Artists in the Past

Local artist, John Forsyth (grandfather of Dorothy Carruthers) from Great Corby, Carlisle


John Forsyth was a talented designer, commercial artist and keen photographer. In 1886 he was one of the founder members of the Carlisle and District Photographic Society.

John’s father worked for the firm of Hudson Scott (later Metal Box) who were foremost in the production of lithographically decorated tin boxes and employed many artists in the area, including John’s father. John also was taken on by Hudson Scott and worked twenty two years for them. During this time he had a house built in Aglionby Street.

Main pic top: Studio. Left pic: Portrait of Dorothy Smithson’s mother. Right pic: Aglionby House built in 1896

John eventually went freelance and worked for many different organisations and individuals including Thurnams and Carlisle City Council. Several of the illuminated addresses in the Dormant book in Carlisle are the work of John Forsyth.

In 1896 he had another house built at Great Corby next to the railway, which he named Aglionby House. John moved there in 1900 and built a large studio in his back garden. Later in 1910 they moved to Kelsick Moss House, Abbeytown. John’s studio together with his tools, equipment and household effects were transported to Abbeytown on a large pantechnicon, hauled by a traction engine. At Brookfield near Wigton the railway bridge partly collapsed with the weight, but eventually they got there.

An example of his design work is an illuminated address from the villagers to Judge and Mrs Hills, the tenants at that time of Corby Castle, who were giving up their tenancy. Mrs J Forsyth was very friendly with Mrs Hills. When Clara Forsyth married John S Muirhead, Mrs Hills gave her a permanent pass to the grounds of Corby Castle for her family.

While researching Great Corby history I was contacted by Mrs Dorothy Smithson, a lady in her nineties who lives near Carlisle. She had an autograph book which had belonged to her mother, Mary Pigg, who was a child in Great Corby in the 1890s. In that book was a sketch of the village green drawn for her by John Forsyth.

In that same book was a pastel drawing of her mother entitled ‘The Last Look’ and signed by one Frank Bertioli, July 16, 1899. This was a great find. Frank Bertioli was listed on the 1901 census as a portrait artist of Great Corby, then aged 67. His birthplace was given as Middlesex and he had exhibited at Tullie House in 1896 from a Great Corby address. However we had been unable to find any examples of his work until Mrs Smithson showed me her mother’s autograph book.

More information on these and other local artists can be found at

David Ramshaw
Author: David Ramshaw


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