The Painters

Edwin Lewis with his wife Emily in the garden at Islingham on Jubilee Day 1897

Edwin Lewis Meadows was born in Stepney in 14 January 1838. He married Emily Jessie Whitter at St Mary’s, Stratford Bow on July 21st 1863. He was baptised just a few weeks later on August 19th, perhaps at the request of his new wife.

Edwin Lewis
Edwin Lewis
Emily Jessie
Emily Jessie

Daughter Emily who was born in 1867 and is shown in the 1881 census living with the family in Leytonstone. She was no longer at home in 1891 when they were in Kent and nothing more is known of her.

Eldest son Frederick John was born 8 November 1868 in Leytonstone. He was an artist, a taxi driver and a publican at The George & Dragon in Westerham, The Organ in Ewell and The Alma in Deal. It was whilst at Westerham, that Frederick John built a bungalow named Islingham and ran a taxi service amongst whose clientele were Winston Churchill then living at Chartwell. Fred died in December 1950.

In Frederick John’s time ‘The Organ’ faced directly onto London road. According to epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk: In 1914 it was described as a timber building, old but recently done up. It had a bar, 6 pull engines with fittings. There were steps up to the Billiard Room. There was a sitting room at the rear. There was a cellar below and 6 bedrooms upstairs. Outside there were 2 WCs and a urinal. There was also a timber and tiled stable with four stalls, and a coach house. At that time it was owned by Halder and Collyers Brewery Co.

The Ewell Parish News Feb. 1973 suggested that the name had been given when Henry Willis built the church organ. Father Willis’ men had the habit of walking up to what was then a small inn on the London Road during their mid-day dinner break. Unfortunately the dates don’t match, since the church organ was built in 1865. ‘Organs’ is more common among earlier forms of the name, suggesting that it may have been a transferred field-name.

The pub was rebuilt and re-oriented in the 1930s when the Ewell By-Pass was built. The name was lost in 1998, when the pub reopened as Jim Thompson’s. It appears that it was later revived as the Organ and Dragon but finally, in 2014, it was demolished to make way for a Lidl Supermarket.

Grace Meadows was born in Leytonstone in 1871. She was also an accomplished artist. Examples of her work can be seen here. She appears on the censuses of 1871 and 1891 as living with her family. In 1891, she gives her profession as “artist painter student”. In the 1901 census she appears to be staying as a visitor in a mixed household in Garlinge, Kent. By the 1911 census she was living and working with her brother at the George and Dragon and she gives her age as 35! It appears that she continued to live with Frederick until her death in February 1937.

Youngest son Orestes Lewis, Roger and Jeff’s great grandfather, was born in Leytonstone on December 14th 1864.

On his marriage certificate, like his father James, Edwin gives his profession as artist, but he also owned a cement works in Rochester and it was this ‘day job’ that he reported in the 1891 and 1901 censuses. The family had moved in 1890 to Islingham Farm, Frindsbury in Kent, and he was the owner-manager of the cement works across the river Medway at Rochester. At this time, his sons Orestes Lewis and Frederick John operated a barge for a while but one day, the bottom fell out of their venture – literally. The cement works were subsequently sold to Amalgamated Portland Cement Manufacturing (APCM).

Edwin Lewis enjoyed great success as a landscape artist and some of his paintings are reproduced here. He even painted the cement works! His career as an artist is very well documented on meadowsfamilytree.net.

We are fortunate to have Edwin Lewis’ notebook and we’re now putting it to the purpose he intended. Whilst it may not have the properly researched provenance you might expect on a typical genealogy site, it represents a fascinating anecdotal history of our family. It seems likely that he would have written more, but he died on December 23rd 1907 after suffering a paralytic stroke. It appears that Emily went to live with her son Frederick John, as the 1911 census shows her ‘assisting in the business’ at the George and Dragon.