Joseph Crawhall II (1821-1896), was a businessman, artist and patron of the arts. His artistic achievements including wood engraving, watercolours and contributions to Punch magazine. The pursuits of himself and his family contributed to the thriving cultural environment of 19th Century Newcastle.
Crawhall was born at West House, St. Anthony’s, near Newcastle. The family business was rope making; Joseph Crawhall I (1793-1853) had bought St. Anne’s Ropery in Newcastle after serving an apprenticeship there. Nevertheless, he grew up in an artistic environment. His father was an amateur artist, and Crawhall, as well as his siblings, inherited this artistic ability. His mother was also a patron of the Theatre Royal, adding to the family’s keen interest and influence upon the arts scene in the North East. The enduring importance of the Crawhall family is demonstrated by the renaming of Elwick’s Lane to Crawhall Road: a road which remains today between New Bridge Street and City Road.
One of the major artistic processes used by Joseph Crawhall II was wood-engraving. He helped to revive the quality of such engravings, which had been in decline during the mid-nineteenth century as a result of cheaper mass production. Crawhall cut his blocks out of less coarse box-wood as a more durable medium than other types of wood. He then drew his designs onto the polished end-grain blocks using dark ink. Finally, he made incisions in the block using a tool called a ‘graver’, supporting the block on a sandbag whilst he worked. The wood blocks were often used to create chapbooks; pamphlets containing ballads, tales or tracts in addition to images. An example is Crawhall’s Chapbook Chaplets, produced in 1883. Although the printing was in black and white, Crawhall added colour by hand to make the final touches.
Aside from engravings, Crawhall also produced a substantial amount of watercolour paintings. These very often had a strong regional identity, reflecting different aspects of Tyneside life, and are accompanied by witty captions. His sense of humour was one of the reasons he was so beloved by his children, friends and business associates. Through his work, he came to develop friendships with some notable people of the 19th century publishing world. Andrew Tuer, a publisher and co-founder of the Leadenhall Press, purchased much of Crawhall’s work. Although they met in a professional environment, the two men became good friends, and would provide help and guidance for each other’s publishing ventures. Another such friendship developed between Crawhall and Charles Keene, a leading cartoonist for the magazine Punch. Keene was impressed by his satirical images, some of which formed the basis for illustrations in Punch.
Not only contributing to the cultural heritage of Newcastle through his own artwork, Crawhall also promoted the arts through his role as a Secretary for the Arts Association of Newcastle upon Tyne and through his continuing efforts to preserve local architecture.