Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) was an artist and illustrator of children’s books, novels, and made humorous drawings and cartoons. He also painted in oil and watercolours. Caldecott and his wife, Marion Brind, whom he married in 1880, took out a 21 year lease in June 1882 on 24, Holland Street, near Kensington High Street. In the summer of 1882 they found a country house, called Broomfield, near Frensham, in Surrey, and moved in the autumn. In one of Caldecott’s letters sent from The Bush Inn at Farnham on the 11th October 1882, he writes that the current owner, a retired Army Captain, George J Bogle, had only just left, although two servants were still at the house, and cows and dogs were due to go in the next few days followed by the other animals. His own horses were 1½ miles away at an inn. Caldecott wrote that the house was dirty and they could not put their furniture and things in order.
Caldecott’s letters were published in Michael Hutchins, Yours Pictorially, Illustrated Letters of Randolph Caldecott (1976). There are over 250 letters of which 64 are letters sent while he was at Broomfield. In November 1882 he wrote that that they knew a few people and had been over to lunch with James Clarke Hook (1819-1907), the painter who lived at Churt. In December he wrote, ‘I am about to write to decline Jane Austen’s works (private!) - and this I do with sorrow.’ The majority of his letters from Broomfield were to Juliana Horatio Ewing (1841-1885), one of a family of writers for the young and with whom he collaborated on three of her books. The letters give information on his work as an illustrator, and hers as the author, and how together they produced the books. There are also letters to Horatio Gatty (1846-1945) the editor of Aunt Judy’s Magazine and Mrs Ewing’s sister.
He wrote to Edmund Evans, a colour printer and engraver, who lived at Witley, and with whom he produced his two toy books each Christmas from 1878-1885. In March 1883 Evans engraved and printed, A Sketch Book, by Caldecott. In 1883 Caldecott published his second toy book, The Fox Jumps over The Parson’s Gate. The sketches in this book show the porch at Frensham Church and the church wall, along with a sketch of Broomfields. Caldecott frequently stayed at Evans's house, Leybourne, Combe Lane, Wormley.
The Randolph Caldecott Society on their web site show an original oil painting by Caldecott which today is still hung in Beatrix Potter’s house in Hill Top, near Sawrey in the Lake District. At present it is hanging with the side showing a picture of cows. The other side is unfinished and shows a redbrick house with a foreground of untidy flowers. The curator at Hill Top has a note that it is ‘Caldecott’s garden in Surrey’. It shows the coach house in Frensham, built of Bargate stone. The Victoria and Albert Museum held an exhibition in 2003 on ‘Copying Caldecott’ showing the drawings made by both Beatrix Potter and Caldecott.
In 1886 Caldecott went to Florida on holiday but died at St Augustine just before his fortieth birthday. There is a memorial to Caldecott in St Paul’s Cathedral.