Knobstick roses

William Henry Hodgson was born in Crewe on the 7th February 1878. In 1908 he married Jane Sweatman , the daughter of a Blacksmith in Middlewich. Luckily for him, his father in law set him up with a cottage and a large workshop...yes I'm a bit green...but a girl can dream....of the workshop !....Anyway after painting signs for a local pub he was asked by a local boatyard boss, Tommy Williams to paint his boats for him. Later, Samuel Fox came down from Westport ,wanting to employ 'Bill'. Mr Fox found the family a house in Davenport Street and Bill worked there until it closed in the 1930's. Bill then worked for the Anderton Company at Middleport until he retired at seventy. The Anderton Company already the nickname of 'knobstick'. A knobstick can be either someone who refuses to join in a trade union, or a cane with a knob on it. A painters Mahl stick is just that ..but I don't know where the name actually came from.

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photo credit: The Canal Museum Stoke Bruerne 

Apparently Bill was a quiet man but an obsessive painter, painting all day and painting again at home. People used to leave jobs for him at his backdoor ...( personally this is sounding all too familiar ! ) He not only painted boats , he also painted furniture, mirrors, cushions, screens and even an ice cream van....covered in fancy lettering pictures and flowers....love it.

Photograph by Speedwell of cabin of boat called "Sweden"

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Funnily his family just wanted to appear like every other family on the block and were not impressed when he told them that he was going to paint the living room. This he did with trees growing in each corner, lots of bull rushes ad flying birds, up the walls and ceiling. Everyone thought it was marvellous.

Photograph by Speedwell of cabin of boat called "Sweden"

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Bills roses were always more realistic and three dimensional , and being a good painter he had devised a technique that could still be quick.....time is money!

His castles were black outlined with the usual lake and mountains but you can see that he couldn't resist adding more of his artistic touches,  sailing boats in the background with their reflections, swans with proper markings, beaks and legs, detailed bull rushes and stripy waving flags and tiny weather vanes. ...lovely.

He had eight children to support so doing outside work must have helped with his income.  I'm sure he must have dreamt of being able to make a living from painting large canvasses.

Bill Hodgson died on the 29th November 1957, not famous in the art world, but extremely well known and respected by the boating world....I wish I could have met him.

I expect that if he was painting now he would still have been the same, probably not well known on the 'World wide web'...not enough time to self publicise... not having time to spend everyday looking at facebook,Instagram, twitter etc etc...only having time to live and paint .....who knows......


Lets all give a HUGE CHEER for William Henry Hodgson....A true artist and boat painter.


Acknowledgement - Flowers Afloat by Tony Lewery.