May Bettany

Benfleet in black and white

May Bettany drew a Benfleet I never knew, yet her black and white prints of a bygone age inspired my interest in Benfleet’s history.  Many of the buildings she recorded are now gone, but because of artists and photographers like her, they are not forgotten. See “May Bettany – Benfleet in Colour” for further pictures.

Married to George Kernahan Bettany, the novelist.

Reproduced on this website by kind permission of G.A. Bettany

May Bettany was born in 1888 and at quite an early age developed a great interest in art.  A place at art college and a career in commercial art beckoned, but for various reasons it was not to be.  Undaunted she became a self-taught artist, though later in life she did receive some tuition in  anatomy .

May married George Bettany in 1923 and after living in London for a short time , they moved to Winter Gardens on Canvey Island  and then to Dyke Crescent on the housing estate near  Canvey Village. During that time she and her husband produced a monthly “family magazine” for their three children. Two  pages from one such magazine are reproduced in this article. Typically the stories featured the three children.

In 1938 the family moved to 88 St Mary’s Drive, South Benfleet. During her stay there May produced a considerable volume of artwork , comprising pencil and pen and ink sketches and drawings, watercolours of flowers and landscapes  and some paintings in oils as well.  These were often exhibited in London galleries and the local Beecroft Gallery.

When George died in 1949 and after the children left home, she teamed up with Mrs Langridge to start art classes at Number 88, which by all accounts were popular, well attended and continued for many years. In her 80s she moved to sheltered accommodation in Rushbottom Lane and died in 1978, aged 90 following a fall when a hip joint was broken.

Based on information provided by her son G. A. Bettany.

courtesy of Angus Bettany
Cottage in the Endway
May Bettany
Old cottages in the Endway
May Bettany
Creekside Benfleet
May Bettany
Church Creek
May Bettany
The Passing of Church Creek
May Bettany
Hoy and helmet
May Bettany
Cottages beside Church Creek
May Bettany
Knightleys
May Bettany
The Village Shop
May Bettany
The Backs in Benfleet
May Bettany
The Old Manor House
May Bettany
The Old Manor House
May Bettany
The Old Manor House
May Bettany
The Old Manor House
May Bettany
Boating in the creek
Church Creek
A sample page from a "family magazine " produced by George and May Bettany
Sample page from the "family magazine" produced by George and May Bettany

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  • I was brought up at 84 St. Mary’s next door and often heard my mum and dad talk about Ms Bettany next door,we lived there from 1963 and only recently my mother moved out to go to a care home and house now gone with 2 new ones as is what happened to number 88 many years before. Never realised I had 2 artists next door however I was only age 5 in 1970.

    By COLIN CURTIS (01/07/2016)
  • I found your most interesting page after reading a book, “Murder at Benfleet”, which was written by May’s husband – George Bettany.

    By Rosemary de Boise (12/06/2011)

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