Macfarlane, James Laird (1836 to 1913)

Lived at 18 Cintra Park

James Laird Macfarlane was born in Paisley near Glasgow.  He studied at the Paisley Art School and then made his way to London to seek his fame and fortune. He may initially have been employed in fabric painting, but he soon found his niche, painting fruit for such publications as The Florist and Pomologist and freelancing paintings for nurserymen like William Ball.  Eventually, he began to focus on commission-based projects, finding employment from wealthy orchid-growers wishing to record their triumphs of orchid culture.  Sir Trevor Lawrence (Bn 1831 D1913) (President of the Royal Horticultural Society and was one of the world’s leading orchid collectors) (he inherited his mother’s love of orchids) of Burford Lodge, Dorking, Surrey was an admirer of Macfarlane’s paintings and was responsible for the preservation of a large collection of his works (The Burford Collection).  These intricately drawn watercolours date through to at least 1896.  Macfarlane pioneered the style and format which came to be used for record keeping by the Royal Horticultural Society’s Orchid Committee.

Orchids were first were brought to Great Britain in the 1700s from the West Indies and China and by the end of that century fifteen species were growing at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Great Britain.

Macfarlane was also responsible for the drawings of the orchids at The Woodlands, Streatham, which a Robert Measure cultivated in his glasshouse.  Measure built thirty-one greenhouses and employed seventeen gardeners.  He cultivated and reared many new orchid varieties, which Macfarlane was able to paint.

His paintings are still being sold in America and specialist art galleries.

Norwood News, Saturday, 25 September 1909 – An Upper Norwood Claim For Maintenance

JAMES LAIRD MACFARLANE at present living in Scotland, was summoned by his wife, Florence Maria Macfarlane, of 18 Cintra Park, Upper Norwood, for maintenance.  Defendant did not appear.  Mr H N R Potheary, representing the complainant, said that Mrs Macfarlane was married to her husband about three years ago, then living at 18 Cintra Park, with her step-daughter.  In June last year, Mr Macfarlane told his wife that he was no longer going to assist her.  Since then, Mrs Macfarlane had heard nothing or seen anything of him.  She had been living at 18 Cintra Park with her step-daughter, but lately had been forced to live in one room.  The complainant giving evidence, said she married the defendant in May, 1906 at St Paul’s Church.  Their relationship was somewhat strained at times, through, she thought, the conduct of her step-daughter towards her.  She had received an allowance of £1 a week for the three of them up until last Christmas and then her husband told her she annoyed him.  Subsequently, the allowance was reduced to 10s for her husband and herself, but she could not possibly manage on that amount.  Last June defendant said he was going to run away from her.  Since the 23rd of that month and she had not seen him.  She could not honestly give an account of her husband’s means.  The defendant was a painter of orchids and owned a small house at Chiswick and the house at Cintra Park which he had assigned to his daughter. Complainant’s own income varied between £30 and £40 per annum.  The Bench made an order for an allowance of 15s per week, with costs against defendant.

James Laird Macfarlane married his first wife, Eliza who was nine years older (D1905).  They had a daughter, Eliza (Bn 1868 D1947), who, on the 1891 Census, was aged 22 and an ‘Artist Flower Painter and Sculpturer’.  They also had a son, James (Bn 1864 St Johns Wood), who in 1881, aged 16, was a ‘General Clerk’.


Reproduced with the kind permission of the RHS Lindley Collections


On the 1881 Census, James Laird Macfarlane, aged 44, is an ‘Artist Fruit and Flower Painter and Chromolithographer’.  On the 1891 Census, aged 54, he was an ‘Artist Floral Fine Painter Sculpturer’.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the RHS Lindley Collections


[Photograph and paintings of James Laird Macfarlane reproduced with the kind permission of the RHS Lindley Collections].

He married his second wife, Florence Maria Bartlett 12 May 1906 at the Congregational Church, Upper Norwood when he was 69 years old and Florence was 50.  The marriage certificate states his father had been a Shawl Printer and her father had been an Inland Revenue Officer.  Following a short, disillusioned marriage (his first wife, Eliza died in 1905) he eventually returned to Scotland and died on 4 January 1913.

18 Cintra Park Census 1911

Eliza Macfarlane (daughter) is on the 1911 Census for 18 Cintra Park (10 rooms) as the Head (single, aged 42) and an Artist (own account), born in Highgate.

Norwood News, Saturday, 18 December 1909


On Wednesday at the Penge police court, James Laird Macfarlane, aged 73, of 18 Cintra Park, Upper Norwood, an artist, was summoned for failing to pay the sum of £3 2s 6d arrears of maintenance due to his wife.  As no one appeared to prosecute, the accused was discharged from custody.

Norwood News – Saturday, 8 January 1910


On Wednesday at the Penge Court, before Dr J Sidney Turner (Chairman) and Mr H Hill Hodgson, James Laird Macfarlane, 18 Cintra Park, was charged on a warrant with not paying maintenance contributions to his wife, and being in arrears to the amount of £5 5s.

The Clerk (to defendant):  Do you say that the amount is due?

Defendant:  Yes

The Clerk:  Have you anything to say why you should not be committed to prison for non-payment?

Defendant:  No

The complainant said she was stopping at 23 Cintra Park.  On the 21st September, the magistrates made an order for the payment of 15s a week by the defendant and the arrears of payment now amounted to £5 5s.

The Clerk (to defendant):  Have you any goods on which distress can be levied?

Defendant:  No, I have not.  I have got quite indifferent as to what happens.  I have heard so much during the last three years that I am quite indifferent as to what happens to me.  For the last three-and-a-half years, I have been in misery.

The Clerk:  It was three-and-a-half years since you were married?

Defendant:  Yes, I’m told so.

Defendant was an orchid painter and specialist.  A sentence of one month’s imprisonment was passed


1863 625 Fruit
1866 145 Apple, plum and grapes
1868 330 Tulips and Camellia
1868 55 Grapes and roses

James Laird Macfarlane died 4 January 1913

James Laird Mcfarlane death certificate

The 1939 Census shows his daughter Eliza living at No 38 Cintra Park (born 28 May 1868) and an Orchid Portrait Painter Out of Work