Elias Bancroft – Landscape Artist


Elias Bancroft [1845-1924]

Here’s an interesting story about a Bancroft individual, who although not born in Yorkshire, spent the early 1900’s in Whitby, North Yorkshire, painting landscape scenes of the town and its people.

Elias Mollineaux Bancroft was born in Barton, Cheshire in1845, the son of Elias [Snr] and Hannah Mollineau.

By the time he was 24 years of age, the 1871 census describes him as ‘Artist – Fine art’ which was his way of earning a living throughout his life.

1871 census

It appears that Elias, must have had a great deal of sadness in his early life because he was first married to an Elizabeth Kitchen in 1872, and then married again in 1875 to a Jane Kitchen. [both wives are listed as having a father William Kitchen, so I assume they were sisters. He is shown as an “artist” on both marriage records.

 He had two children with Jane, Hannah in 1876 and Alfred in 1878, but tragedy must have struck again because after having a third child, Walter in 1885, Jane must have died. He marries for a third time to Louisa Mary Heald in 1888, Louisa being 16 years younger than Elias at the time.

Louisa [1864-1948] was a painter in her own right, born at Altrincham, Manchester, she studied at Warrington School of Art, circa 1880 under John Christmas Thompson, 1824-1906.

Elias studied at the Royal College of Art and later taught at the Manchester School of Art. He is known as a landscape painter but his paintings often feature the buildings and the life of the local people. 


He was President, and then later Secretary, of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts.  He often exhibited at Manchester City Art Gallery, as well as at the Royal Academy, the Royal College of Art and elsewhere. Elias Bancroft and his wife Louisa were both prominent members of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. He was elected in 1872 and was President 1891 - 1892, and played a vital role in the Academy, as Secretary, for a record 29 years.

 Elias and Louisa spent time in Whitby, Yorkshire in the early 1900’s and there are many painting depicting scenes of the town. Here are just some of them:


The 1911 census shows Eliza and Louisa staying in Manchester with friends. They were both listed as “Painters in oils”, and their occupations as “own account at home” meaning they were not in paid employment, and worked from home.

1911 census

Before the outbreak of the First World War, many artists were increasingly travelling to France, Germany, Italy and Greece to find inspiration from the continent. Until late July 1914, Britain was largely preoccupied with domestic issues. Social, industrial and political unrest and the threat of civil war in Ireland received most of the nation’s attention. However in August 1914 Germany invaded Belgium and all eyes turned to Europe.

Britain issued an ultimatum demanding Germany withdraw its troops, the deadline passed without a reply and Britain declared war. All this happened relatively quickly and Elias and Louisa Bancroft, found themselves trapped in Germany. They were painting, as they had done for several years in Rothenberg, and had not bothered to get passports. The authorities gave them papers for safe passage, stating that they were artists not spies, and they began a hair-raising journey home amidst hundreds of troops, field guns Italian refugees and ordinary Germans returning from their holidays. These people proved friendly and helpful when offices wanted to arrest the Bancrofts. Elias and Louisa eventually arrived back in England, relieved but exhausted.

Elias died on 22nd April 1924 at 10 Acomb Street, Manchester, and left an estate valued £1442 to his wife Louisa. He was buried at the Chorlton -Cum-Hardy Cemetry, plot 322.

To finish this article here are a few more of Elias’s Whitby wonderful paintings, all produced in the early 1900’s:




 And finally, a rare drawing of Whitby from 1908, entitled "Old Whitby"


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