/ Leslie Grimes - Artist and Cartoonist

ID: PH01_LGR
TitleLeslie Grimes - Artist and Cartoonist
AbstractLeslie James Grimes was born in 1897 in Chertsey, Surrey. He married Annie McDonnell Ewen in 1923 and they had three sons. After Art School, Leslie built a reputation in motoring art, producing illustrations for brochures, and he also did artwork for children's annuals.

In 1927 Leslie succeeded David Low as the artist and political cartoonist at The Star, London's leading evening newspaper at the time. By 1939 Leslie, Annie and five sons were living in at Haslemere in Surrey. Leslie continued writing cartoons for The Star, and he teamed up with F.W. Thomas to produce a series of full page articles for the paper, with titles such as "F.W. Thomas and Grimes at Home with the Militia".

Around 1945, the Grimes family moved to Peldon - to Strood Villa (Pyefleet House) at the Strood and lived there from around 1945 until 1948. Son Gerald kept a Blog about his father's career, the paintings & illustrations he produced, and life on the Strood in those years. Below is a composite of his Blog posts (1):

"My father Leslie Grimes was a cartoonist and proficient painter, doing work for a London evening paper right through the war and beyond. Near to the end of the war he moved the family to Strood Villa, as it was known then.

'Grimey' at work in his studio at Strood Villa

James Wentworth Day, the highly respected countryman and author of countryside books, was a frequent visitor to the house. It was a beautiful, tranquil and completely unspoilt without a jet-ski in sight. I count myself very lucky to have spent my boyhood sailing boats in Pyefleet Creek and riding bicycles around the countryside.

Our family dog Roger was a mongrel black Labrador. With the cooperation of the local bus crews, he learned how to catch the bus to Colchester from the bus stop outside our house and spend a few days with his girlfriends before catching the bus back from a busy bus station! We would hear the bus arrive and he would quietly sneak in, tail between his legs, for he knew he was in for a couple of days on the end of a chain. He loved the water and would swim for pleasure, which was handy because he normally stank of mud. As he was so fond of the sea I would take him out in my sailing dinghy and he seemed to enjoy it. I had to take care though, because if I wanted to go alone he would try to join me in the boat. His other hobby was trying to catch rabbits on the far side of the field behind the house - he would charge in a straight line gathering speed all the way, but when he got near they would step aside, and as he was going too fast, he would skid and somersault for the next twenty yards or so just like in the Disney cartoons. A dog of all dogs...an Essex dog.

We moved there to be close to the Colchester military hospital, where my oldest brother was sent having been badly wounded during the Normandy invasion. For us youngsters it was heaven being surrounded by marshes back and front, and high tide sometimes coming up to a few yards from the front door. We sailed On the Blackwater and the Colne, both being within easy reach depending on the tides. The house had been fortified with sand bags to act as a checkpoint for the causeway, and after the war we children had to move the many hundreds of sandbags and several gun emplacements. It was hard work bringing it back into a decent state, but once it was done it was 'Swallows and Amazons' time again! In the 1940s there was only one other house there, and not many tourists. The locals would tell them the salt flats were highly dangerous and could swallow them up instantly, so it was rare to see anybody out there except the odd marsh-man. At certain high tides part of the road would be under water, and drivers would knock and ask if we had a phone (before mobiles); they didn't realise that the water was deep enough to flood their engines.

In the bad winter of 1947 a snowdrift covered the front of the house right up to the upstairs windows due to the heavy winds, and all was dark inside. We were cut off for a while until the road was cleared, but the marshes opposite were covered in thick ice bought in by the tide.

I even slept in our extremely cosy tack room, as I had very muddy boots on most of the time. One of my younger brothers ran away and lived in a tent out on the Pyefleet marshes for some months; I would have joined him but art school beckoned. It was a sad day when we moved to London and our paradise was sold."

This is a Birdseye picture of Strood Villa bought by my family in around 1945. It was on the edge of the marshes and was used as fortifications to guard the Strood causeway leading to Mersea Island during WW2. We had to de-fortify it, which meant moving many hundreds of sandbags and several gun emplacements. It became a brilliant family home, a real-life 'Swallows and Amazons' to us children. The image was drawn from memory by my brother Colin Grimes.

The Grimes family moved from Strood Villa at either the end of 1948 or very early in 1949, and moved to London.
In 1952 Leslie and Annie retired and settled in Ibiza, where Leslie concentrated on painting locally and taking part in local art exhibitions and fairs.
Annie died in February 1979 in London aged 84, and Leslie died in January 1983 aged 85, in Richmond-upon-Thames.

Geoff Gonella
Peldon History Project

Read More:
Leslie Grimes - Artist and Cartoonist by Geoff Gonella
- a comprehensive with many illustrations of Leslie Grimes' work. It is available as a PDF file
- Go to Leslie Grimes.pdf (1.8Mb - opens in a new window)

Pyefleet House, Strood Close, Strood Villa by Geoff Gonella
Leslie Grimes talking to Peldon Women's Institute

Sources of information:
(1) Gerald Grimes's blog 'GERALDGEE' - geraldgee.blogspot.co.uk (controlled, and occasionally used, by son Jonathan Grimes).

Thanks to:
Ron Green
Cathy McLaughlin
Anthea Wade

SourceMersea Museum
IDPH01_LGR
Related Images:
 An outstanding feature at the monthly meeting of the Women's Institute held on Monday was a talk entitled 'Can You Draw?' by Mr Grimes, cartoonist of 'The Star'.
 A demonstration on the making of jams and jellies was given by mrs Smith of Essex Institute of Agriculture. A third visitor was Major Harvey (hospital matron), who gave a short address on Women's Institute in Canada. In a competition for the best vegetable or fruit salad the highest points were gained by Mrs Scales, with Mrs Harvey and Mrs Spall as second and third. The programme was concluded with appreciative remarks by the president, Mrs Gilmour, and votes of thanks.


</p><p>From Peldon Neighbourhood News, Essex County Standard  PNN_103_001
ImageID:   PNN_103_001
Title: An outstanding feature at the monthly meeting of the Women's Institute held on Monday was a talk entitled 'Can You Draw?' by Mr Grimes, cartoonist of 'The Star'.
A demonstration on the making of jams and jellies was given by mrs Smith of Essex Institute of Agriculture. A third visitor was Major Harvey (hospital matron), who gave a short address on Women's Institute in Canada. In a competition for the best vegetable or fruit salad the highest points were gained by Mrs Scales, with Mrs Harvey and Mrs Spall as second and third. The programme was concluded with appreciative remarks by the president, Mrs Gilmour, and votes of thanks.

From Peldon Neighbourhood News, Essex County Standard

Date:18 August 1944
Source:Peldon History Project / Pat Wyncoll
 'Grimey' in his studio at the back of his house on the Peldon side of the Strood - the house was later known as 'Strood Close' and 'Pyefleet House'.
 Leslie Grimes was born in 1898. In 1927 he became cartoonist with the London Star. He moved to Ibiza in the early 1950s and died in London in 1983.  RG17_211
ImageID:   RG17_211
Title: 'Grimey' in his studio at the back of his house on the Peldon side of the Strood - the house was later known as 'Strood Close' and 'Pyefleet House'.
Leslie Grimes was born in 1898. In 1927 he became cartoonist with the London Star. He moved to Ibiza in the early 1950s and died in London in 1983.
Date:c1950
Source:Ron Green Collection