Fashion Sketches

I’ve recently been examining some of my father’s papers—part of my collection of family history material—and have enjoyed finding again his old art sketchbook dating from 1913, over one hundred years old now.


Dad’s sketchbook from 1913-14

Dad was a talented artist.  He first showed his artistic ability while still at school, but like many youngsters at that time, he finished his full time education at just age fourteen (in 1910). Afterwards he attended day and evening classes at the School of Art, Handsworth Technical School, and was awarded a first class certificate in Brush Drawing.
Dad’s first job was at John Hardman & Co. in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter. He used to like pointing out to me the Hardman building when we travelled into town by tram (no. 32) in the late 1940s and by bus (no. 96) in the early 1950s. Hardman’s was well known as a company that specialised in designing and crafting stained glass windows.


A number 32 tram grinding its way out of town up Newhall Hill circa 1930. The tram is about to pass the John Hardman studios on the left.
[Photo from the Birmingham History Forum]

While at Hardman’s, Dad had a chance to develop an interest in commercial art, and by 1913, when he was sixteen years old, he was working on his own from an address in Soho Road, Handsworth, designing and producing posters and tickets for local churches and other organisations. The sketchbook that I found dates from this period in his career.

The Fashion Sketches
The contents show Dad practising his sketching and developing his flair for high fashion designs. The time-frame of these sketches (2 July 1914 to 30 August 1914) was in the weeks immediately before and after the outbreak of the Great War on 4th August. Whether the designs were strictly from his imagination or whether he modelled them after newspaper or magazine advertisements, we do not know. He was only seventeen and could not have known that his future as an artist would soon be rudely interrupted by service in the British Army. Regardless, the fashion sketches themselves are wonderful evidence of his talent.

His book includes fourteen pages of pen-and-ink fashion sketches like those below. Some  hold just a single sketch, while others show several designs or working details.


Three of the pages from Dad’s sketchbook

All the sketches are dated and signed F. Ball, (later in his life he began signing F L Ball).

Helen and I were charmed by the sketches and so we scanned them, asked Freestyle, our local print shop, to enlarge two of them, and Sable & Hogg‘s picture framer here in Brecon to mount and frame them for use in our home. Below I’ve included an almost full-size image of one of the chosen sketches.

You can read more about the artistic aspects of Dad’s life on my website in the section entitled The Life of Frank Leonard Ball.


Sketch by F Ball, dated July 3rd 1914

A Penny for my Thoughts

As part of my research into the Tumbledown Cottage known as The Old Crow at Willersley, Herefordshire, I investigated the Penny family who occupied the cottage in the 20th century. While working on the history of this Penny family, at the back of my mind has been the realisation that my own BALL family had a link with a member of a PENN[E]Y family: surely there couldn’t be any connection between my family and those who inhabited the Old Crow!
In 1953 my father’s sister Alice Victoria BALL, then a fifty-three year old spinster, married one Frank Leslie PENNEY (shown right), widower, born in Birmingham in 1899, whom my brother and I knew as “Uncle Frank“. I’d never properly researched Uncle Frank’s ancestry, and the thought had never entered my head that there might be a connection with the PENN[E]Y family of Radnorshire, Herefordshire, and the Tumbledown Cottage.

But I was wrong! In 2015, I decided to investigate Uncle Frank’s ancestry and it soon became clear that Frank Leslie PENNEY was indeed a descendant of the same line as the Penny Boys of the Old Crow!

Frank Leslie PENNY (b. 1899, Birmingham) was the son of Joseph William PENNY (b. 1865, Handsworth, Staffs), the grandson of Emmanuel PENNY (b. 1837, Kington, Herefordshire), and the great grandson of Joseph PENNY (b. 1796, Stanner. Herefordshire). Furthermore, Emmanuel PENNY was a younger brother of the Joseph PENNY (b. 1825), long-serving subpostmaster at Winforton, from whom the Penny Boys were descended.

Uncle Frank’s great grandfather was the Penny Boys’ great great grandfather!

Of course I am not a blood relative of the Penn(e)y family – but this new-found connection between me and The Old Crow is truly an amazing coincidence.

Even more Churches and Chapels!

I’m on a roll!
Since my last posting I’ve added three more subjects to my online Welsh Churches and Chapels Collection:

  1. St Dwywe’s Church at Llanddwywe near Talybont, Merionethsire
  2. The Old and New Salem Chapels, Bonymaen, Swansea, Glamorgan
  3. Moriah Chapel, Pengenffordd near Talgarth, Breconshire
  4. Capel Cana, Felindre Farchog, Pembrokeshire

The photographs are from various sources, including J H Truman, Peter Wood, Nick Lloyd, Google StreetView, and my own collection.

The collection now comprises 528 places of worship, and of course I plan to add more over the coming weeks.
Go to Welsh Churches and Chapels Collection at then click the browse button and scroll down to the entries for Talybont, Swansea, Pengenffordd and Felindre Farchog.

As a taster, the fine picture below, by J H Truman, shows the interior of the ‘New’ Salem Chapel in Bonymaen, Swansea.


Yet more Churches and Chapels!

In the past few days I’ve added four more places of worship to my online collection:

1.  St Cewydd’s Church, Aberedw, Breconshire.
2.  Upper Chapel Church, Upper Chapel, Breconshire
3.  Hebron Independent Chapel, Crickadarn, Breconshire
4.  St Mary’s Church, Crickadarn, Breconshire

Many of the photographs for these subjects were kindly provided by Robert Eckley, supplemented by photographs from the Geograph website and Google’s StreetView camera.

After recounting the number of places of worship featured on my ‘Welsh Churches and Chapels Collection’, I was astonished to find the total is now 525 (not the 480 or so that I’d previously estimated) – and I hope to add even more over the coming weeks.
Go to Welsh Churches and Chapels Collection at then click the browse button and scroll down to the entries for Aberedw, Crickadarn and Upper Chapel.


Welsh Churches and Chapels

After a break of two months, I’ve just added another three places of worship to my online collection:

1.  Maesyberllan English Baptist Chapel, Felinfach, Talachddu, Breconshire.
2.  St David’s Church, Llanddewi-fach, Radnorshire
3.  Tabernacle Independent Chapel, Pennorth, Breconshire

The photographs for the first two subjects were kindly provided by my friend Robert Eckley, while those for the third subject are my own.

The ‘Welsh Churches and Chapels Collection’ now features 480 places of worship. I hope to add more over the coming weeks.
Go to Welsh Churches and Chapels Collection at then click the browse button and scroll down to the entries for Felinfach, Llanddewi-fach and Pennorth.

Welsh Churches and Chapels

I’ve just added another church to my online collection. This time it’s the Church of St John the Baptist at Alltwen, Pontardawe in the Swansea Valley. I’ve supplemented my own two photos, taken nearly nineteen years ago, with two much more recent images from the Google StreetView camera.

Go to Welsh Churches and Chapels Collection at then click the browse button and scroll down to the entries for Alltwen.

Welsh Churches and Chapels Collection: Update

My online Welsh Churches and Chapels Collection now comprises 475 different Welsh places of worship, each displayed on its own separate webpage. I still make trips with my digital camera to photograph more Welsh churches and chapels – and I still receive offers of photographs from other kind folk. So the collection is still expanding.

The most recent addition to my online Collection is the historic Beulah Welsh Baptist Chapel near Little Newcastle in the county of Pembrokeshire. The photographs were kindly sent to me by Jill Morgan. I will be adding more church and chapel webpages over the coming weeks and months, so keep watching this space!