Hand-painted Postcards by
Edward Onslow Cole

(alias A. Hog)

Hand-painted postcards have never been one of my collecting themes, but when I saw this small collection at an auction I couldn't resist them. They are beautiful paintings, very professionaly done. Then I read the three cards which had been sent through the post and knew there was a story to find.

The postcards are buff coloured with printing on the backs in green.


This is the first card from St. Luke's Hospital dated June 12th 1904 and postmarked London E.C. one day later. It was addressed to W.H.Cole, Esq., of 8 Beech House Road, Croydon, Surrey and reads as follows:- "Thank you for your letter. I can quite understand that there are many difficulties in the way of my removal to the country as suggested but I have the heartiest desire to leave here and get to as quiet a place as possible. If possible to get a job. When you call I shall be prepared to leave and if you can arrange with the Dr. I can find a suitable place in the country for a day or two, when I hope to get a job, to keep myself on because I am utterly sick of all I know and I want to get away from everybody. At the same time I don't want to learn much more until I am on my own hands again. If you are in difficulties on my account and would prefer to do it by correspondence I believe one of the two Drs would not mind settling up with you or if my own account has not gone perhaps that you be able to settle everything. I shall be able to get a further arrangement after I either hear or see you. Perhaps I could get a day off and find a job before actually leaving but I want to go badly. With love to all from your affectionate son A.Hog."   The black and white pen and ink drawing may be a view in his imagination or somewhere he has visited. Do you recognise the place?


This card from St. Luke's Hospital is dated June 27th 1904, just a few days later, and was sent to Mrs. Cole in Croydon. It reads: "Thank you and Father very much for your presents to me. I am sorry for not answering your cards and letter before. My reason for suggesting Lested Lodge was because I thought they could give me work quietly away from nearly everybody but I would rather if you find Father and Uncle can arrange matters go away from this place soon to some quiet work and after a bit leave for Canada altogether. At any rate I have been much better this last week through a combination of circumstances which resulted from my keeping the rules of your Communion Book rather more carefully than I have been able to do hitherto at this place, but I am afraid of a seq. I do not really require any more luxuries but I shall be glad to hear that my bill has been paid with my own money and that I am permitted to get a job again and earn my own living. Please thank W. for the paint book etc. as I believe it is one she has been using. If it is inconvenient to you that I should go kindly say so and then I shall be able to rule my life better. With love to all from your affectionate son Edward O. Cole, alias A. Hog. P.S I know a good deal now and am not afraid to face what I have previously shunned but at the same time I have a wish to be good. A.H."      This letter fills the postcard and leaves no room for a painting.

colef.jpg This card from St. Luke's Hospital is dated Nov.13.05, addressed to W.H.Cole, Esq., written seventeen months after the previous card, with only a short message. His pleas to leave have obviously not been answered. It reads as follows:

"Sunday at Home. 1897. 2. The
Autumn of Life p.776. St. Luke's
Hospital Nov.13.1905. With love.
From yr. affate son E.O. Cole.
Thank you for your p.c. of Nov 5th 1905"


This is my favourite - a lovely kingfisher.


The Art Journal, 1894.
Birmingham Brass Work, 313


Just a tiny painting
this time.

colee.jpg A ship sailing over tranquil water. Bottom left is a tiny head of a hog (his alias of A.Hog), the only postcard with this signature.

Below are a few words written in Pitman's shorthand -

"Oh silence ....., made tender On dim mysterious light."

I can't make out the third word - can you?

colei.jpg Fifth Sunday after Trinity

And Simon answering, said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes; and their net brake. St. Luke V.5,6.

"The live long night we've toil'd in vain,
"But at Thy gracious word
"I will let down the net again: -
"Do Thou Thy will, O Lord!"

So spake the weary fisher, spent
With bootless darkling toil,
Yet on his Master's bidding bent
For love and not for spoil

So day by day and week by week,
In sad and weary thought,
They muse, whom God hath set to seek
The souls this Christ hath bought.

For not upon a tranquil lake
Our pleasant task we ply,
Where all along our glistening wake
The softest moonbeams lie;

Was Edward Cole a poet too as well as an artist? The poem ends with a semi-colon, so is the rest on another postcard? The little pictures which are in a different style don't seem to fit in with the poem.

colej.jpg For not:- -: moonbeams lie:

Where rippling wave and dashing oar
Our midnight chant attend,
Or whispering palm-leaves from the shore
With midnight silence blend.

Sweet thoughts of peace, ye may not last.
Too soon some ruder sound
Calls us from where ye soar so fast
Back to our earthly round.

For wildest storms our ocean sweep:-
No anchor but the Cross
Might hold: and oft the thankless deep
Turns all our toil to loss.

Full many a dreary anxious hour
We watch our nets alone
In drenching spray, and driving shower,
And hear the night-bird's moan.

At morn we look and nought is there
Sad dawn of cheerless day!
Who then from pining and despair
The sickening heart can stay?

This card also has words in pencil along the right-hand edge - "Two months hence I shall hear somewhat from a person which shall change my opinions."


A coloured card with another view of water.

These last seven cards could have been done between the dates mentioned above, earlier, or later. How could any family descendants want to get rid of them?

I started to think about this young man in a hospital wanting to get home or at least out of hospital in order to keep himself. At first I thought it must be a mental hospital. But why was he there? He had obviously had a good education. His use of quotes and apostrophes was meticulous. He knew shorthand. Maybe he fought in the Boer War and was suffering from shell shock or some injury that upset his mind? Or had he been a prisoner of war? However, I am now thinking along the lines that maybe he suffered from manic depression or schizophrenia, both of which could start at any time of life.

These thoughts all proved to be wrong as you read further on..

I couldn't find a St. Luke's Hospital in the City of London on a current map, nor a St. Luke's Road. All the postmarks were London E.C. so maybe it was in that square mile between St. Paul's and Moorgate that was flattened in World War II.

I took these cards to my husband's stamp club where each year I show them some of my collections. One gentleman looked up St. Luke's Hospital in an old Harmsworth Encyclopaedia and found the following entry:

"St. Luke's Church, London Parish, in the metropolitan borough of Finsbury. It was formed in 1732 from the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate. .......... St. Luke's gives its name to a hospital for the insane, a charity founded 1751 in Moorfields. Its present buildings, in Old Street, were erected 1782-4. The hospital was greatly added to later, and a chapel was built in 1842. New buildings were in process of construction in 1922 at Gerrards Cross, Bucks."

So my suspicions that St. Luke's Hospital was a mental hospital were correct. The church was no more than a shell in 2002, the roof was taken off in 1959 as the building had become unsafe, and is now a Grade I Listed Building due for reconstruction.

st.l.a.jpg st.l.cjh.b.jpg st.l.ch.c.jpg

St. Luke's Church, Old Street, London

We visited the site recently. It has been rebuilt with lottery money for the use of the London Symphony Orchestra. The only remaining work to be finished is in the garden area outside. st.l.ch.d.jpg

I started to search on the internet and then, little by little, I found out more about the hospital. It was opened in 1751. The founder of the Scout Movement, Lord Robert Baden had antecedents who were involved in the managment of hospitals, and David Powell was a founder member of St. Luke's. The site was sold to the Bank of England in 1917. The remaining patients were either discharged to their homes or transferred to other institutions. Was Edward still there, and if so which group was he in? The Local Studies Librarian of Buckinghamshire Library has looked up all their records and found nothing to confirm that a hospital was built at Gerrards Cross at that time! A new hospital was opened - St. Luke's-Woodside - at Muswell Hill, London in 1930.


Painting by John B. Papworth of St. Luke's Hospital, Old Street, London, E.C.
Image provided from the motco.com database, with permission.

Next I tried the 1901 census. Edward was not listed as one of the patients at St. Luke's Hospital in 1901 where the inmates were described as lunatic - a harsh word for my young man, nor was he living at home with his parents. Edward's father, aged 63, had worked in India. His wife was 22 years younger than him, so propably Edward was born in an earlier marriage. (Wrong again!) The two eldest children (20 years and 19 years) were born in India and are named after their father and mother, which to my mind, confirms a new marriage. The next two children were born in Brighton, Sussex, and one more in Beccles, Suffolk, possibly after William retired. Probably Edward was born in India, and maybe his mother died while he was still young enough to call his stepmother "mother". Also in the house was a friend of the eldest son, and two domestic servants - confirming that the family was well-to-do.

This is a photograph of the house
where the family lived
at 8 Beech House Road, Croydon.
It is now divided into three flats.

St. Luke's Hospital was a bit of a mystery between its closing and the new hospital, St. Luke's-Woodside, being opened. So I wrote to the hospital. They recently celebrated the 250th anniversary of St. Luke's Hospital and produced a leaflet. "The Governors wanted a second building in the country which could be used for convalescent patients. In 1893 Nether Hall, near Ramsgate, was taken over for the benefit of female patients. Later, in 1910, the Hospital made another purchase when it acquired the Welders Estate near Jordans in Buckinghamshire; the intention was to build a substantial convalescent home here but the project was never brought to completion." - the Buckinghamshire connection mentioned in the encyclopaedia! "In 1922 an outpatients department was initiated at the Middlesex Hospital and in the following year provision was made there for six beds."

Could they help me to find out more about Edward? They certainly did! Edward Onslow Cole was admitted to St. Luke's Hospital on 2nd January 1904. He was a Civil Engineer, aged 23, and lived at 8 Beech House Road, Croydon. He was brought by his father, suffering from melancholia (depression) caused by overwork. He was in poor health and thinly nourished. This attack had lasted 3 months and it was his first. In spite of the fact that St. Luke's considered itself to be in the forefront of treatment for mental health Edward stayed there a long time. On 2nd September 1915 he was sent to Claybury Hall.

Claybury Hall was a hospital in Essex. It closed in 1997 and new homes have been built on the site. All records are kept in an Essex library. When I phoned they didn't want to give me any information about Edward because of the "100-year rule". All I would like to know is when he left Claybury Hall and if it was on his death, where he is buried.

At the end of January we went to the Family Records Centre to find where Edward was born. No luck. So the following day we went to the British Library where they hold records of people who lived in India. Apparently in India it was not compulsory to register a birth. If you lived near a Consulate you might register a birth there. Or just wait until the baby was baptised. In the ledger are recorded date of baptism, child's name, sex, parents' names. So Edward Onslow Cole was baptised on 28th October 1880. The strangest wording of all (to my mind) is "Said to be Born" on 22nd September 1880.

So where was Edward on the day of the 1901 census? I now know he was the third child in the family and there were three others younger than him. I was told at the FRC it could be his family just didn't register him as being there if they were suspicious that he had a mental illness. Or he could simply have been travelling from one place to another on the day of the census. I tried to find a Lested Lodge as in one of his letters he wishes to go there. I found a house with that name in Kent with a Reverend as the head of the family, three small children, two servants and a governess. I thought it was the sort of family his parents could have been friendly with, but hardly creating a quiet atmosphere for someone with a mental illness!

At the end of February we visited the Family Records Centre again to try and find a date of death for Edward. We thought we had succeeded but the certificate was not for the right Edward! I am continuing my search for more information. I will let you know as I discover anything, but more importantly, I wanted you to see these lovely postcards.

17th January 2003

Updates follow:

Since February we have been to Brighton and seen where Edward lived - a large terrace house with basement. The family were not there at the 1891 census, but arrived later in the year and a fourth child was born in December.

More recently we have been again to the FRO and found that Edward Onslow Cole died in Brighton in August 1960, just a few weeks before his 80th birthday. On the certificate he is shown as Civil Engineer (retired) and the most exciting thing to me was that the death was recorded by his wife Dorothy. So having been at St. Luke's for 11 1/2 years and transferred to Claybury he didn't spend the rest of his life there.

Edward was married to Dorothy Cole on 29th December 1928 in Sutton, Norfolk, by her father Rev. Albert Phelps.

The 1901 census shows Dorothy's family were living in Longford, Gloucestershire. She was three years old at that time with 1 older and 1 younger sister. The girls were all born in China. Possibly their father was a missionary there. There was also a mother's help living with them.

I hope to visit Edward's grave when the weather improves and will let you know more as I find it.

Last Sunday, 7th December, a sunny but cold day! we drove to Brighton. We saw the house where he lived his last years - a small two-storey terrace house. Then we visited the cemetery where he was buried. We easily found his grave and read the headstone which apparently was put there some time after his burial - possibly by his children at the time his wife died.





My research into the life of Edward has taken me just over a year so far. It has been a great experience. I now know that his family thought of him as a kind and gentle man.

I would still like to find how long he was kept at Claybury, so if I find out more I will let you know. The interest from many people worldwide has been very encouraging.

Last updated 10th December 2003.

Please click on the envelope to write to me.
Jean Cullen

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