For several weeks now we have been enjoying displays of wonderful cherry blossom, a favourite subject for artist Caroline “Car” Richardson who frequently painted the cherry trees in her Chesham Bois garden.

Like Chesham artist, George Bridges (Nostalgia April 9, 2021) Car also recorded many local landmarks, old farmhouses, timber-framed barns, and other features of our lost agricultural landscape.

The Tithe Barn on Bois Lane was Car’s home from 1915 until her death in 1959. Its cottage garden was a favourite subject for her watercolours and illustrations. It was also the centre of many activities and social gatherings for the village.

In spring, Car would put a sign at the top of the drive inviting the village to come down and view the orchard carpeted with drifts of daffodils or delicate primroses.

During the cherry growing season, Lizzie, Car’s companion, tied a piece of string to a bell in the orchard which she would ring regularly to frighten off the birds.

Friends and family were then invited to cherry-gathering parties to pick and eat the sweet black cherries and enjoy afternoon tea. Lizzie would make cherry jam with any left-over fruit.

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Born in Chakrata, India in 1873, Car was the middle of three daughters of a British Army officer, Willingham Franklin Richardson.

When she was not yet two years old, her father died, and the family returned to live in London.

Money was tight and her mother supported the family by working as an accountant.

The three girls, however, received a good education at the Royal School for Daughters of Officers in Bath, before Car went to Paris to study painting and drawing.

Car’s portrait of ‘Buttercup’ the gardener at the Tithe Barn

Car’s portrait of ‘Buttercup’ the gardener at the Tithe Barn

The eldest sister, Josephine (Joey), established a school in Westminster where Car taught art.

For many years, she also taught at Bramley High School for Girls near Guildford.

During her extended travels abroad, Car painted many European landmarks which she exhibited in Paris and London.

In 1910, and 1911, 120 of Car’s watercolours of English country scenes were shown at the New Dudley Galleries in Piccadilly.

A reviewer at the time said that “Miss Richardson is an artist that excels in simple scenes.

A turn of a road, an old inn, a clump of trees or a cluster of cottages are most realistically produced on her canvas; she understands the stray nooks and corners of the country”.

Her London paintings include remarkable scenes of London bedecked with flags for several important occasions such as Victory Day in 1919 and the Coronation of George VI in 1937.

Cherry Time at the Tithe Barn by Car Richardson

Cherry Time at the Tithe Barn by Car Richardson

After initially visiting Amersham as a weekend escape from London, Car and Joey invested in property here close to the home of their newly married sister, Mona.

The sisters became a familiar sight driving around the common in their horse and cart and were soon active in village life.

Car offered sketching classes for children and exhibitions of her pupils’ work were held at her studio in the newly restored barn.

The sisters were early members of the Chiltern Arts and Handicrafts Club (Nostalgia April 5, 2019) founded by artist Louise Jopling (Nostalgia May 29, 2020) and held the Club’s first major art exhibition at the barn.

They were involved in every aspect of the club, both becoming later presidents. They were also Chesham Bois Parish Councillors.

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Car was a talented portrait painter. Her portrait of the gardener, Buttercup, is apparently a true likeness but also full of humour and affection.

Whilst working as a VAD during WWI Car sketched over 100 poignant drawings of convalescent soldiers whom she nursed or provided with occupational therapy.

In 1941 she was presented to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) in recognition of her work for the Red Cross.

In the run up to WWII there was an appeal for artists to record landmark buildings in case they were lost.

Car was able to portray the structure of old buildings and convey their character in a way that could not be achieved in a photograph.

She was concerned about the loss of old buildings and sometimes recorded a note such as “soon to be pulled down for a new road”.

Car outside the Tithe Barn

Car outside the Tithe Barn

In the 1930s she set about painting over 100 windmills in the east and south of England to record them before they were lost.

Many of them no longer exist. In 1942 she donated 38 of her paintings of Buckinghamshire buildings to the Bucks Archaeology Society and they are now part of the Bucks County Museum collection.

In addition to the shows at the New Dudley Galleries in Piccadilly, Car participated in exhibitions at the New English Art Club, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and the Bucks Art Society.

The local press regularly congratulated her for showing watercolours “on the line” (prime position) at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: “Chesham Bois is to be congratulated on her success”.

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In Chesham Bois, Car developed a distinctive, lighter, sketchy style using pencil and wash on cream paper.

This style brings her cheerful paintings of Amersham to life.

They are full of detail and packed with people and vivacity.

Old Amersham by Car Richardson

Old Amersham by Car Richardson

A similar style, used for her cherry blossom paintings, was described as “on the Modernist side” in a 1934 review of the Royal Albert Institute exhibition in Windsor.

Please visit for more information on the Richardson Sisters. From Thursday May 20th, Amersham Museum will open on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Please check the website for details and to book a timeslot or a guided walk.