Thomas Oldham Barlow R.A. 1824-1889

Biography

Edward Barlow clockface c. 1750

Edward Barlow clockface c. 1750

Edward Barlow clock c. 1750

Edward Barlow clock c. 1750

Thomas Oldham Barlow [T.O.B.] was born in Oldham on August 4th 1824 the son of Henry and Sarah Barlow. His middle name of ‘Oldham’ came from his mother, whose maiden name was Oldham. His father was a descendent of the Barlow clockmakers of Oldham, Ashton and Rochdale who included Edward, John and Benjamin Barlow.

He attended Oldham Grammar School and was apprenticed on leaving school, to Messrs Stephenson and Royston a well known firm of engravers in Manchester. His father apprenticed him with them for six years after he had displayed considerable talent as a draughtsman. Stephenson was a very good line engraver, his engravings include illustrations in ‘The Mind and other Poems’ by Charles Swain, published in 1841. Many years later, in 1873 T.O.B. was elected an Associate Royal Academician Engraver over Stephenson.

After his apprenticeship T.O.B. moved to London. Before going he looked for a painting by an artist of repute to make an engraving that could be shown as an introduction to anyone with whom he might seek employment, and as an example of his skill. He found a painting ‘Courtship’ by John Phillip, a little known artist at the time, which was in the Manchester Exhibition. The painting is of a pair of lovers. He engraved the painting and the prints were sold making a considerable reputation not only for himself, but also for John Phillip. From the date of his first visit to Camden Town his friendship with John Phillip prospered and continued to Phillip’s early death in 1867.

In 1849 T.O.B. exhibited his first work at the Gallery of the Society of British Artists, it was entitled ‘The Wanderer’. In 1851 he made his first appearance at the Royal Academy with the drawing ‘Highland Bridge, Kingussie, Inverness-shire’.

Auburn Lodge in 2007

Auburn Lodge in 2007

He married Ellen in 1851 in Oldham and they moved to Camden Square, and a few years later to their home in Kensington: Auburn Lodge. They had seven children, although only two daughters: Lucy and Mary Anna survived infancy.

The Kensington Life Academy was founded by T.O.B. in 1858 for which he was the Honorary Treasurer & Secretary and John Phillip R.A. was the President. Members included Richard Ansdell, William Powell Frith, William Holman Hunt, Val Prinsep and G.F. Watts.

In 1873 he compiled catalogues for the works of his friends John Phillip R.A. and Thomas Creswick R.A. which were exhibited at the London International Exhibition of that year.

In 1873 he was elected an honorary member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. He was also elected a member of the Etching Club, whose secretary he was for many years.

T.O.B. was elected an Associate Engraver of the Royal Academy in 1873, an A.R.A. in 1876 and became a Royal Academician in 1881 when Samuel Cousins became an Honorary Retired Royal Academician.

In December 1889 he died at Auburn Lodge, and is buried in Brompton Cemetery with his wife and children. Ellen survived her husband by 19 years, and Lucy and Mary Anna lived until the 1930’s, when they both died without issue.