There is much information written about the life and works of Randolph Caldecott and rightly deserved as tribute to the life of this highly accomplished artist. As this website is based around my One-Name Study which is largely based on genealogical research, I will base this mini-biography of Randolph Caldecott mainly on the information which can be obtained from the records used in genealogy. If you would like to find out more about the life and works of Randolph Caldecott I have added some excellent links at the bottom of this article.
Randolph Caldecott was born on 22 March 1846 to John Caldecott and Mary Dinah Brookes. He was born in the family home in Bridge Street Row, Chester.
Randolph had two elder brothers, John George Caldecott, who was nearly three years old and William Brookes Caldecott, who was just over one. Sadly, William Brookes was to die just a few months later, in August that same year from convulsions. He was buried on 31 August 1846 at Tilston, Cheshire.
John and Mary went on to have four more children – Sophia, Elizabeth, Alfred and Harold.
However, on the 21 August 1852, Randolph’s mother, Mary Dinah Brookes passed away, aged just 31. Randolph was just 6 years old when he lost his mother.
John remarried two years later on 7th December 1854 to Maria Guest and together they six children – Josiah Guest, Maria, twins Clement Guest and Florence Guest, Constance Guest and Amelia Guest.
John began working as a retail hatter which is the trade he declared on the 1851 Census. The family had moved to Crook Street, Great Boughton a parish of Chester. But his occupation evolved and developed over the decades. By the 1861 Census he had grown and expanded his trade in the hat business to include all types of clothing and also expanded into finance and insurance.
By 1871 the Census listed John as and accountant and estate agent. Four years later upon his death in 1875, the death announcement in the local press described him as accountant and auditor. He was also one of the founders of the Institute of Accountants in England.
Clearly, an ambitious business man John encouraged his son, Randolph is getting a good education and a steady, reputable job. Randolph and his brothers were educated in King Henry VIII’s School, Chester where they all served successively as head boys. His father seemed to discourage his early artistic skills and Randolph embarked on a career in banking.
At the age of just 14, the 1861 Census reveals that he was living as a boarder with William Brown, a farmer, and his family in Wirswall, near Whitchurch in Cheshire and that he was working as a bank clerk.
It is said that whilst living in this more rural setting the pursuit of his artistic passions grew and flourished as he was inspired by country life, nature and animals being subjects of a great deal of his work.
By 1871 Randolph was still working as a bank clerk and is listed as a visitor to William Lomas, a calico printer, and his family in Rusholme, Lancashire. However, it was around this time that he visited London having made a personal decision to turn towards art as his vocation. It seems that ambition had been passed down from father to son, but banking was not going to satisfy the talented, creative young man.
Randolph married in 1880 to Marian Harriet Brind, daughter of Frederick William Brind, successful wine merchant and Julia Mary McRae.
The couple never had children and tragically after just a few short years of marriage and pursuing a impressively successful artistic career in London, Randolph succumbed to ongoing problems from rheumatic fever and sadly died, aged just 39. Randolph passed away on 12 February 1886 in St Augustine, Florida, where he had travelled to create some sketches of American life and manners for the “Graphic” and, possibly, to escape the English winter due to his poor health.
Randolph was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, St Augustine, Florida, but an inscription was also added to the family grave at Overleigh Cemetery, Chester.
The Caldecott Medal was commissioned in 1938 and was named in his honour. It is awarded annually by the Association to British Library Service to Children, American Library Association to the “most distinguished” American picture book published in the preceding year.
Marian, Randolph’s widow did not remarry and died forty-six years later on 12 June 1932. She left the majority of her estate to Randolph’s younger brother, Alfred Caldecott, half-brother Clement Guest Caldecott and his nephew John Randolph Anthony, solicitor and son of sister, Sophia Caldecott and John Lilley Anthony.
For further information about the life and works of Randolph Caldecott see –