On an unusually leisurely walk on Highfield Road, in South Shore
recently, I noticed the commemorative stone set in the wall of the Recreation Ground and former Library. The rest of my walk was spent wondering who, when, what and why?
‘Grundy’ was in fact a pair of brothers, both Artists. Sons of a Bury Solicitor and staunch Unitarian, Thomas Grundy: John Relph Greenhow Grundy, born 1841 and Cuthbert Cartwright Grundy born 1846. The Census record for 1861 shows Thomas with wife Eliza (nee Greenhow) and four children, older brothers Thomas and Edmund (also Solicitors), along with John and Cuthbert the youngest. The record also shows the household with a House Maid and a Cook. John is a Bleacher/Dyer in a local Cotton Mill and Cuthbert a School boy.
Cuthbert was expected to follow his brothers and father into the legal profession; however, dogged by illness, his university life in Manchester was frequently interrupted. He took to Painting, Biology and Chemistry; as an artist he was untrained, as a Chemist he was amateur, although in 1870 he published ‘An Introduction to the study of Chemistry’ and in 1871 ‘Notes on the Food of Plants’ and in 1901, ‘How does a Plant Grow? In the same year, their father died and Cuthbert was awarded a silver medal for rescuing two boys from the sea at Grange over Sands.
By 1879, Cuthbert was producing and exhibiting Landscapes, often based on trips to the Lake District with brother John. He exhibited at the Royal Academy.
The Grundy association with Blackpool began when Cuthbert moved here in 1888. In 1891 he is living with a Servant from Nottingham at 11 Moore Street, South Shore (demolished in the 1970s). John is also in Blackpool at 322 Lytham Road, with his wife Alice, a Daughter Ethel, John RG Jnr and two Servants.
The 1901 Census shows Cuthbert living with the same servant, in an eight bedroomed house at 326 Lytham Road as a Landscape painter. John has moved with his family next door to 328 Lytham Road. Cuthbert’s house became known as Grundy House and housed the Grundy Museum after his death in 1946 until the house became a private residence again in 1980. (Note: House number changes on Lytham Road took place between 1924 and 1929, What became the Grundy Museum was located at 456 Lytham Road)
As a Unitarian like his Father, Cuthbert held Unitarian services in his sitting room, until the South Shore Unitarian ‘Tin Tabernacle’ opened on Lytham Road in 1894. A Church Hall: ‘The Sir Cuthbert Grundy Hall’ was built in 1932, on the site, becoming the church in that year. In 1904 Cuthbert’s support for the Unitarian community culminated in his formally opening of the Unitarian Church at Fairhaven in July 1930 and a Non Denominational, Free Christian Church on Waterloo Road.
Cuthbert never married He had said that his Mother was his best friend and if he was married he wouldn’t be able to do the things he wanted to do. He and his brother were generous contributors to Children’s charities in Manchester, Bury and Blackpool. He was exhibiting in Blackpool in 1879, John following in 1880. He became a Magistrate and was Blackpool’s first Knighted resident. Becoming a Justice of the Peace in Lancashire and Blackpool
Since 1902, Blackpool’s municipal art gallery, was housed in modest accommodation at Revoe Branch Library and both brothers exhibited there. In 1903 the Brothers sought to hand their collection of artwork to the Council in order to ‘encourage arts’ and to promote the formation of a dedicated Art Gallery in the town. As incentive the Brothers provided £2000 towards development costs. In 1908 a site in Queen Street was acquired for a new Library and Art Gallery. The work was completed in 1911, with a further extension of the Gallery in 1938.
The Grundy Art Gallery is regarded as ‘one of Britain’s loveliest little Galleries’ (Cook, W., ‘The Spectator’, 03/09/2011)
Cuthbert’s public persona burgeoned and in 1911 he was presented with a Ceremonial Key by Blackpool Corporation on the opening of the Recreation Park and Reading Room on Highfield Road, a project to which both brothers had promoted and contributed financially. The Grundy’s life long commitment to community culminated in the opening of Children’s Convalescent Home at 138 Stoney Hill Avenue.
John died in 1915, in the same year Cuthbert was Knighted by King George V. The newspaper reports of his death were effusive, providing some glimmers of light into the life this very private man and his family.
He had trained to be a Civil Engineer. After a very few years he had abandoned his career in favour of Landscape and Seascape painting, around the time that Cuthbert was developing his own enthusiastic interests in painting and sketching. The brothers were reported as inseparable in their artistic pursuits. They founded The Bury Society of Fine Arts, played a significant role in establishing The Royal Cambrian Academy.between them the community benefited too; children’s Convalescent homes, recreation grounds, etc. The apex of their joint enterprise was the establishment of Blackpool’s own Grundy Art Gallery.
With the anniversary of the death of his son Relph in 1907, John never really recovered, taking to his rooms for two weeks and dying shortly after, the culmination of two years ill health.
In 1933, Cuthberts name was included on the tablet commemorating the building of the Peace Palace in the Hague, after he had a commemorative medals cast for each of the 700 men who worked on the building; a testament to his Unitarian roots and his lifelong pursuit of peace and community. He was made Hon freeman of County Borough of Blackpool in 1938 and died in Blackpool in 1946, just before his 100th birthday. Despite their generosity to Blackpool, their funeral services were low key in line with their belief in understatement, although press coverage was widespread.
Throughout both their lives the Grundy brothers had shunned publicity, John especially. However, that belies the fantastic contribution both may to the Arts in general and cultural life in Blackpool in particular. At Appendix ‘A’ is a summary of the Brothers extraordinary involvement with the Arts and Charity.
So this was the who, what when and how of the Grundy name is significant in Blackpool’s heritage.
Sources & Further Research
Census Returns at:
Births Marriages & Deaths at:
The full story and painting life of the Grundys at: http://www.lythamstannesartcollection.org/coming-rain-by-cuthbert-grundy.html
Story of Grundy Art Gallery at:
Changing fortunes of Blackpool
Morris, E., 2001, Public Art Collections in North-West England: A History and Guide, Liverpool University Press
Images: All images remain copyright to the Author.
Books authored by Cuthbert Grundy:
Grundy, C.C., 1870 ‘An Introduction to the study of Chemistry’, Ulan Press (Reprinted 2012)
Grundy, C., 1871 ‘Notes on the Food of Plants’, Nabu Press (Reprinted 2009)
Grundy, C., 1901, ‘How does a Plant Grow? John Murray, London (Reprinted 1935)
Grundy, C.C., 1909, ‘Paragraphs about Pictures: Six Dozen Helpful Hints for Visitors to a Picture Exhibition’, RE Jones, Conway (Reprinted 1913)
Newspaper References to the Grundy Brothers
21/04/1998 Evening Gazette, Feature on the contribution made by Sir Cuthbert Grundy.
28/10/1916 Gazette, ‘The man behind the Resort’s Gallery’
18/07/1927 Gazette, Grundy Home for Children foundation laying.
11/01/1927 Gazette, Forthcoming Ceremony
01/02/1946 Gazette, Obituary & death reports
27/09/1907 Blackpool Herald p6 Col 1
07/12/1904 Blackpool Times p6 Col 6
16/08/1919 ,, p5 Col 8
03/01/1930 ,, p9 Col 1
09/02/1929 Gazette & Herald p7 Col 3
27/09/1907 Blackpool Herald p6 Col 1
08/10/1907 ,, p7 Col 3
22/03/1911 Blackpool Times p5 Col 6
17/03/1915 Blackpool Times p5 Col 1 Obituary
Properties owned by the Grundys: to be found in
Kelly’s Blackpool Directory 1924, 1929, 1934,
Slater’s Blackpool Directory 1890, 1901, 1902, 1905, 1909
Cook’s Blackpool Directory 1896, 1902
All available at the Local & Family History Dept, Blackpool Central Library
Cuthbert’s Last Will and Testament available at Ref LG3(P) Blackpool Central Library
Council Minutes for 1913: Establishment of Highfield Road Recreation Park and The Branch Reading room at Minutes: 375, 376, 395, 433, 481, 494, 495, 593, 596, 657, 664, 666, 677, 678.