Edward Wadsworth has been described as “one of Britain’s most talented and experimental painters and printers of his period”. Born in Cleckheaton on 19th October 1889 to Fred and Hannah Wadsworth, his grandfather was Elymas Wadsworth, founder of the prosperous worsted spinning business at Broomfield Mills Moorbottom. The Wadsworth family were notable benefactors of the town. Elymas was one of a group of businessmen who built the Town Hall and Edward’s Uncle Walter was a member of the group that founded and built Whitcliffe Mount School for the children of working people, and in particular the education of girls.
Edward had little interest in the family firm. On leaving Fettes boarding school in Edinburgh he persuaded his father to let him go to Germany, officially to study engineering drawing. However he found the Munich art galleries more interesting and enrolled at the Knirr Art School, where he studied drawing, painting and printmaking.
Returning to Cleckheaton, he attended Bradford College of Art in 1908, then the Slade School London in 1909. He worked as an artist for 40 years, becoming a leading influence in the British Vorticist and Surrealist movements. During the First World War he served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, where he transferred the innovative “dazzle camouflage” to ships, but he was invalided out of the service in 1917. During the Second World War he applied to become an official war artist but was refused, perhaps due to his connections with Germany.
Edward Wadsworth died 21st June 1949, leaving a large body of drawings, prints and paintings. He is noted for his paintings in the demanding egg tempura medium and his work can be seen in municipal collections throughout the UK.
Roger Hargreaves, the creator of Mr Men and Little Miss grew up at Hightown, near the Packhorse Pub. In 1971, whilst working in advertising, Roger doodled a character with exceptionally long arms. When his son Adam asked “What does a tickle look like?” Mr Tickle was born, and soon 45 more quirky Mr Men books were created. Roger’s books were aimed at young children, with simple humorous stories and brightly-coloured drawings. Little Miss emerged in 1981, with a total of 33 different characters. Altogether 85 million books in 20 languages were sold worldwide. Roger’s childhood home is marked with a plaque in the pavement on Halifax Road Hightown, part of Spen Valley Civic Society’s Fame Trail.