Many students at the Coalbrookdale School of Art already worked in the industries of the Gorge, including the Coalbrookdale Company, Craven Dunnill & Co. and Maw & Co. These companies often paid for their employees to attend art classes, to learn their craft and develop their designing skills.

At the School students studied many subjects including: freehand, geometrical, architectural, model, and perspective drawing; painting; anatomy; design; and modelling and casting.

Records show that students went on to work in local industries like china making, tile making and the art castings department of the Coalbrookdale ironworks. Others worked in the ceramics and iron industries further afield in Britain and abroad, and some became artists in their own right.

John Windsor Bradburn (1861-1947)

Portrait of John Windsor Bradburn, A. Penson, oil on canvas, unknown date.

John Windsor Bradburn was born in Coalbrookdale in 1861. Both his father and his grandfather worked at the Coalbrookdale Company, his father as a patternmaker, and grandfather as a foreman. In 1872, Bradburn was employed as a trainee draughtsman at Maw & Co. in Jackfield. Seeing his potential, the company sent him to the School of Art as a day-release student. He was then just 11 years old.

Bradburn was an extremely talented student and won the Owen Jones Prize, three gold medals and a Queen’s Prize before gaining a scholarship to study at the National Art Training School in Kensington. In 1886 he returned to Maw & Co. as a designer and in 1899 he became Manager of their Architectural Faience Department. During this period Bradburn was involved in several large projects undertaken by Maw & Co., including designing the tiles for the Marriage Pavilion in the Mysore Palace in India.

Bradburn’s eldest son, John Percival Ward Bradburn, studied as a full time student at the Newcastle-under-Lyme and Hanley Schools of Art. It appears that his father’s prosperity meant that he did not have to study on day-release. He was a talented artist, but sadly died in 1911 at the age of 18.

Frederick Harold Fowler (1885-1977)

Harold Fowler, c.1900-1910

Harold Fowler began studying at the School of Art around 1902 when he was 17. Fowler was a trainee draughtsman on day-release from the Coalbrookdale Company and mainly attended evening classes held at the School. Some of the classes he took included a ‘Machine Constructionist Class’, and art classes especially aimed at ‘Industrial Iron-workers’. His father, Thomas Fowler, had also been a student at the School and had been successful in winning prizes for his artwork.


Both father and son went on to become designers for the ironworks, and both taught classes at the School. The standard of design at the Coalbrookdale Company was high and it was known across the globe for producing the best ornamental metalwork. According to contemporary records, there were usually six designers in the Drawing Office at Coalbrookdale and they were ‘constantly engaged in designing some new example of art metal work’. One of the most notable of Harold Fowler’s work is the war memorial in Coalbrookdale, which can still be seen today at the front of the former School of Art building.

Women's Work

Women studied at the Coalbrookdale School of Art and sat exams from at least 1879. They attended many of the drawing and painting classes and studied design, and wood carving. Women also attended science classes provided by the Institute during the 1910s.

Roll of Honour, Lilian Walker (1887-1963), watercolour, 1909

We don’t know the names of many of the women who studied at the School as the records do not survive. However, the Roll of Honour reveals some of the women who were successful enough to win prizes.

The designer of the Roll of Honour, Lilian Walker (1887-1963),  herself received a commendation in 1909, and she continued to study in anatomy, figure drawing, design and painting at the School until 1910. In 1924 she married a farmer, and in 1939 she is registered in the records as a poultry farmer.

Two other students noted on the Roll of Honour were the sisters Annie and Edith Gates, both of whom won prizes for their artwork. They were the daughters of William Gates, the Art Master of the School from the 1890s until c.1920. In 1911 Edith married Norman Wale, another attendee of the School, and, in 1914, they moved to India. Annie moved to Canada in 1912.

Cecilia Maw (1876-1942)

Cecilia Maw (1876-1942), daughter of Arthur Maw, co-owner of Maw & Co., was a noted student at the School of Art. She was included on the School’s Roll of Honour and worked as an artist through her adult life.

After attending the Coalbrookdale School of Art and winning the Queen's Prize in 1895, she went on to study art in Hertfordshire. Between 1903 and 1911 she exhibited several of her works at the Royal Academy of Art's summer exhibition. By 1908 she was living in London and working as a professional artist, and in the 1920s she was employed as a photographer's artist. She continued to exhibit work at the Royal Academy of Art's summer exhibitions.

Cecilia Maw (1876-1942), attended the School of Art at the end of the 19th century and went on to become an artist in her own right.