Charles William Wyllie

Landscape and marine painter

Charles William Wyllie, 1853 – 1923, was a landscape and marine painter and illustrator from a family of gifted artists. Like his older brother, W. L. Wyllie, he was fond of painting life on the Thames.

In an article on Canvey Island for The Graphic in 1893 he describes Benfleet thus : “The island is reached from the mainland by a ford near Benfleet, a picturesque old town in which there is a church famous for its carved porch. When the tide is up the creek is crossed by a ferry boat , but at low tide  it is necessary to wade through the mud to the other side , unless a cart opportunely appears as a deux exmachina.” 

Benfleet Creek
Charles William Wyllie
Benfleet on the Thames c. 1900 courtesy of the Essex Record Office
Charles William Wyllie

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  • Thank you, Nick, and I apologise for not replying sooner, but I have only just read your message. Your wife is related to me, albeit rather distantly. Are you interested in exchanging notes?

    By Anne Burgess (08/07/2017)
  • Charles W Wyllie is my wife’s great grandfather and I am researching her family and can shed light on him, but not unfortunately on Charlotte Major.

    CWW married Marian Alberta Herbert Noyes 26/10/1882. I have a copy entry and it links with the painting family in that his age 29 agrees with a 1853 birth, his occupation is artist and painter, his father is shown as William Morrison, Artist, and the marriage is witnessed by M A Wyllie who I take to be WL Wyllie’s wife, Marian Amy, who had married in 1879.

    Charles and Marian Alberta produced a son Colin Charles in 1884 and a further son Fergus in 1894 and there are census entries which tie the four together, Charles and Colin together but no Marian 1901, Colin alone 1911, Colin Fergus and Marian guests elsewhere 1911. Also Marian witnessed Colin’s marriage to Dorothea Ash in 1906.

    I think it beyond doubt that there is only one painter, Charles W Wyllie, but unless the Charlotte Major story is entirely bogus, which seems unlikely, there appears to be a period during the 1880s/1890s when they were regarded, at least in artistic circles, as an “item”.

    This may not be as surprising as supposed. The  histories of the Wyllies of these generations show that they seem to have had a much more elastic view of marital and sexual relations than was usual in the Victorian era and the description “Bohemian Artist” might have been invented for them.

    I have however no idea where the painter Charlotte Major/Wyllie came from or ended up.

    I hope this helps your researches

    Nick Godden

    By Nick Godden (30/06/2016)
  • Further to the foregoing.  In the 1881 census there is a household at 3 Earls Terrace, Kensington, consisting of Charles J Wyllie, 58, underwriter at Lloyds, born London, and Charlotte E Wyllie, artist painter, 52, born Kingsland, Middlesex. 

    The 1851 census has at 9 Abbey Road, Marylebone, a household including Charles J Major, 52, commercial agent, with wife Hester, 44 and daughter Charlotte, 23, all born in London. So Charlotte Major, wife of Charles John Wyllie, must have been born around 1827. If it is she whom Tadema painted, she would have been well into her 60s, and the portrait looks like a much younger woman. 

    It seems too much of a coincidence, surely, that Charles John Wyllie AND Charles William Wyllie should both have married women named Charlotte Major who were artists in their own right and whose parents were Charles and (H)ester? More confused than ever!

    By Anne Burgess (14/09/2011)
  • I would also be interested to know whom Charles William Wyllie married.  From the marriage indexes at freebmd.com and http://www.familysearch.org it would appear that Charles John Wyllie married Charlotte Major in Brighton on 24 November 1863. This cannot be Charles William Wyllie, because he was only ten years old in 1863.

    FreeBMD lists a marriage of Charles Willie Wyllie in London in 1882 to either Marian Alberta H Noyes or Frances Margaret Walford, and a marriage of Charles William Wyllie to Sophia Burton or Kathleen Cheeseman in 1900. 

    There is a household in 1901 consisting of Charles Wyllie, 23, carman, wife Kathleen, 22 and daughter Nelly, 3 months, which seems to rule out the 1900 marriage.

    According to the index there are three Wyllies in the 1911 census in St Marylebone: William Lionel, 59; Charles Willen, 58; and Marian Lucy, 50.   Harold, 30; Eva, 28, Eric Ian, 10 and Aileen, 7, are in Portsmouth. So if Charles William was married, where was his wife in 1911? I think I am just as confused as you are!

    By Anne Burgess (13/09/2011)
  • Have you any information on whom Charles William Wyllie (I love his sketches) was married, please? According to websites on the artist Laurence Alma Tadema, who painted a portrait of Charlotte Major Wyllie, she was the wife of Charles William Wyllie.

    I am a member of Herne & Broomfield Local History Group and am researching Charlotte Major Wylie(sic) who was the daughter of Charles & Ester Major of Herne, near Canterbury. She was an artist and great friend of George Frederick Watts and artists of The Holland Park Circle, and her career fits all known facts of the Charlotte Major Wyllie wife of Charles Wyllie the artist. 

    There is also a link with a subject in a painting by Tadema.  Charlotte Major Wylie, was one of 3 daughters of the Herne family, but never lived in Herne as her father retired there after she had married Charles James Wylie, a London stockbroker. For some unknown reason she painted under the name Charlotte Major Wyllie. 

    Her husband died in 1900, some years before Charles William Wyllie, and is buried in Herne churchyard. Her brother-in-law was Matthew White Ridley, well-known in his day as an artist. I would be very grateful for any info you have to sort out this confusion. Regards, Valerie Martin

    By Valerie Martin (04/08/2011)

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