Timeline of Randolph Caldecott

This timeline has been compiled from Leonard Marcus’s wonderful biography, Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing.  Our thanks to him.

Randolph Caldecott


1846 Randolph is born to John and Mary Caldecott on March 22nd in Chester, England. He is the third child of seven.
1852 Randolph has already suffered the loss of a brother and sister during his short life and this year, loses his mother too. He’s also afflicted by rheumatic fever, which leads to lifelong poor health.
1861 15-year-old Randolph leaves home and school to become a clerk at the Whitchurch and Ellesmere Bank, in Whitchurch, Shropshire. It’s a steady and respectable job for a young man. He loves exploring the countryside during his leisure time and never leaves home without his precious sketch book.
1861 When the Queen’s Railway Hotel catches fire, Randolph hurries to Chester to sketch the scene. He subsequently sells this first piece of work to Illustrated London News, a very popular national newspaper.
1867 Randolph moves to Manchester to start work at the Manchester and Salford Bank (March 26th). The city offers a whole new world of inspiration and excitement – it’s the height of modernity with its railways, industrialisation and fast-paced expansion. Work is hard, but Randolph finds time to sketch colleagues and street people. He takes evening classes at Manchester School of Art and joins the Brasenose Club, popular with gentlemen from what we’d now call the creative industries. Here, he meets journalists and editors and before long, his work is regularly featured in magazines.
1869 A painting by Randolph features in the important Royal Manchester Institution show.
1870 Randolph travels to London with his book of sketches, hoping to make new contacts and win new commissions. He meets Thomas Armstrong, who shows his work to the editor of the fashionable London Society magazine.
1871 Randolph’s work appears increasingly often in London Society. He’s spending more and more time in the capital – travelling between London and Manchester by train (which took five hours!). While in London, he meets major illustrators, including John Tenniel (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), George du Maurier (Punch and many nineteenth-century classic novels).
1872 Following his dreams, Randolph takes the huge step of resigning from the bank. He moves to London to become a professional illustrator, aged just 26. \
1872 In August, he travels to Germany after being commissioned to illustrate a guidebook. The sketches come to the attention of editors in New York, who also offer him regular work.
1873 Randolph goes to Austria to cover the World Exposition.
1874 He moves to three-dimensional work, with sculpture classes from Jules Dalou, given in exchange for English lessons. He spends time in Brittany.
1874 Randolph works on Old Christmas From the Sketchbook of Washington Irving, a prestigious, challenging, but best-selling commission.
1877 Now in great demand, Randolph is very hard-working, but still enjoys escaping to the peace and calm of Whitchurch.
1878 When his friend and fellow illustrator, Walter Crane, takes a break from working on children’s books, Randolph gets to work. Producing two books a year and printed in their thousands, his illustrations reach an ever-larger audience and revolutionise children’s illustration. His work is characterised by exciting experiments in layout, design and composition – he even has fun drawing characters that don’t appear in the stories! He’s introduced to Kate Greenaway, another very famous illustrator
1879 Missing his beloved countryside, he moves out of London, to Kemsing in Kent, where he meets and falls in love with Marian Brind.
1880 Randolph and Marian are married.
1882 The couple move to Frensham, Surrey. They also buy a London house at 24 Holland Street.
1884 Original drawings from A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go are sold to the barrister, Rupert Potter. Inspired by Caldecott’s work, Potter’s daughter, Beatrix, will herself go on to be a world-famous children’s writer and illustrator!
1885 Randolph and Marian travel to America, a long and difficult journey. They visit New York and Philadelphia, then head south to Florida, intending to go on to California. Bad health and bad weather keep them in Florida
1886 February 13th: Randolph dies in St Augustine, Florida, a month before his fortieth birthday. The cause of death was given as “organic disease of the heart”. Marian returns to England alone.

Some of Caldecotts artwork