The Painters

Orestes Lewis


Orestes Lewis Meadows was born, probably in Woodford, on December 14th 1864. Most of what we know of him comes from the notes left by his youngest son, Edwin Henry, who was clearly very proud of his father. His family must have lived near the River Roding as he swam there regularly as a boy.

Evidently Orestes had scarlet fever when he was 15 and whilst convalescing he made a beautiful model of The Royal Lodge, Leytonstone. It seems that his family had lived at the former royal hunting lodge before they moved to West Ham.

A self-portrait of James Meadows, Orestes’ grandfather, which hung in the hall of the lodge is still in the family’s possession and the young Orestes made a miniature version to hang in the hall of the model.

On August 29th 1892 Orestes married Flora Edith Coules. She was his first cousin – his mother’s sister’s daughter – and was born in Acton on November 8th 1868.

They had seven children: Dora (24 Sept 1893); John Lewis (11 Sept 1894); Jesse Edith Gwendoline (16 Aug 1896); Violet Hilda (8 May 1899); Stanley Arthur (31 Dec 1901); Margaret Helen (25 Dec 1903) and Edwin Henry (16 Nov 1906). Three of their children died in infancy: John Lewis (4),  Margaret Helen (3) and Stanley Arthur (8 months).

Dora, Gwen and Hilda

Dora was Orestes and Edith’s eldest, born on 24 Sept 1893 in Bexley. She married William Anderson Baillie (born January 3rd 1892) in Bexley on April 17th 1920. They had one son, Peter. Dora passed away in March 1967.

Jesse Edith Gwendoline (Gwen) was born on 16 Aug 1896. She never married. In 1939 she was living with her parents and younger brother Edwin Henry at Bankside, Beech. She died aged 51 on August 5th 1948.

Violet Hilda was born on 8 May 1899 in Bexley. She married James P L Hossack in Ipswich in December 1934. They had one son, Grant, born in Colchester on November 28th 1938. Hilda passed away in June 1990 and Grant succumbed to cancer in January 2007.

Grant became a celebrated musical director and composer. The Times called him “one of the West End’s most famous musical directors who orchestrated, arranged and conducted for theatre, radio and television”. He was MD for for such shows as A Little Night Music, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, No No Nanette, Gone with the Wind, They’re Playing Our Song, A Chorus Line and many others. He was also the conductor and frequent orchestrator for the BBC Radio Orchestra for the Radio 2 series Songs from the Shows and on television he wrote the music for the drama series Nanny, starring Wendy Craig, which won him a ‘Best Title Music for a Drama award’.

Orestes, known as Orey, was for many years manager of Pimm’s Restaurant in Poultry, where he had a hand in the creation of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup.

The family lived at Brookside, Hartford Road, Bexley until 1922 when they moved to Beech, nr Alton, Hants. Orestes was reckoned to be a very good cook and he was a prolific photographer at a time when that required a working knowledge of chemistry. Unfortunately, after his death, Edith destroyed all his photographs. He was a keen motorist, maintaining his cars at home and delighting in ‘tearing’ around the countryside. He also collected stamps and bird’s eggs; he was a skilled gardener, and he played the flute. It seems that chest damage incurred in a old bicycle accident contributed to pleurisy in later life and his final years were not very comfortable.

A month before his death when the 1939 Register was taken Orestes was living at Bankside in Beech with Flora, Gwen and Edwin Henry. He suffered a painful death from ‘lung trouble’ on October 27th 1939. Edith survived until 1954 when she died aged 86 at Leigh-on-Sea in the presence of her eldest daughter Dora.