LEAVING BEHIND A LASTING LEGACY BEFORE LEAVING KENT

In 1906 W L Wyllie was told that they had to leave their home in Hoo St Werburgh, as its owner had decided to move back himself.

Marion, on a previous visit to Southsea with her youngest daughter Aileen, had spotted the ideally placed Quilter House, originally used as a boat house, near the famous Round Tower, just inside Portsmouth harbour. In order to get a better look at it, she asked to join a friend who was going fishing straight from the terrace of the house. Straight away, she fell in love with the place.

As luck would have it, the house came up for sale soon after, when the owner passed away. Without seeing it, WL put an offer on the old boat store.

Wyllie-william-original-watercolour

At the same time, together with his oldest son Harold, Bill undertook a series of paintings which were to fill the new Drill Hall at Gillingham, Kent.

In England, the term Drill Hall was used for the building of a military reserve unit. Many of these drill halls were built through public subscriptions in order to support the local Volunteer Force which was raised in the late 1850s. In the United Kingdom, these were later renamed Territorial Army (TA) Centres and later Army Reserve Centres (ARC)s.

Bill and Harold both held the rank of Captain in The 4th Volunteer Battalion of The Royal West Kent Regiment and, in their efforts to support the regiment, embarked on painting the four large 12ft by 7ft paintings to hang at the end wall of the Drill Hall, showing some of the major battles in the history of Britain.

The first painting depicted the third and final successful invasion of the Romans, landing in Dover during the reign of emperor Claudius in 43 A.D.

The second painting showed the Norman Conquest and the death of King Harold at The Battle of Hastings in 1066 (The story of King Harold dying meant a lot to Bill’s wife Marion, when she was young, and this is why she was keen to name her first son Harold).

The third painting entitled “Off to Agincourt”, depicts the army leaving for the battle of Agincourt in 1415, which resulted in a major win for the English over the French, lead by King Henry V in The Hundred Years’ War. In the background is Rochester Castle and many of the knights in armour are based on Bill’s friends from the volunteer force.

The fourth painting was painted solely by Harold and was a copy of the central section of Bill’s painting of the Battle of Trafalgar, painted by Bill the year before. It showed that Harold was clearly stepping in his father’s footsteps and had become a very able artist at the age of 26.

In addition to producing the four great paintings, a bazaar was organised to raise funds for the Drill Hall. It proved a great success. At the end of the day, another wonderful piece of news reached the Wyllies in the form of a telegram. It carried the announcement that their offer for their new home in Portsmouth was accepted! Shortly after, they moved to what was to become Tower House in Old Portsmouth, their final residence.