Abraham Bonson (1840-1923)
Abraham Bonson, son of Abraham Bonson and Emma Radford, was born on 30 Nov 1840 in 1 Margaret Place, Lower Bland Street, Newington, Southwark, was christened on 20 Dec 1840 in St Leonards, Shoreditch, London, and died on 17 Jul 1923 in 1 Abernathy Road, Lee High Road, Lewisham, London, at age 82.
From Family Bible;
Abraham Bonson born November 30th 1840, 10 minutes before 6 in the morning. Christened Dec 20th 1840 Shoreditch Church
He was a master woodcarver and is reputed to have made the four moulds from which the four lions, designed by Landseer, were cast in bronze by Count Marischotti, for the foot of Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square.
Graham J Bonson says; 'You are correct in saying that my great-grandfather was Abraham Bonson (1840 - 1923) and it was known by my family that he was a woodcarver and that some of his work was in an unspecified London Church. I have not heard the reference to the Trafalgar square lions before, but I am aware of a possible, although somewhat tenuous, connection with Sir Edwin Landseer.
Abraham Bonson was married in the church of St George in Hanover Square in 1867 and the following is an extract from a 1970's London Guide Book referring to this church:- "Beneath the corinthian portico stands a pair of large sporting dogs in bronze - a sufficiently incongruous church decoration to provoke enquiry. Believed to be have been cast from models by Landseer, it appears that they originally stood outside the shop of a sporting outfitter in nearby Conduit Street. During the war the dogs took refuge in the church vaults and, their owners premises having been destroyed, they have remained with the church ever since."
Ivy Rose Willis recalls a great uncle who may have been Abraham, who lived close to her parents house in Walworth. He had a fascinating front room in his house full of wood carvings, many clocks etc, that she loved to visit and see when she was about 8 years of age (1916). he was apparently bombed out she says in the First War and moved out of the district as the war ended.
The Lions in Trafalgar Square, by Edwin Landseer & Count Marochetti
Trafalgar Square would seem incomplete today without the huge lions at the base of Nelson's column, yet at the time when they were made, they were the subject of much ridicule on account of their lateness. Nelson's monument itself was built somewhat post-Nelson, in 1839-42. The commission for the four huge lions went to the sculptor Lough, but subsequently he was dropped in favour of Edwin Landseer, the famous animal painter. This was a popular decision, and the Art Journal enthused that 'The public will see four such statues of the animal as the world has not yet seen'. Unfortunately, the lions were not forthcoming for some years, despite constant promises by Landseer that they would soon emerge from his studio, and became the subject of many jokes in the press.
A regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy and a prominent figure in the London art world, Count Marochetti was brought in to assist the painter Sir Edwin Landseer achieve the third dimension in sculpting the lions for Trafalgar Square, much to Landseer's indignation.
Finally, in the year 1868, the lions were set up. Even then there was a chorus of disapproval, with it being declared that the lion on top of Northumberland House would not acknowledge the new lions as being in any way related. Writing in 1886, W. J. Nettleship, a distinguished painter of lions, was still criticising Landseer's lions:
"The Trafalgar Square lions must be quietly damned, because, pretending to be done from nature, they absolutely miss the true sculptural quality which distinguishes the leonine pose, and because a lion couched like that has not a concave back like a greyhound, but a convex back, greatly ennobled in line from the line of a cat's back in the same position."
In 1872 Landseer was certified insane. He died on October 1st 1873, leaving more than £200,000.
Below is a copy of the painting; “Sir Edwin Henry Landseer” by John Ballantyne
Landseer is shown in the studio of Baron Marochetti modelling one of the lions for the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. This project occupied him on and off for the eight years between 1858 and 1866 and contributed to the ill health which clouded the last ten years of his life.
Known for his amusing and sentimental paintings featuring his pet dogs, Landseer is here attended by a collie. The dog is thought to be Lassie, known to have been his constant companion in the studio at this time.
The portrait is one of a series of artists in their studios by Ballantyne which the artist exhibited as a set in November 1865.
Behind Cranley Terrace in a complex of stables and workshops called Sydney Mews, were the Sculptor Charles Freake's own workshops and a large studio and foundry for Baron Carlo Marochetti, the sculptor, who lived on the south side of Onslow Square, perhaps at first briefly at No. 30 and then at No. 34, from 1849 until his death in 1867. The painter C. E. Halle recalled working in the studio, ‘a large block of buildings at the back of Onslow Square’, as a pupil of Marochetti, and it was here that Landseer's lions for the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square were cast by Marochetti. After the sculptor's death the premises were converted into a number of artists’ studios ranged on each side of an arched corridor. They are still artists studios today.
Abraham was married at St Georges, Hannover Square, a rather elite church in Victorian times, just off Bond Street and Oxford Street and alongside Carnaby Street.
St George's centered right in the middle of Mayfair, (in Regency times The place to live when in Town), had been considered a fashionable church almost from its beginning and it's popularity kept rising until it hit about 1,000 weddings a year in Regency times. The record was set in 1816 with 1,063 weddings, about three a day, making St George's a Regency equivelent to a Las Vegas Wedding Chapel! It was still a fashionable wedding church 76 years later when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (in 1892) published "The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor".
The entry reads; Abraham Bonson of full age, batchelor, occupation woodcarver, abode is South Molton Street and the son of Abraham Bonson, Upholsterer, married Julia Fisher of full age, spinster of the same address, daughter of William Fisher a Horse dealer.
They were married by banns in the presence of John Upperton and Ellen Murrell and both signed their names.
Julia appears to have fibbed about their age as she would in fact have been only 19
South Molton Street, just off New Bond Street in Westminster, was part of the exclusive Mayfair district. The artist William Blake’s residence in London, after Lambeth, was at No 17 South Molton Street. He and his wife rented two rooms on the first floor, in a narrow street just south of where Oxford Street became the Tyburn Road. Behind the house was Poverty Lane, but from his window Blake could see the outline of Hyde Park. The apartment is still there, although South Molton Street is now a fashionable appendage to New Bond Street.
It is suspected that at the time Abraham and Julia may have been working in Count Carlo Marochetti's studios. He was the sculptor who translated Landseers design for the Trafalgar Square lions into bronze. (Photo Left).
The lions were placed in Trafalgar square in the same year as Abraham and Julia’s marriage, 1867.
1871 Census, Falmouth Road, Southwark
Abraham and Julia have two children, Gertrude, 2, and William Abraham, 7 months.
1881 Census, 14 Landseer St, Battersea, Surrey
- Abraham BONSON Head 40 Shoreditch, Middlesex, England Wood Carver
- Julia BONSON Wife 32 Matishall, Norfolk, England Wife
- Minnie BONSON Daur 12 Lambeth, Surrey, England Scholar
- William BONSON Son 6 Lambeth, Surrey, England Scholar
- Grace BONSON Daur 9 Lambeth, Surrey, England Scholar
- Marion BONSON Daur 5 Battersea, Surrey, England Scholar
- Percy BONSON Son 3 Battersea, Surrey, England
- Ernest BONSON Son 2 m Battersea, Surrey, England
Could this be the Landseer connection!?
1891 Census, 32 Clarendon Street, Lambeth
Abraham is a 50 year old Wood Carver, with hsi 42 year old wife Julia. 20 year old son William who is a Tailors cutters apprentice, daughter Marion who is 15 with no occupation, Percy age 13, Ernest aged 10 and Nellie aged 7 who are all still at school. They occupy five or more rooms in the house, but two more are let to Thomas Lappage and his wife. He is an Inspector of Sewers.
In the electronic index to the 1901 Census Abraham is mistranscribed as Benson - just for a change!
In 1922 from the electoral rolls, he was living at 1 Abernathey Road, Lee High Road, Lewisham, SE13 with his daughter Marian Lizzie. This is where he died.
Abrahams wife Julia Fisher, was the daughter of William Fisher and his wife Mary. William was a horse dealer and the family came from Mattishall in Norfolk.
1851 Census Mattishall, Norfolk, Bradley Moor
- William Fisher, Head, Marr 28 Horse Breeder born Mattishall Norfolk
- Mary Fisher, Wife, 26, born Yarham Norfolk
- William Fisher, son, 7, scholar, born Mattishall Norfolk
- Julia Fisher, daughter, 2, born Mattishall Norfolk
She died at the home of her daughter Marion, 1 Abernathy Road, Lee High Road, Lewisham, London, aged 73. Her husband died there 2 years later. The Children from this marriage were:
i. Minnie Emma Gertrude Bonson was born in 1868 in 68 Falmouth Road, Newington, Southwark.
ii. William Abraham Bonson was born on 2 Jul 1870 in 68 Falmouth Road, Newington, Southwark, was christened on 11 Sep 1870 in Holy Trinity Church, Newington, and died on 26 Feb 1939 in Dulwich Hospital, Dulwich, London, at age 68.
iii. Grace Julia Murrell Bonson was born in 1872 in 68 Falmouth Road, Newington, Southwark and was christened on 18 Feb 1872 in Holy Trinity Church, Newington.
iv. Frederick John H Bonson was born in 1874 in 68 Falmouth Road, Newington, Southwark.
v. Marian Lizzie Bonson was born in 1875 in 14 Landseer Street, Battersea and died in 1951 in 1 Abernathy Road, Lee High Road, Lewisham, London, at age 76.
vi. Percy Herbert Bonson was born in 1878 in 14 Landseer Street, Battersea and died in 1958 in Thornton Heath, Surrey, at age 80.
vii. Ernest Samuel Bonson was born on 2 Feb 1881 in 14 Landseer Street, Battersea and died in 1947 in 89 Granville Park Road, Lewisham, at age 66.
viii. Nellie Daisy Bonson was born on 13 Aug 1883 in 14 Landseer Street, Battersea and died in 1969 in 62 Auckland Rd, South Norwood, Surrey, at age 86.