Tenby artist Eric Bradforth

The life and work of Tenby artist, Eric Bradforth, who passed away on November 1, 2012, were recently commemorated on a plaque on his former house in Trafalgar Road.

Eric and his family were originally from Sheffield, but moved to Pembrokeshire when Eric took the job of head of art at the Royal Artillery Drawing Office when it moved to Manorbier.

Here Eric met and worked with fellow artist John Uzzel Edwards, and the two men and their families became lifelong friends.

Eric designed and made an artificial jungle to simulate conditions that the soldiers would encounter when fighting in tropical conditions like in the jungles of Malaysia. He could work on very large scale works for military tattoos or small diagrams for technical handbooks. He worked in a variety of media: ink, acrylic and 3d models, as well as metal work. Eric seemed to relish the challenge of a new project and his work was unique and inspirational.

Eric took an interest in his local community and became involved with several projects for the Tenby Museum and the town.

Tenby in 1586

Eric was involved with the very detailed and demanding work translating the manuscript of the survey of Tenby in 1568 during the reign of Elizabeth I, firstly into a detailed model of the town (he felt that this would show the detail and lighting), then into an historically accurate painting of the town at that time. The painting is in Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, while prints of it were very popular in the town and still hang in many Tenby homes.

Tenby in 1586: This picture, by Eric Bradforth, shows a strongly defended medieval town, dominated by St. Mary’s Church. The quay on the north side (with the Seamen’s Chapel of St. Julian at its end) was already 250 years old, curving round to a narrow entrance made even more so by a barricade of stones projecting from under the cliff. In the harbour is a Portugese Caravel unloading imports. St. Catherine’s Chapel is seen atop the island. The North Gate and single arched West Gate (now the ‘Five Arches’), are the only means of ingress on the landward side. Outside the walls are a Pound or Pinfold (Paxton Court), the Gallows and , outside the West Gate, rubbish pits. There are many other details to be spotted including the College (by St. Mary’s Church), the Wool Cross, Curfew Bell, Mayor White’s House and the Pottery.
Tenby in 1586: This picture, by Eric Bradforth, shows a strongly defended medieval town, dominated by St. Mary’s Church. The quay on the north side (with the Seamen’s Chapel of St. Julian at its end) was already 250 years old, curving round to a narrow entrance made even more so by a barricade of stones projecting from under the cliff. In the harbour is a Portugese Caravel unloading imports. St. Catherine’s Chapel is seen atop the island. The North Gate and single arched West Gate (now the ‘Five Arches’), are the only means of ingress on the landward side.
Outside the walls are a Pound or Pinfold (Paxton Court), the Gallows and , outside the West Gate, rubbish pits.
There are many other details to be spotted including the College (by St. Mary’s Church), the Wool Cross, Curfew Bell, Mayor White’s House and the Pottery.

Eric also made a detailed scale model of Pembroke Castle which formed part of the Castle exhibition.

The mural in Tenby Market

There was a national competition to design a mural for the Tenby outer wall. Not intending it as a serious entry, Eric submitted a painting of Tenby which impressed members of the then District Council, who commissioned Eric to paint a large scale work for Tenby Market.

The painting, which again displays tremendous attention to historic detail mixed with some gentle humour, depicts many of the key characters and events in Tenby’s history. These include the swimming of cattle from Caldey, Harry Truman’s Welsh rugby cap, Augustus John, the Royal Victoria Pier and even the Tenby Observer. There is a key to the painting in the museum.

Mural by Eric Bradforth, as seen in Tenby Market Hall.
Mural by Eric Bradforth, as seen in Tenby Market Hall.

Tenby Museum and Art Gallery

Apart from Eric’s valuable contribution to the exhibitions and displays at Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, Eric had an exhibition of his work. In the art gallery, his imaginative painting The Mayor’s Slip shows Tenby reflected in a pool of water in the harbour at low tide.

Cast to last

Eric also worked on the designs for the Tenby War Memorial gates which were originally erected by the School of Artillery upon its closure in 1970. The gates feature the badges of the regiments connected to Tenby. When it became necessary to renew the gates in 2014, restoring the badges seemed impossible, until it was discovered that the artist, by now two years deceased, had kept the original test castings. The Bradforth family kindly made them available to MB Fine Arts, of Clynderwen, who were able to take new moulds off the first castings with which to make new badges.

Town Walls

Tenby was the founder member of the Walled Towns Friendship Circle which aimed to promote exchanges between walled towns across Europe and the world to promote friendship and cultural exchanges. In 2000, Eric was called upon by the Friendship Circle committee to produce a poster and souvenir picture to celebrate the Walled Towns’ symposium which was held in Tenby that year. He designed Tenby’s logo.

Eric was also involved in illustrating a guide book for children and their families to enable them to ‘Explore Tenby’s Walls’. Eric did not believe in dumbing down and this book is a challenging but attractive history lesson on Tenby’s town walls as well as a souvenir.

Creative cards

Those who were lucky enough to receive a Christmas card from Eric and his wife, Joan, were in for a treat. He would choose some view of Tenby and give it his interpretation, either in ink or colour, with unmistakeable style. Tenby was indeed fortunate that Eric and Joan made Tenby their home and contributed to the town’s historic and artistic life.

Our thanks to Val Coates-Rees, Tenby Museum and the Bradforth family for the story and illustrations on this page.