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.
Medieval Remains at Lower Greadow Farm, Luxulyan, Cornwall. 1972
Lower Greadow Farm, showing the remains of a medieval monastery building which belonged to Tywardreath Priory. The farm is in Luxulyan Parish and the parish boundary runs close to the eastern side of the farm. According to 1888 and 1908 Ordnance Survey maps it was known as Lower Gready. Two nearby farms to the east were known as Middle Gready and Higher Gready, both of these being east of the parish boundary in Lanlivery Parish. At some time since then the word Gready has been changed to Greadow. A granite stone outside Higher Greadow Farm still reads Higher Gready Farm. A young boy looks at the photographer from the doorway of the farmhouse. An aerial view from Google Maps (2019) suggests that some of the remains have since been removed. Photographer: Charles Woolf.
© RIC, photographer Charles Woolf
Rock Mill with Treffry Viaduct/Aqueduct in the background, Luxulyan, Cornwall. 1909
The photograph is taken from above the Great Western Railway Par to Newquay branch line cutting, looking north. Rock Mill can be seen on the left of the photograph, with a telegraph pole and wires, running alongside the railway line that can be glimpsed at the bottom left. A lady with a child can just be discerned in the field on the lower right of the photograph. The Treffry viaduct/aqueduct can be seen further up the Luxulyan Valley. The viaduct was built between 1839 and 1842 by its owner Joseph Thomas Treffry. This viaduct, 90 feet high and 670 feet long, had the dual purpose of carrying both a tramway and a high level leat across the Luxulyan Valley. It was the first large civil engineering structure of its kind to be built in Cornwall, and it is now a Scheduled Monument. Photographer: Herbert Hughes.
© From the collection of the RIC