Tomb Eleven – ‘The Lost Artist’

‘October was always the least dependable of months. Full of ghosts and shadows.’

~ Joy Fielding

The Tale:

Gentle reader,

Before you take your leave of the ELEVENTH Brigante Tomb nestled among the array of delightful gifts on display in this window and IF the door is ajar – why not pop in and treat a loved one to a little trinket or two?

And, if you are in the mood for any further retail therapy – you will discover much along this lengthy street to pique your interest AND tempt your wallet!

However, the location of this particular Brigante Tomb is no accident for with her passion for the rehabilitation of a lost soul – the poignant tale of one of the former occupants of this building remains very close to our Lady Brigante’s heart.

Our tale begins on the last day of September in 1836 with the birth of a baby boy Charles Toft Newstead to a respected solicitor Charles and his wife Eliza in Selby, North Yorkshire.

And by the year 1841, little Charles is living with his uncle Christopher, the prominent York solicitor, unmarried aunts Lucy and Charlotte and three servants here in Gillygate and here he would remain until his enrolment at the Yeomanry School in Lord Mayor’s Walk.

By 1866, Charles Toft is a successful architect with offices in the Strand and Coney Street and his flamboyant signature can be found on the marriage register in Holborn to Sarah, the daughter of John Blissett, a highly respected London gunsmith.

With a flair for design, particularly in the application of medieval art to contemporary architecture, he was very much in demand and examples of his work can still be found in the former rectory in the village of Cherry Burton and the Albion Foundry Casting Shop here in York.

However, in 1869 and with his partnership with Edward Low now dissolved – Charles can be found living in some style in a smart house on Mount Vale with his wife, their son John Isle and the obligatory servant and visitors to Number 16 would report that the house was decorated with great taste with Charles having established THE fashion for tiled hearths and stained floors.

However, by early 1875, all was not as it appeared when a notice of liquidation was published in the London Gazette and by 1881, Charles, Sarah and their young daughter are lodging with strangers in Wetherby.

Years later and now separated from his family in Leeds, West Yorkshire, Charles is recorded as a ‘Patient’ in the Cookridge Hospital and by May 1900, he is dead at the age of 63 from lung disease while resident at the York Union Workhouse.

Such was his estrangement from his family that in the 1901 Census, Sarah recorded her status as that of a married woman.

In his reflections on the poignant tale of Charles Toft Newstead, the stained glass and ecclesiastical artist John Ward Knowles had this to say about his former friend:

‘Owing to careless mode of conducting his business and a love of company, he contracted habits of laziness and so much neglected his office work that his clients diminished.

Many were the attempts of his friends to bring about a reform but all were unsuccessful.’

Charles would later be buried in a public grave at York Cemetery alongside seventeen other imperfect strangers.

The Location:

Gillygate. York. YO31 7EQ