William Radclyffe

Born 1783
Died 1855
Place of Birth Birmingham
Place of Death Birmingham
Gender Male
Biographical Notes Radclyffe, William (1783–1855), engraver, was born on 20 October 1783 at Birmingham, and was self-educated. Nothing is known of his parents, but he was a relative of John Pye (1782–1874), and both were apprenticed to W. Tolley, a writing engraver, of 17 New Meeting Street, Birmingham. They also attended drawing classes under J. V. Barber (1788–1838). At the end of their indentures in 1801 Radclyffe and Pye decided to try their fortunes in London, where Pye's brother was already working. However, Radclyffe's resources ran out, and he returned from Stratford upon Avon, leaving Pye to go on alone. On 30 October 1804 Radclyffe married Elizabeth Hemming at Aston Juxta, Cheshire. He was probably the William Radcliffe, engraver, at Gough Street, Birmingham, in 1810, but William Radclyffe was an engraver and copperplate printer by 1814 at 21 Edmund Street, and in 1817 he had taken in Thomas Radclyffe (possibly a younger brother, whose major work was engraving forty-seven plates for William West's Picturesque Views … in Staffordshire and Shropshire, 1830–31). During this period J. T. Willmore and S. Fisher were taken on as pupils, and Joseph Goodyear, Thomas Jeavons, and Thomas Garner were his assistants. Among Radclyffe's earliest important engravings was a portrait of Bishop Milner after Barber, followed by a portrait of Lord Nelson in 1805. Both demonstrated his technical abilities. He engraved some plates for Oliver Goldsmith's Animated Nature (1813), thus attracting the attention of Charles Heath, which later resulted in commissions for London publications. Six plates after J. Roe were done for A Historical … Account of … Warwickshire (1815), and for John Britton's History … of … the Cathedral Church of Norwich (1816) he engraved Plate 2 after Frederick Mackenzie. Four plates of Kenilworth Castle were exhibited at W. B. Cooke's exhibition of engravings in London in 1821. Radclyffe used steel-engraving from about 1823, notably for thirty-two plates for A. Blair's Graphic Illustrations of Warwickshire (1823–9), after Barber, David Cox, William Westall, and Peter DeWint. This was followed by fifty plates for Jones' Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen (1829–31), all after J. P. Neale. About 1825 Radclyffe expanded the printing and engraving business and moved his residence to George Street, Edgbaston, leaving the joint business at 18 Edmund Street and 34 New Street, Birmingham. His reputation as a landscape engraver was enhanced by the ninety-seven plates done for Thomas Roscoe's Wanderings and Excursions in North Wales and … South Wales (1836), for which David Cox the elder was originally intended to provide all the drawings, since Radclyffe was almost alone in appreciating his talent. Wrightson and Webb the publishers, however, insisted that about half the total should be done by George Cattermole, Thomas Creswick, Copley Fielding, J. D. Harding, and others. He had worked earlier for Roscoe in his Tourist series (1832–3), with four plates after Harding. He engraved four plates after J. M. W. Turner for Turner's Annual Tours (1833–6), and George Virtue employed him from 1836 to 1840 for landscape plates in some of his works. From 1840 to 1855 he provided a series of plates for the Oxford Almanack, and in 1842–3 he engraved five plates for London Interiors; he may have done six more signed only ‘Radclyffe’. His plates were usually signed ‘W. Radclyffe’, ‘W. Radcliffe’ or ‘W. Radcliff’. Prayer in the Desert, after W. Muller, and Crossing the Sands, after William Collins, appeared in the Art Union in 1847–8. Radclyffe did much to encourage the group of engravers emanating from and working in Birmingham and from 1814 took an active part in the promotion of the local artistic community, by whom he was much respected, culminating in 1842, when what is now the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists was formed. He was affectionately regarded by his many friends and pupils. His great skill in landscape engraving was well known nationally and enhanced the reputation of those associated with him. He died in Birmingham on 29 December 1855. (ODNB, B. Hunnisett)