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.