de Wint to, and where it is now. What? In storage at the IISL? Probably not.

Peter De Wint (1784–1849) was an English landscape painter. A number of his pictures are in the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and The Collection, Lincoln.

Elhanan's other offspring were at the sale.  The amount spent by the frugal Clarence is paltry compared to the £1995 paid by his brother Herman for Lot 122 Palestrina – a Composition at the same sale… that’s £235,000 in 2019 money. Henry Sanford Bicknell, who had married David Roberts's daughter Christine, purchased many expensive artworks. When he died in turn, Christies sold his large collection in 1881. Not all the purchases were success stories... Henry bought Ivy Bridge Mill for 880 guineas and it made less, 800 guineas, in the sale of Henry's estate in 1881. The buyer was, however, his brother Percy (Marcus's great grandfather), the unfortunate who presided over the failure of the whale oil and candle business, to whom Clarence gave money later in life and who died penniless; this painting was sold on to Wm Hollin for 800 guineas, although the date of the sale is not known.

More about Elhanan's collection at

FaLang translation system by Faboba