For sale, a 1930’s framed portrait of John Ward Holman OBE by Reginald Grenville Eves RA with commemoration plaque from the Townspeople of Lynton & Lynmouth
This wonderfully executed portrait was commissioned by the people of the twin Devon towns of Lynton & Lynmouth in recognition of the many services and generous donations made by the hotelier John Ward Holman during his long association with the area. There were actually two versions of this painting undertaken by RG Eves for the occasion of Mr Ward Holman receiving his OBE. The first (the example for sale here) was presented to him, with a second being commissioned to be hung in the Town Hall at Lynton where it still remains to this day and can be found on the various UK art databases. This fact and many other details of his life and great service are perhaps best outlined by his obituary a couple of years later in 1936.
DEATH AT LYNTON OF MR. J. W. HOLMAN, 0.B.E. - DISTRICT MOURNS
We deeply regret to record the death of Lynton and Lynmouth's greatest benefactor since Sir George Newnes - Mr. John Ward Holman, 0.B.E., which occurred on Thursday last at his residence, The Cottage, Lynton. He will ever be remembered in the twin villages for his princely benefactions, and the whole district will mourn him. Five months ago Mr. Holman underwent a serious operation, from which he never fully recovered, owing to his advanced age. He was well enough to attend the foundation stone-laying ceremony with the Bishop of Crediton of the Church Hall, costing some £4,000, his magnanimous contribution making this scheme possible. The Hall was memory of the King's Jubilee.
In recognition of his public services he received the order the British Empire in the honours list of 1934. There are many lasting memorials to his great-heartedness, including the beautiful Park bearing his name, which he gave to the public many years ago, and subsequently endowed with a gift of £2,000 for its upkeep. There is also that other source of joy to so many thousands of visitors of the twin villages, Hollerday Hill Estate which, at the end of April, 1933, he gave to Lynton Urban Council for the use of the public for ever. This is a well-known beauty spot extending over sixty acres, comprising wooded slope in the heart of Lynton, and including a portion of the far-famed North Walk. The property had come onto the market, and, to save it for the public, Mr. Holman with characteristic generosity, purchased it, and the occasion of his handing over the deeds was made a fete day in Lynton and Lynmouth. That day over fifty people, among whom was the Vicar of the parish, drew the car containing Mr. Holman through the streets of Lynton to the Town Hall, where the gift was made formally. On a hill overlooking the town a huge bonfire was lit, and appreciative reference to the munificence of Mr. Holman was made in the speeches.
Mr. Holman was a friend to the young and to the old. He was the donor of the Lynton Town Club Room, and at Xmas time he always extended his goodwill to the aged of Lynton and Lynmouth, in the form of gifts of groceries. He was for long a school manager of the Church Schools, ever having minded the best interests both from the religious and educational aspects of the younger generation. A native of Glenthorne, Somerset, Mr Holman came to Lynton many years ago, starting a grocery business and establishing a wide connection. He then purchased the Queen's Hotel, and later became proprietor of the Valley of Rocks Hotel. Mr. Holman was a prominent Churchman, and defrayed a large portion of the cost of the overhaul of the Lynton Parish Church organ, and made many other gifts to the Church. He was a chorister for upwards of 50 years. In 1933 Mr. Holman added to his many generous benefactions by a donation of £1000 to Lynton Cottage Hospital, of which he was President (a position he had held for a number of years). The deceased was a member of the committee of the Barnstaple Clinic of the Devonian Association for Cripples' Aid, a Vice-President of the North Devon Convalescent Children's Home, Lynton, and actively associated with the North Devon Infirmary, Barnstaple. A very keen supporter of athletics, Mr. Holman was a kind friend to North Devon Association football, to which he gave handsome trophy, and had annually presented medals for the two teams that competed in the final for the Holman Cup. He was also donor of the North Devon Junior League Cup and a Vice- President of the League. He had considerably helped the local cricket and bowling clubs. A bowler himself, Mr. Holman 1934 carried out at his own expense the extension of the Lynton and Lvnmouth Bowling Green. At the same time he made a gift of £50 to Lynton and Lynmouth Golf Club to help defray the cost of a new parking place. He was also President of the local Lifeboat Institution and of the Working Men's Institute. As well as presenting the Lyn Rifle Club with rifles he took a keen interest in the Club's activities. The handsome gift of £100 recently made towards the instruments for the Lynton Brass Band, he might be said to be responsible for its formation. In appreciation of his many benefactions, the people of Lvnton and Lynmouth in 1933 presented Mr. Holman with an oil painting of himself by Mr. R. G. Eves, A.R.A., and another portrait was presented to Lvnton Urban Council to hang in the Town Hall as a lasting memorial to Mr. Holman and his benefactions to Lynton and the district. At the same time Mr. Holman was presented with a volume containing the signatures of the subscribers. Subscriptions on that occasion came from all over the country.
For many years he was the proprietor of the Valley of Rocks Hotel, besides being connected with other local business undertakings. At the morning service at St. Mary's Church. Lvnton, to a very large congregation, the Vicar (the Rev. G. E. Weston) made touching references to Mr. J. W. Holman, 0.B.E., and said above all his benevolent qualities he was a cheerful giver.
The twin villages were in mourning Tuesday, when the mortal remains of Mr Holman were laid to rest close to the grave of a former benefactor, Sir George Newnes. The route was lined with sorrowing Lyntonians, and it was a fitting memorial to a man with peculiar greatness of heart towards the young, that the chief guards of honour en-route were Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, the latter with the crepe standards which had been presented by the deceased. Muffled peals from the belfry of St. Mary's Parish Church heralded the approach and the final passing of the cortege was a moving scene. The coffin was carried by relays of bearers the whole distance, and this was followed by the family cars, and the members of the Urban District Council. The flowers were magnificent, several cars being fully loaded, silent, yet beautiful, testimony to a man whose love was for his fellow men. "He will be mourned Lynton" was the predominant note of the day, and quite small children seemed touched with the sorrow of the loss, standing in awed, silent groups. The service was conducted by the Rev. G. H. Weston (Vicar of Lynton), assisted by the Rev. J. H. Sandford (a former Vicar), who read the Lesson. The Rev. W. Watson (Assistant Priest at Barbrook) was also present. Funeral music was played by the organist Mr. Charles Vellacott) at the commencement of the service, and Chopin's Funeral March at the close. The beautiful chestnut processional cross used at the funeral service was presented to the Lynton Parish Church by Mr. Witney Jones (being made by Mr. C. Hooper, a brother of the "Crucifer"). The coffin was carried by relays of bearers from the Church to the Cemetery, the procession being led by the cross-bearer, Mr. W. J. Hooper, followed by the servers, Raymond Powell and W. Richards. The choir was in attendance, led by the Schoolmaster (Mr. F. Lucas). Throughout the route, the blinds of all business premises and private dwellings were drawn, and all flags were at half-mast in Lynton and Lynmouth. The majority of business houses were closed down for the afternoon.
The artist of this superb portrait, Reginald Grenville Eves (1876 – 1941) was a prominent British portrait artist of the period, undertaking portraits of George VI, Thomas Hardy, Sir Ernest Shackleton and Sir Max Beerbohm amongst others.
Educated at University College School, he later went on to study at The Slade School of Fine Art between 1891 and 1895 under Alphonse Legros, Frederick Brown and Henry Tonks. After a brief spell in Yorkshire, Eves returned to London and his work was first shown at The Royal Academy in 1901 and at The Paris Salon for which he won a silver medal in 1924 and a gold medal in 1926. He was finally elected as an associate of The Royal Academy in 1933 and became a Royal Academician in 1939.
On the commencement of the Second World War alongside, Barnett Freedman, Edward Ardizzone and Edward Bawden, Eves took up a full time position with The War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC) and was dispatched to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and undertook a number of portraits at his base in Arras, France.
With the difficulty in finding the time for high-ranking officers to sit for him, Eves ended his contract with the WAAC in 1940 but continued to undertake individual commissions for the army, beginning a painting of Lieutenant-General Alan Brooke in 1940 which sadly remained unfinished due to Brooke’s commitments and Eve’s death in June of 1941 at Middleton-in-Teesdale, Durham.
His work still forms part of the collections of The Royal Collection, The Tate and The National Portrait Gallery and remains in many regional collections throughout the UK.
As is made clear in the above obituary, Mr Ward Holman was a significant character in the history of Lynton and Lynmouth and his memory still remains strong in the town today, given the many donations and services he made during his association with the area. During his time there, he owned the Queens Hotel and the Valley of the Rocks Hotel, both still in existence today. His last residence was also a hotel, namely The Cottage Hotel. During Holman’s tenure at this hotel, he welcomed a number of famous guests including the writer CS Lewis who wrote the following on one of his many stays in the area.
"The view from the balcony was beyond everything I have seen - Straight ahead and across the gorge, the hillside rose hundreds of feet above us into a cap of well-shaped rock. Behind that the Lyn valley opened out in long perspective of winding water and many coloured woods, heather and grass. To the left was the bay, not deeply blue but of a strangely pure clear colour and beyond it a line of surf between the water and the cliffs which fell away East and North."
Sadly, this hotel is no longer trading and is currently being converted into a series of apartments but his name lives on in Lynton through Holman park in Lynton for which he donated the land.
A super portrait of a significant man in Devonian history by a very competent and renowned artist.