An interesting story I found in a ‘thrown out’ book is worth
listening to. Every year in May, on the second weekend, we have
the Delaware Arts Festival. Along with this activity, since car
loads of people visit our small town, the Delaware County District
Library holds its Annual Book Sale and fundraiser.
Last year, May, 2013, I found in the book discards’ bin, a lovely
small book titled, “Victorian Horses and Carriages, A Personal
Sketch Book” by William Francis Freelove.
It is serendipity to have found this book amongst ones that were
no longer serving a purpose on the library book shelves. I feel
a kinship with this man from the 1800’s who enjoyed the pastime
of drawing with his pencil, then detailing with his pen and ink,
and adding watercolors to his drawings. The artist, William F.
Freelove, was a solicitor’s clerk who lived from 1846 until 1920.
He was a Quaker and had six children. One way he liked to relax
and entertain his family, was producing pleasant drawings of a
variety of horses, carts and carriages.
William would observe passers-by in their utility carts and wagons
in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey.
By 1873, he had captured over 70 drawings in his fine collection.
They apparently were tucked away, for ‘safe keeping.’
The best part of the story is that one hundred years passed, when
finally the horse drawn carriages, carts and wagons’ illustrations
were discovered; neglected in a dusty old attic. There was a box
found holding his precious collection of drawings. I agree with the
preface of the published book of his drawings that calls this a
The book, filled with the ‘found’ illustrations, was finally
published in 1979, by the Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./Crown Publishers.
This was printed by the Lutterworth Press in London, England. There
is no mention of where the book sale proceeds go to. I wonder if
there are descendants of William F. Freelove who benefit from this
publication of his art?
There is a picture of a pocket watch drawing, with William’s photo,
along with the initials, “W.F.F.” and the year of “1868.” Although
the watch’s enclosed date would make him only 22, he has a long,
but neatly trimmed, white beard and his face seems like quite a bit
older man. His face doesn’t seem to reflect his artistic nature,
because it appears quite stern. I have read that intaglios and old
photographs were serious, a tradition of capturing faces not smiling,
during this period of time.
William lived 74 years, with no remarks of his family having health
issues or reason for his not publishing his drawings. They were solely
created to amuse and entertain his family and friends. They never were
framed and put on the walls of his family home.
Thank goodness for attics, dry basements and cubby holes! For art
is found within these places. Sometimes people knocking down walls
will find newspapers and other hidden treasures, too.
I delight in looking at these intricately detailed drawings with
such unique names and uses of each utilitarian vehicle. William
also drew different kinds of carriages, like a “Brougham Carriage.”
(Several include the word, “waggon” with two ‘g’s’ included in
their old-fashioned spellings.)
Each vehicle is being pulled by horses. Here are some of my
favorite ones, which are so intriguing in their specific uses.
1. Miller’s wagon. (This looks like a hay wagon, to me!)
2. Plate glass wagon. (This is a long, narrow wagon.)
3. Tallow chandler’s cart. (I assume the candle maker’s cart?)
4. Brewer’s Dray. (This has barrels of alcohol with “X’s” on them.)
5. Fish Monger’s Cart. (This is smaller.)
6. Piano Cart. (This is larger!)
7. Three horse omnibus. (This is a double decker vehicle with
passengers, including gentlemen wearing tall hats on it.)
His collection has 66 other drawings and would be quite fun to have
copies or prints to put up in a child’s room. They are very detailed
and colorful, too. I am so glad that I found a twice-discarded art
compilation for my own private collection of books!
On the final page of the book, there is a simple verse, addressing
the owners of horses:
“Uphill, urge me not.
Downhill, hurry me not.”
William Francis Freelove gave us a valuable contribution to the
art world, along with depicting the history of utilitarian forms
of transportation. I enjoy the period of time when horse drawn
vehicles, especially carriages, were prevalent. My grandchildren
like the 4 inches by 6 inches’ size of the little book, carrying
it around and studying the drawings. Interesting how it was put
away, first by the artist and his family. Then, the library chose
to throw it in the ‘discards bin.’
Some may say, “Their loss, my gain.”