Cranky Jimmy, An Artist in Cork
James Anderton was born in Lincoln on 10th March 1825 and baptised in St Botolph's church on 12th April 1825, his father, Henry, was a collar and harness maker, working next to the church.
James didn't like school and, before his teenage years, worked as a day worker for local farmers, eventually he worked as a labourer on Towler's farm at Boultham. Towlers employed him to stop the cattle getting into the crops.
From an early age James enjoyed making models. His first model was of a Chinese church, Italian and German artisans toured the country with plaster models of Chinese church, made of wood, he covered the windows with fabric which, when lit from the inside with a candle gave it a spectacular appearance. Unfortunately James' sister was showing it to some friends one evening and set fire to the church.
James next made a model of Lincoln Cathedral in wood, it took him over a year to complete. With the help of a friend he put it on a cart and took it ,around the area as far as some of the local villages, exhibiting it in the street. He blew a horn, and when a crowd had assembled he would uncover it and collect donations. The model was very heavy and the Mechanics Institute at Greyfriars agreed to display it for a year with the promise of a donation, there were no payments received so the model was withdrawn by James.
He next made a second model of Lincoln Cathedral but made out of corks as it would be much lighter than his wooden model Almost every day after working on the land he would walk to the cathedral to study it's architecture, on his way he would collect corks that had been thrown away. His work soon became well known and he would be sent corks from all over the country. His model of the cathedral comprised of an astonishing 1,000,800 corks. The model was built to a scale of quarter of an inch to a foot, the dimensions were as follows 10' 5” long, height 5' 9”, width 7' 6”.
The West Front was the first part completed, using 13,500 corks: it was exhibited at the Great National Agricultural Show in Lincoln in 1854 where it was called “The eighth wonder of the world”.
In total, it took him 10 years 6 months to complete the model of the Cathedral and earned him the nickname of “Cranky Jimmy”
The fame of his model spread throughout Lincoln and he was visited by many hundreds of people, it was one of these visitors who suggested he should display it at the 1862 International Exhibition in South Kensington. A fund was set up to pay for the transportation of the model and £26.00 was raised. Unfortunately one of the packing cases was dropped when it arrived in London and the contents badly damaged, it was five weeks before the model was repaired and ready to be shown.
The organisers of the exhibition could not give him a medal for his work as it was made from old corks and not normal materials, but he was presented with a season ticket to the exhibition and allowed to receive donations.
At first he dressed in a good suit provided for him by an uncle, but soon realised that people thought he was already wealthy, and didn't give donations, he instead wore the white smock that he had used when making the models and working on the farm, donations then poured in, he would receive donations of £10 to £12 daily.
His showing at the Exhibition was such a success that his hobby became
his career and made him a wealthy man. Among other things, he built four cottages on Alfred Street, Lincoln. A plaque was placed in the wall of the cottage he lived in. “Perseverance, Cork and Glue, 1862” to indicate what was required to build his models. The cottages became known as “Cork Model Cottages”, they were demolished about 1969.
His next cork model was of St Botolph's church, where has was baptised and he married in 1849. He placed an inscription over the model:
“This is the church where he was wed,
A peal of bells rang over his head
This peal of bells you all shall hear
By putting in a copper here
When you have placed the money in
You look through the door below
The little figures will be pulling the ropes
As fast as they can go”
James showed the church model at the Lincoln and Boston fairs, the interest and money raised encouraged him to travel further afield with it.
The model of Lincoln Cathedral was badly damaged, the North Transept was completely destroyed, because a lighted candle was left in it. It took him 7 months to repair it. When he had completed the repair he began a tour of the country, first visiting all the towns and many of the villages of Lincolnshire
In April 1865 he crossed the Humber and began his Yorkshire tour in Hull where he was so impressed by St Stephen's church he built a model, taking him four months and 30,119 corks.
James made more models, including one of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, and toured the country showing them and earning a good living.
He died in Dorset in 1893 at the age of 68. By this time his fame had spread worldwide with obituaries as far away as Australia.
Unfortunately I have not been able to establish what happened to the models after his death.