Arthur North 1848 -1919
Well-known artist ANT [Arthur North’s] sketches and drawings appeared in many magazines and newspapers but sadly there are only a small amount of evidence of his work remaining.
Born second oldest son to Selina and John [a master tailor] in July 1848 in Bradford, Arthur had 6 brothers and sisters.
He was an errand boy for a stock brokers office in 1861 and then 10 years later, Arthur was a book keeper. Not much is known about Arthur’s life during this period, but we believe that he began working as a draughtsman for an engineering company.
In 1874 Arthur married Eliza Kershaw and in 1875, a new monthly magazine ‘The Yorkshireman’ appeared at newsagents. In 1877, ‘The Yorkshireman’ was now issued weekly and was ‘An illustrated journal of humour, satire and criticism’. It seems that Arthur obtained employment at this magazine in 1878. Clearly, The Yorkshireman launched his career as an artist and his distinctive style gave his characters warmth. Unfortunately, we have no idea when Arthur started using ANT to sign his work, but he seems to have been a fast worker, as an edition of The Yorkshireman might include 15 of his sketches.
James Burnley the editor of the Yorkshireman remembered meeting Arthur and had the view that this was a cartoonist skilled at depicting ‘Yorkshireness’
” My visitor was Arthur North, and in a short time afterwards ‘Ant’s’ illustrations became an attractive feature of the journal. ‘Ant’ was a genuine Yorkshire product, saw things from the Yorkshire point of view, and for The Yorkshireman was the very man for that time. He never threw off his original amateurishness of style, perhaps, but that was no drawback as far as The Yorkshireman was concerned. Content and happy in his local environment he never allowed himself to be tempted away from it.”
Arthur and his wife were living at 23 Belgrave Square in 1881 and have 4 children by this time. Arthur is noted on the census as being an “Artist Comic & Illustrator (Actor)”
Arthur left the Yorkshireman briefly to launch his comic paper ‘The Yorkshire Busy Bee’ and it was first issued in Leeds in 1881, but after two years folded and was incorporated into a new periodical ‘Toby, the Yorkshire Tyke’. There was a little controversy at the Busy bee with a small number of libel cases being brought against the paper, who knows, maybe these cases added to the closing of the paper.
Arthur also contributed towards one of Cudworth’s books ‘Historical Notes on The Bradford Corporation’, published in 1881. Here are two illustrations he produced for the book.
During 1883 The Yorkshireman was taken over by W Byles and Son, owners of the Bradford Observer, as security for a bad debt. Arthur, as the magazine’s staff artist, was treated with ‘great shabbiness’ by the editor James Burnley and ‘treacherously’ by Byles, [according to the Bradford Antiquarian William Scruton]
Arthur returned to the Yorkshireman briefly before the ‘shabby’ treatment caused him to leave once again. It’s surprising that Arthur and The Yorkshireman should reconcile, but by August 1884 his cartoons were once again appearing regularly and he also contributed observational articles, such as a series entitled ‘Prowls in Peculiar Places’ in February 1887.
In 1891 Arthur and Eliza now have 8 children, with the oldest daughter Mabel being a ‘Pupil Teacher’. Arthur is noted as being a Journalist on this census.
It was during 1891 that Arthur wrote a book for Mr Alfred Megson entitled:
Ye Scenes of Olde Bradforde – Strolls Through Some Old Highways and Streets.
Being an Itinerary Catalogue of Mr. Alfred Megson’s Collection of One Hundred Views of By-gone Bradford. It is highly likely that this collection formed the basis of the ‘old Bradford series’ of postcards.
Specially written for Mr. Megson by Arthur North
Alfred Megson was an Art Dealer in the Swann Arcade in Bradford
Arthur also produced watercolours of Bradford and a review of an exhibition in 1892 praised his local truthfulness. ‘None of his water colour sketches are falsified, for the sake of artistic effect, by Italian skies or rustic greens that are utterly foreign to smoky Bradford’ – William Scruton November 1882.
Arthur also created sketches for a series of old postcards published in 1903, this was called the Old Bradford Series. The postcard on the right is Blind Jimmy one of the postcards from that series.
The 1911 Census saw the North family living at 32 Harman Place and Arthur has noted that he is now “out of work (Invalid) Journalist”. He also notes that they had 9 children and 1 having died. We believe this is Edgar North who was a twin and died at 3 days old and is buried here with Arthur and his wife. Arthur died in 1919 and was buried here in Undercliffe Cemetery
Arthur North spent most of his career working in Yorkshire, recording and observing all its social types and his work, in The Yorkshireman, in the Yorkshire Busy Bee and in Toby, the Yorkshire Tyke can be used in an appraisal of Yorkshire identities of the time.
During his heyday, the ‘nom-de-crayon’ ‘Ant’ was a comic artist familiar in many households and Arthur was ‘near allied to genius’ and his chief assets included ‘a knowledge of Yorkshire character and types’, according to his obituary.
Research by Susan Crossley.