Artwork - Peter Rothwell


Peter was a naturalised North Devonian having been born in Manchester. His parents moved to Ilfracombe when he was twelve, but he is proud of the fact that he spent every birthday up to that point in Ilfracombe. He attended Barnstaple Grammar School, leaving in 1965 to begin his art and design training at Dartington College of Arts, completing it at the West of England College of Arts, Bristol, in 1969 with a degree in Fine Art.

He worked as a freelance artist and designer/maker for several years before being employed by Grand Metropolitan Hotels as an interior designer. It was the arrival of the first two of his four children that persuaded him to consider a career in teaching and he subsequently taught art & design at every level, from primary to post-graduate, ending his teaching as Co-ordinator for A level Art & Design at North Devon College.

As Editor, and friend, I was particularly saddened to learn that Peter had died peacefully on the 4th August, 2019. Peter's delightful pictures and illustrations, and his support, have enhanced the Newsletter almost from its beginnings, for which I am truly grateful.

Click on to read more about Peter's life, in the words of his wife Sally.




10.08.1946 - 4.08.2019

Peter was born in Manchester in 1946, coincidentally in the same year that the Lundy Field Society was founded. From the moment he set foot on Lundy, aged 12, Peter was captivated by the island and, like the philosophy of the society, felt a deep sense of custodianship of the island. Lundy was an incredible inspiration for his artwork along with the North Devon coast, Exmoor and Dartmoor.

Peter and his parents moved to Ilfracombe when he was 13. They ran a hotel near the harbour which afforded Peter the ideal opportunity to take day trips to Lundy and nurture his fascination with the island. His notebooks of that time document the boats that visited and serviced the islanders' needs.

In 1965 he enrolled on a course at Dartington College of Arts and, under the influence of its progressive philosophy and enlightened tutors, Peter's natural creative talents were challenged, nurtured and crafted to an outstanding degree. A very happy year of self-discovery and personal development unfolded. After that he studied Fine Art at Bristol University.

Initially Peter was employed in the designing of inn interiors, but with further qualifications he became a teacher and so began his career in Education. As a teacher, Peter excelled, encouraging and promoting inspirational, stimulating environments for his pupils. Leading trips to London, Venice, Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona, his students benefitted hugely from viewing diverse collections of art. His final teaching position, until 2005, was at the North Devon College [Petroc] teaching A Level Art.

Peter was a long-standing member of the Lundy Field Society until his death; he also served on the committee from 1997 to 2005. He was delighted to be appointed as Librarian for the Landmark Trust in 2010, covering all the properties in the south west, including Lundy, annually curating the collections of books in each property. He continued in this role until 2018. Sadly, ill health dogged his final years.

Peter's long association with Lundy Inspired him to produce a myriad of artwork, Lundy post cards, poetry, journals and books. Living in North Devon, he would gaze at the island lying on the horizon - permanent, inviting, enticing, mystical, a symbol for him of an ancestral homeland, a timeless reminder of all that was real and true in the world. Lundy has been the subject of many of his paintings, capturing his interpretation of the dramatic landscape and the effects of the elements. He was intrigued by its history and often expressed his interest in the continuum of human association with the island, and his feelings of kinship with the ancestral custodians of Lundy. Nothing delighted him more than unearthing a honed flint near the North End or discovering a drill hole in the granite near the quarries.

From the mid 1990's, Peter and the late Ann Westcott organised an annual Sketching Course staying in Millcombe house. The Ugly made an incredible studio for one-to-one art tutoring. Many budding artists returned year after year, growing to know and love the island through Peter and Ann's extensive knowledge and passionate recounting of 'all things Lundy'! One of the highlights for him, when staying at Millcombe, was standing on the lawn to hear the Manx Shearwaters fly overhead late in the evening.

Peter held a lifelong passion for the written word, his collection of thousands of books is testament to this among which are several of his own works.

In 1993 he produced 'Lundy, An Island Sketchbook', a visual celebration of his love of the island and 1997 saw the reprinting of 'Lundy Island A Monograph' by John R Chanter with illustrations by Peter, a work he felt very privileged to do. He also provided artwork for several local authors: Lois Lamplugh, Les Terry and Harold Lockyear.

After years of researching commercial quarrying on Lundy and working closely with notable historian, the late Dr Myrtle Trenstrom, 'The Lundy Granite Company' was published in 2008.

The second edition of Michael A. Williams 'The Lundy Companion' was published in 2011. Peter was delighted to provide sketches for this excellent book.

In 2012, Peter published a novel 'Ancient Sunlight' set in his beloved North Devon and Lundy, the descriptions alone capture the unique landscape of the area. He felt honoured to win an award for historical fiction from The Winston Graham Trust with this book.

As with all who love Lundy, there are special places that carry significant import: Beacon Hill was to him an especially evocative place, a place of ancient history which was made even more poignant when he and I received a marriage blessing there from Rev Bill Blakey in 1999. Lundy provided clear blue skies and the Marisco Tavern incredible hospitality to all.

By far his favourite place to stay was Tibbett's; the remote location, the 360 degree vista, plus the cocooning nature of the signal station interior, providing all the inspiration he needed for study, reflection and creativity. He was awed by the fact that only the Atlantic Ocean separated the window above his bed from America. The perspective of wonder. These precious days on Lundy always restored his inner being. Lundy was indeed a thread that ran through his life and always held him. His last visit was 60 years after his first. For him, as for so many who fall in love with this very special place, it really was his 'magical' island. I, for one, will always 'find' him there.

Peter is greatly missed by his children: Marc, Trudi, Robin and Anna; his stepsons: James, David and Robert, family, friends, former students and everyone connected with Lundy whose lives he touched, and by myself every day.

Sally, October 2021

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