University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3PA, UK
UCL Slade School of Fine Art, Gower St, Kings Cross, London WC1E 6BT
Carfax Gallery, 24 Bury St, St James's, London SW1Y 6PF
Spread Eagle Hotel, Cornmarket, Thame OX9 2BW, UK
Three Swans, 21 High St, Market Harborough LE16 7NJ
32 Lancaster Rd, Rugby CV21 2QW, UK
John Rowland Fothergill (1876–1957) was an English art student and later became an innkeeper and author. He described himself in ''Who's Who'' as a "pioneer amateur innkeeper''.
John Rowland Fothergill was born in 1876 in Kent. He descended from the Fothergills of Westmoreland and the Fothergills of Caerleon.
He attended St John's College, Oxford, Slade School of Fine Art and the London School of Architecture. His fellow students at Slade are Augustus John, Jacob Epstein and William Rothenstein. After college, 1898, he opened the Carfax Gallery, 24 Bury Street, together with Rothenstein. Arthur Clifton was the business manager, and Robert Sickert, Walter Sickert's brother, was the managerial secretary. The Carfax Gallery was Walter Sickert's chief dealer in England. William Bruce Ellis Ranken's first exhibition was at The Carfax Gallery. Edward Perry Warren, good friend of Robbie Ross (who was good friend and probably lover of Fothergill), provided the money to open the gallery. Fothergill became one of the biographers of Warren. It was Fothergill who bought the big Tudor oak table that was in the Dining Room at Lewes House; he paid it £25 to George Justice, a Lewes antique dealer, and it was sold, at Warren's death, for £2,100. William Rothenstein, talks about Lewes House in his autobiography, ''Men and Memories''. He says it was "a monkish establishment, where women were not welcomed. But Warren, who believed that scholars should live nobly. He kept an ample table and a well-stocked wine-cellar... There was much mystery about the provenance of the treasures at Lewes House. This secrecy seemed to permeate the rooms and corridors, to exhaust the air of the house. The social relations, too, were often strained, and Fothergill longed for a franker, for a less cloistered life". Fothergill was left £20,000 by Warren and one of his books, ''Confessions of an Innkeeper'' is dedicated, among others, to Harry Asa Thomas, one of Warren's last partners and main beneficiary of Warren's will. The last batch of bills from the bankruptcy of his Thame's inn were cleared by Warren and Thomas.
Beginning of the 1900s, Romaine Brooks took his portrait. They had met in Rome.
In 1922 he bought the Spreadeagle at
Thame and for a period it was a successful venture, but ended in bankrupt in
1931. John Fothergill cut an important figure in Oxford. The
Spread Eagle at Thame was frequented by Evelyn Waugh's group and is
mentioned in ''Brideshead Revisited''. Waugh gave Fothergill a copy of his
first novel, ''Decline and Fall'', inscribed to "John Fothergill, Oxford's
only civilizing influence." Fothergill kept the copy in the lavatory of the
inn, chained against the risk of theft. Another friend of this time is
Harold Acton, who mentions Fothergill in his memoirs, ''Memoirs of an
Aesthete''. For his part Fothergill praised Acton's novel, ''Humdrum'', saying
that it "might have been written by the young Wilde." Fothergill's book, ''My
Three Inns'' ends with Fothergill recommending to the reader Harold Acton's
autobiography. After the Spreadeagle, Fothergill managed
the Royal Ascot Hotel and the Three Swans at Market Harborough. He is considered part of the Bright Young Things and
his culinary skills and reputation changed dining standards in Britain, making
it in itself a high art. About his experience as an innkeeper, Fothergill
wrote: ''An Innkeeper's Diary'' (1931), ''Confessions of an Innkeeper'' (1938)
and ''My Three Inns'' (1949). During WWII, he wrote ''John Fothergill's
cookery book''. He also wrote a book on gardening and wrote book reviews.
He was a close friend of Robbie Ross and Reginald Turner, and when Fothergill was 19 years old, they presented him to Oscar Wilde. Wilde grew fond of him, and Fothergill was one of those to be given an inscribed copy of ''The Ballad of Reading Gaol'', when Wilde emerged from prison. He was attached to Welsh landscape painter James Dickson Innes, who died at only 27 years old in 1914. Fothergill wrote a touching forward to a book of Innes’ works.
Despite initial homosexual relationships, he married twice. He first married Elsie Doris Gillian Herring, an artist, and divorced in 1821. From his second wife, Kate, he had two sons, John and Anthony Fothergill.
He died in 1957 in Rugby.
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