Earle, William Eldon

Date and place of birth:
born 24.10.1803, Norwich. bapt. 30.10.1803 St. Peter Parmentergate, Norwich
Date and place of death:
after 1871, presumed London
(fl) presumed mid-1830s - ca. 1845
Known places of work:
Known techniques:
Known materials:
Black paper and card


A 3rd generation Norwich-born cabinet maker, by 1831 - aged 28 - as evidenced by a daughter's baptism, WILLIAM ELDON EARLE #3 surprisingly changed occupations and became a wood engraver. At some point in the same decade he also turned to profile taking. Pursuing both strands of business in the town, after 1845 he relocated to London, where he worked solely as a wood engraver.

Records recently sourced suggest Earle was prompted to take up silhouette cutting by the visit of Charles Hervé (1785 - 1866) and his profile-taking automaton 'Prosopographus' to Norwich in October - November 1833.

It seems certain Earle was commissioned for a detailed wood engraving of the automaton which headed Hervé's sizable advertisement in the LEAMINGTON SPA COURIER of 17th May 1834. And, as Earle's name is occasionally recorded as William Elden Earl, the 'EARL. Sc' [ulpt] who signed the wood engraving, was in all probability William Eldon Earle.

While McKechnie was unable to source any profile image, one cut-work by Earle is recorded. Dated 1844, its trade label offered presumably bust-size works for sixpence plain or 1 shilling bronzed. Full-length works were offered 1 shilling plain or 2 shillings bronzed. The address given was 4 Gun Lane (Norwich). McKechnie further suggests unidentified '1840s' silhouettes in Norwich Museum may also be by Earle.

PIGOTS 1839 directory records Earle of Surrey Street, Norwich as both wood engraver and artist, while WHITES 1845 directory records him a wood engraver and portrait painter of 4 Gun Lane.

Born to Mary née Partridge (dates N/K) and William Eldon Earle #2 (1763 - 1837) in October 1803, as far as known he was their only child.

According to the NORWICH MERCURY of the 28th of July 1792, Earle's father W. E. Earle #2 was a Gillows of London journeyman before returning that year to work for his father. A Seddons journeyman was also recorded being employed, and as both these London firms were well-patronised for quality furniture, it suggests the Earle business also offered well-crafted stock.

Future profilist Earle married Rosa Anne Bannock (1805 - 1842) in Norwich in December 1825. Two daughters and 3 sons were born in the town between 1827 - 1839. Rosa's obituary was recorded in the NORFOLK CHRONICLE on the 12th of February 1842 "...to the inexpressible grief of her family, Rosa, beloved wife of Mr. Wm. ELDON EARLE, ARTIST OF THIS CITY".

Earle appears in 1841 - 1861 Census returns. In 1841, he is listed an 'Artist' of Gun Lane, Norwich; in 1851 a 'Designer and Engraver in Wood' in Lambeth, London; and in 1861, again in Lambeth as a 'Designer and Engraver in Wood employing one man, one boy'. His second wife is recorded as Louisa (dates N/K) though no marriage evidence has come to light.

In October 1871, listed an Engraver born in 1802, Earle is found an inmate in Lambeth Workhouse. No further record has surfaced.

Revised 28 September 2023 (Brian Wellings)

Additional research about William Eldon Earle:

Source: McKechnie (Author of, British Silhouette Artists and their Work 1760-1860)

Earle, William Eldon (McKechnie Section 1)