This red chalk drawing is by Edward Robert Hughes, undertaken when Dorothea Turnbull was only 5 years old. As beautiful as the picture is the story behind it is a sad as any you will read. The following are extracts from George Shaw’s book ‘People of the Millennium in Ashbourne, from Cockayne to the Queen’ and a personal letter.
‘One of the greatest tragedies to occur in Ashbourne happened on the 9 February 1901 at Sandybrook Hall, the home of the Turnbull family. Peveril Turnbull had just bought a new lamp for the dinner table, and had been warned that it should not be carried whilst lit. For some reason he had not taken the advice and whilst walking out of the dining room the lamp flared and he dropped it. The lamp fell at the feet of his younger daughter Dorothea and her dress burst into flames. Her sister Monica ran to her aid but her dress also caught fire. Both girl’s injuries proved fatal. Monica died three weeks later on 4 March, while Dorothea lived for two months longer. Despite attempted skin grafts, she also died on the 27 April. The parents later became involved in the care of children in need and in Windmill Lane they built St Monica’s Home, an orphanage.
In the south aisle of St Oswald’s Church can be seen a window to their memory, the work of Christopher Wall, and now said to be one of the finest, if not the finest Pre-Raphaelite window of this century. In the window St Barbara has the face of Monica, Dorothea on the right hand side of the window is St Dorothy, while the faces of Cecilia and the angel are Whall’s own wife and daughter, Florence and Veronica’.
‘Dear Mr Brown, I am sending you a photo of Monica sitting on her mother’s knee by Hughes. This painting was on the staircase of St.Monica’s Home. When the Home was closed down by the Children’s Society it was handed over to St. Oswald’s Church for safe keeping. Note the way the artist captured the sadness of the mother’s face; she had lost her baby son when the pram ran into the sea and he was drowned. She was to lose the remainder of her children in the fire in Sandybrook Hall years later.
I have done some research on your painting since you got in touch and have come up with the following. The painting was in St. Monica’s in one of the rooms. It was there until a fire took place in 1983 when the painting suffered some smoke damage. It was sent to an art gallery in Staffordshire.
It may seem strange, it does to me, and I can assure you I am not eccentric, but since the news that St.Monica’s has had an application to be pulled down by Gleasons and a three storey block of flats to be built in its place, despite the Turnbulls giving it as a Deed of Gift as a Memorial to the girls, children who were there, those who looked after the children etc, have been raising strong objections. On the day you phoned me, the call I had before yours was a man from near Arundel who was a boy at the home in the 1950’s . Your call was as if Dorothea was objecting from her grave’.
Dorothea and her sister Monica’s grave site at St. Oswald’s
Sandybrook Hall and St Monica’s Home on Windmill Lane.