MARIA (JANE) FULLER 1836 -1909 AND HER REMARKABLE FAMILY

The following short but concise story is one that has given me great pleasure in researching and publishing, for it finally gives dignity to a lady, who as a grandmother living with ten grandchildren under the same roof – all boys must have had some strength of character! Not only that, but whose daughter and son in law produced one of Wales’ greatest artists, whose work even today fetches thousands of pounds at auction – Edward Morland Lewis, whose tragic end is mentioned below.

1901 Census. Edward was born the following year

With such a large family, I am certain that close relatives must still exist locally and further afield. It would be wonderful to be able to contact them to let them know what we have done in respect of their great (great) grandmother. May she rest in peace. Maria Jane Poucher, was born in Suffolk, and married John Robert Fuller on 31st December 1862 in Kentish Town, London. The following year their daughter Mary was born.

Maria’s Daughter Mary. Wife of BA Lewis and mother to 10 boys

She in turn married Benjamin Archibald Lewis on the 18th December 1884 in Edmonton, Middlesex. Benjamin Archibald Lewis (1857-1946), was himself a talented, amateur artist. He was born in Carmarthen and his home town was always his favourite subject. He trained as a gas engineer – hence his affectionate nickname ‘Lewis the Gas’, although he was also known as B.A. Following a period of time working in South Africa, he returned to Carmarthen in 1894 and held the post of manager of the gas company until his retirement. He was a prolific artist and he also found time to study part time at Carmarthen School of Art during the 1890s.In 1930 he retired to Undercliff, Ferryside and continued to paint until his death in 1937. He was founder member of Carmarthen sketch club and he also attended Carmarthen school of Art. In all, Benjamin and Mary went on to have 10 sons, the youngest of all , born in 1902 – Edward Morland Lewis becoming famous as an artist of great repute, whose works even today fetch thousands of pounds. What it must have been like to share a house with ten boys is anyone’s guess, but I am sure that grandma Maria did a wonderful job. Ironically, Edward was the first to die. He was the youngest grandson of Maria Fuller trained at St John’s Wood School of Art and at the Royal Academy Schools, London where he met Sickert.  Morland Lewis promptly left the academy to work under Sickert as pupil and assistant. In 1930 he joined the London Artists’ Association and exhibited with this group until it disbanded in 1934. Many of his paintings were based on photographs he took himself. Like Sickert, he tended to paint patchwork areas of colour laid over warm under-painting. He concentrated on the seaside towns of South Wales, Ireland, Northern France and Spain. A comparison of one of his photographs with the painting of the same scene reveals how completely he transformed the information from one medium into the language of another. The main composition is faithfully transcribed, but the tonal relationships are slightly exaggerated. He joined the staff of Chelsea College of Art, where his colleagues included Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland and John Piper.

The Strand Laugharne, by EM Lewis
Edward Morland Lewis. Self Portrait. (NMW)

Tragically, he was killed in action in North Africa on the 4th August 1943 aged 40 with the rank of Captain while on active service as a camouflage officer, suffering fatal injuries in a bombardment by Rommel’s Afrika Corps. He was reburied twelve months later at Medjez el Bab War Cemetery on 22nd August 1944.

Maria Fuller’s name was not recorded on the list of memorials in St Davids Cemetery, when it was compiled in 1977, suggesting that even at that time the headstone was buried in the ground, covered in mud…until now of course, some 45 years later where at long last, and after some major restoration, the memorial and last resting place to a grandmother of one of Carmarthen’s most well known and famous families can once again be remembered with dignity and honour.