Sophia Caldecott was born on the 6 February 1848 at Crook Street, Chester to John Caldecott and Mary Dinah Brookes. She was their eldest daughter and younger sister to John George and Randolph, who was to become the famous and much heralded artist and children’s illustrator. John and Mary did also have another son William Brookes who tragically died aged 2 from convulsions before Sophia was born.
John Caldecott was, at this point working as a retail hatter, but was later to become an influential accountant, insurance and estate agent. John and Mary went on to have three more children Elizabeth, Alfred and Harold.
Sadly, on the 21st August 1852, Sophia’s mother, Mary Dinah Brookes passed away, aged just 31. Sophia was just 4 years old when she lost her mother.
John remarried two years later on 7th December 1854 to Maria Guest and went on to have six more children – Josiah Guest, Maria, twins Clement Guest and Florence Guest, Constance Guest and Amelia Guest.
In the 1871 Census Sophia appears as a governess at a Ladies School in Moston, Manchester. It is unclear whether Sophia initially attended the school as a pupil before becoming a governess, but there was a link between the principal of the school, Mary Everard Ford and Sophia’s future husband.
Also, interestingly, the home Sophia and her husband lived in for most of their married life, a different home to that of his first marriage, was named after the parish in which the ladies school she was governess at under Mary Everard Ford – “Harpurhey.”
Sophia married John Lilley Anthony, a pharmaceutical chemist and dentist on 7 August 1877 at Bowden Downs Congregational Church, Altrincham, Cheshire.
John Lilley’s first wife was Emmiline Sarah Ford, sister of Mary Everard Ford the principal of the Ladies School Sophia was governess at. One of their sons was named Everard, continuing the family name. She died in 1875 after nearly ten years of marriage. They had three children – Constance Ethel Anthony, Everard Percival Anthony and Emmiline Ford Anthony.
John and Sophia went on to have two sons – John Randolph, born in 1879 and Gerald Caldecott, born in 1883.
John Randolph Caldecott became a successful solicitor. He fought in WW1 in the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry Regiment. He married Sarah L. Brookes in 1913 in Bucklow, Cheshire. He had a keen interest in the Boy Scout Movement and died in 1948.
Gerald Caldecott Anthony was an auctioneer. He married Dorothy Gladys Smith in Ledbury in 1907. Sadly, he was killed in action in the Battle of the Somme on 16 September 1916. His name is on the WWI memorial plaque held in St Peter’s Church, Bedford.
Sophia and John were married for about forty-five years and lived their whole married life together in the family home “Harpurhey,” at 24 Kimbolton Road, Bedford.
John Lilley Anthony died in 1922, aged 84. Sophia died on 23 April 1929, aged 81. Her funeral was held at Bunyan Meeting Church, Bedford and tribute was paid to her longstanding associations with the church.
Members of Sophia’s family eventually sold The Randolph Caldecott Collection to Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum in the late 1970s. All periods of the work Randolph Caldecott are represented, including some rare items and works by other members of the Caldecott family.