Francis Job Short was known as Frank Short the civil engineer, then Frank Short the artist and teacher of engraving, and from 1911, Sir Frank Short. The knighthood and the blue plaque honour his devotion to the art of engraving and of course his considerable skill and achievements there.
The plaque is at 56 Brook Green, Hammersmith, a green surrounded by five plaques as it happens:
- Sir Frank Short
- Silver Studio
- Society for Distressed Gentlefolk
- Sir Henry Irving
- Gustav Holst.
Here are a few facts beyond the plaque and the usual biographical tidbits for Sir Frank Short.
I don’t mean to shortchange you by not giving a full account of Frank Short’s artistic career, but the reality is, this part of his biography is pretty easy to find in a quick Google search, so I am going to go over it lightly and fill it out with some less well-known facts (and speculations).
On my Pinterest board for Frank Short, there are lots of images of Frank Short’s artworks and also pictures of some of his family, friends, and miscellany.
Early life and Grandfather William Millward
Francis Short grew up in the village of Wollaston, Worcestershire, adjoining Stourbridge in the Midlands of England.
His grandfather on his mother’s side, William Millward (ca 1799 – 1876) was an engineer at the Stourbridge Ironworks. William designed the Stourbridge town clock, a local landmark since 1857, restored in 2007 for its 150th birthday.
William Millward and his son-in-law Job Till Short (Frank Short’s father) together restored the old steam locomotive Agenoria, an early train built in Wollaston. Agenoria had worked from 1828 until about 1864, and then was abandoned in a field. A man named Edward B. Marten found her and got permission for the restoration. Now, thanks to Marten, Millward, Job T. Short, and others, Agenoria is at the National Rail Museum in York.
The Millward Mapmakers
Engineering ran in the Millward family and as an offshoot of that, so did map-drawing. More than one of Frank Short’s Millward uncles was an engineer. The one with the most colourful life was probably Francis Millward, also called Frank.
In the late 1860s, while in his 20s and single, Uncle Frank went to the United States. He was such a good draftsman that when he joined the Union Army at the start of the Civil War, they put him to work making maps. The Confederates captured him and for a while Frank was a prisoner of war. He escaped in disguise, and eventually settled down in Ohio where he was a community promoter and well-regarded.
The youngest of Frank Millward’s four children, who were Frank Short’s first cousins, was Russell Millward, born in 1877. Frank Short was 20 then. Frank Millward died in 1878, leaving his widow Maggie to raise the four children alone.
An explorer in the family
Russell became a magazine writer and then an explorer. He travelled the world, writing and taking photographs for National Geographic and others. He explored Central America and was an early promoter of the chicle industry. His maps of the region were the result of his passion for exploration.
Among other affiliations, Russell Millward was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Their Kensington building is, and was, very close to where Frank Short was Head of Engraving at the Royal College of Art. The cousins certainly could have met, and it’s possible that Russell was even a guest at 56 Brook Green.
Sir Frank Short’s family life at Brook Green
Frank Short moved to a house near Brook Green by 1891 according to the census, and was living at Number 56 from some time before 1901 until his death in 1945. He married Esther Rosamond Barker in 1889. Daughter Dorothea Mary was born in Hammersmith in 1890, and son Francis Leslie was also born in Hammersmith, in 1892. The children wouldn’t have remembered any other home, but it’s likely they spent time living in Whitstable, Kent, perhaps as a holiday home.
In 1911, Francis Leslie was working as an articled clerk to a solicitor, training to be a lawyer. He joined the military in the First World War, and by 1916 was a Captain in the Royal West Kent Regiment, 3rd Battalion. After surviving active service in France, including the Battle of Hill 60, Frank Leslie came home to Hammersmith in 1916. He died of endocarditis not long after. His military funeral was in Fulham and he was buried at Hammersmith Old Cemetery, also called Margravine Cemetery.
According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Captain F. L. Short’s name should be on the war memorial in Margravine Cemetery, and perhaps it is, but I was unable to find it in my photographs of that memorial. I’m wondering if the present memorial is a replacement for or an addition to an earlier one that I overlooked when visiting.
(Please let me know if you have the answer!)
Sir Frank Brangwyn, a good friend
As young men, Frank Brangwyn and Frank Short became friends in London. Both artists liked to draw ships, sailors, and harbour scenes, and beyond that they must have been compatible personalities.
This is from the website of Peter Nahum at The Leicester Galleries, referring to Frank Brangwyn:
“He joined the Royal Naval Volunteers with his friend Frank Short and together they performed gunnery drill on the President, an old warship in the West India Dock, sketched and painted sailors and their ships and made frequent journeys down the Thames aboard the Garibaldi.”
The two Franks were part of a group of artists who had studios in Manresa Road, Chelsea. Frank Short kept a studio in Wentworth Studios even after setting up his household in Hammersmith.
The Chelsea group created The Chelsea Arts Club, which has its own building, and still exists today. (I’d love to see it! Its charter requires among other things that the club remain bohemian; by all accounts, it succeeds splendidly.)
Frank Short and Frank Brangwyn were brought together by a mutual friend later in life. During the Second World War, when life in London was so difficult for everyone, Frank Brangwyn invited Frank Short and his daughter Dorothea to stay at his home in Ditchling, East Sussex.
Frank Short died at Ditchling on April 22, 1945.
That left only Dorothea Mary surviving, as her mother had died in 1925. From the city directories, it seems Dorothea didn’t stay at Brook Green very long after the death of Sir Frank. She corresponded with the Royal Academy about her father’s work, but otherwise I haven’t found out much about her.
She died at the age of 82 in Richmond-upon-Thames.
Connected places to visit
- Hammersmith Old Cemetery,
- Royal College of Art, South Kensington,
- Manresa Road, Chelsea,
- The Chelsea Arts Club, Chelsea,
- West India Dock.
Beyond London, in England:
- Wollaston and Stourbridge, East Midlands,
- Ditchling, East Sussex,
- National Rail Museum, York,
- Whitstable, Kent.