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New Booklet on Local Artist Herbert Edward Cox 1870 - 1941

By our Vice Chairman, Paul Maddocks

I recently obtained a very interesting booklet about a local artist, Herbert Edward Cox, who was born in Coventry in 1870, at 26 Stoney Stanton Road near the hospital. He grew up to be a very good artist capturing scenes of Coventry and Warwickshire just after the turn of the century and up to the First World War. 

Painting by Herbert Edward Cox

Herbert was the fifth of seven children born to James and Sarah Cox. He attended the Grammar School, and after the death of his father in 1887, still living in the family home, he trained to paint at the Municipal School of Art in Coventry, becoming a designer and draughtsman.

He married a Coventry girl Margaret Shilton and set up home in Lillington, near Leamington. (7, Manor Road has a blue plaque on it to recognise that he lived here from 1913 - 1941). Herbert taught painting at the Coventry Technical Institute now known as City College.

Herbert was soon recognised locally as an accomplished artist, recording street scenes in the city and various surrounding areas and villages. The booklet, by Les Neil, tells the story of his life and work and that of his wife Margaret Cox who produced a monthly magazine for children called 'The Bluebird' as well as other publications that she wrote and illustrated.

Herbert Cox's pictures are interesting but show an idealised view of his city. He mainly drew horse drawn transport and he would leave out the tram lines and overhead cables. In one watercolour he does draw an early motorcar in Smithford Street but it was very much in the background. Many of the street scenes have cows, sheep or pigs being herded down the middle of the road.

Painting by Herbert Edward Cox

Most of the streets and buildings he painted have now gone. Some were demolished because they had no proper sanitation or were in a poor condition. Some were demolished to make way for the new roads which criss-crossed the city. The blitz also made a big difference followed by the redevelopment of the city. So looking at these pictures you are seeing what the old city looked over much of its ancient history seen through the eyes of Herbert Edward Cox.

Coventry City Council purchased 56 of Herbert's pen and ink drawings of Coventry scenes for £150 in 1926. A further collection of 72 watercolours of Coventry were purchased by Mr. David H. Cooke and presented to the City Council in 1930. The pictures now hang in the Council House in the gallery leading into the Council Chamber and are open for the public to see only on Heritage Open Days.

Hopefully this booklet, which has been privately produced by Les Neil with a limited print run, will stimulate more interest in the collection and hopefully a larger publication might be produced in the future. Wouldn't it be wonderful if as part of the City of Culture someone could create a coffee table style book showing the amazing scenes of old Coventry with informative text written by a local author. Perhaps a future Lord Mayor would be able to get it produced as a fund raiser for his charity, so benefiting the exposure of the paintings.

You can get a copy of the booklet from the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Tourist Information Centre for £4.50 while stocks last. Les Neil will be giving a talk to the Coventry Society about the booklet at our AGM on Monday 9th April 2018.

Herbert Edward Cox

Reader Comments (1)

I've just read this booklet too and it would be wonderful to be able to see the paintings and for such a book of his artwork to be produced for the Coventry City of Culture.

By Marcie Edwards on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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