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Featured Print

Machine shop, H.T.P. Motors Ltd., Back Quay, Truro, Cornwall. 1941

Workers in the aircraft component repair department during the Second World War. The workers are thought to be making parts for aircraft wings, probably for Spitfires, in what was the H.T.P. Motors showroom. Aircraft repair staff comprised 100 operatives, 50% of which were women. At their peak they produced 500 components a month for Spitfires, including tail planes and rudders. In 2018, this building is the Pannier Market on Back Quay, Truro. P8655 Newtonia was a presentation Spitfire IIa paid for by the people of Newton Abbot and District. Photographer: Unknown.

© From the collection of the RIC

Featured Print

Black John of Tetcott, James Northcote (1746-1831)

Oil on canvas, English School. In 1784 Northcote painted the portrait of John Arscott (1718-1788) of Tetcott, Devon, and it is probable that he painted this portrait of 'Black John' of Tetcott at same the time. Black John was under four foot in height and suffered from kyphosis, known at the time this portrait was painted as 'hunchback'. The descriptions of his life, spent in the service of John Arscott, record his success as a 'jester' and his devotion to his 'master'. It was common for servants lives to be overlooked and trivialised by the households they worked for and for their histories to be re-written, ensuring that they had no voice of their own. For example, it was noted that "his role as jester included swallowing and retrieving strings of live mice and 'mumbling' sparrows, removing their feathers with his teeth while the sparrow was in his mouth. He died of grief shortly after his master." There is no history of Black John's life (not even a record of his real name) that is not in relation to that of his 'master'. James Northcote was born in Plymouth, the son of a watchmaker and optician. He was apprenticed to his father's trade but showed a talent for art. In 1769 he left his father's work and set up as a portrait painter. He was admitted as a pupil into the studio and house of Sir Joshua Reynolds in London as a pupil and assistant between 1771 and 1776. He came to consider himself an authority on his master and in 1813, after Reynolds' death, he published his posthumous Memoirs of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

© RIC

Featured Print

Furzupland, Kenwyn, Cornwall. Early 1900s

A young girl with a skipping rope is at the top of the steps, a lady holding a card or paper is on the right and a gentleman in a trilby is on the left. A gentleman with a white beard and wearing a cap can be seen looking out of a first floor window. The local story of this house is that it was built for an eccentric rich man. At the time when it was built, a well used thoroughfare ran beside the house and the man thought that someone might break in during the night and steal his money. So he had it built like a castle without stairs. At night he would climb up to the first floor using a rope ladder, pull the ladder up and sleep with a blunderbuss gun beside him. On the 1871 census an Edward George Spry, aged 36, lived there. He is described as a Bachelor of Arts, Landowner, Fund Holder and owner of stock in railways, mines etc. He was also part owner of the Red Lion Hotel in Boscawen Street, Truro. His housekeeper was Mary Verran. He and his housekeeper still lived there in 1881. Mr Spry died in 1887 leaving £11,000 (about £1 million today). The house is listed on the 1891 and 1901 censuses but with no occupants. Albert Sidney Labouchere-Sparling lived in the house between 1903 and 1906. In 1911, Josiah Clark (formerly of Tregavethan) lived there with his wife Olivia. It is possible that the people in the photograph are members of the Clark family. Furzuplands was home to the Brown family in the late 1950s. The property was later bought by architect Paul Bunyan and his wife, Laurence, who completely refurbished the interior. Photographer: Probably Arthur Philp.

© From the collection of the RIC