|Leslie James Grimes was born in 1897 in Chertsey, Surrey. He married Annie McDonnell Ewen in 1923 and they had three sons. After Art School, Leslie built a reputation in motoring art, producing illustrations for brochures, and he also did artwork for children's annuals.
In 1927 Leslie succeeded David Low as the artist and political cartoonist at The Star, London's leading evening newspaper at the time.
By 1939 Leslie, Annie and five sons were living in at Haslemere in Surrey.
Leslie continued writing cartoons for The Star, and he teamed up with F.W. Thomas to produce a series of full page articles for the paper, with titles such as "F.W. Thomas and Grimes at Home with the Militia".
Around 1945, the Grimes family moved to Peldon - to Strood Villa (Pyefleet House) at the Strood and lived there from around 1945 until 1948. Son Gerald kept a Blog about his father's career, the paintings & illustrations he produced, and life on the Strood in those years. Below is a composite of his Blog posts (1):
"My father Leslie Grimes was a cartoonist and proficient painter, doing work for a London evening paper right through the war
and beyond. Near to the end of the war he moved the family to Strood Villa, as it was known then.
'Grimey' at work in his studio at Strood Villa
James Wentworth Day, the highly respected countryman and author of countryside books, was a frequent visitor to the house.
It was a beautiful, tranquil and completely unspoilt without a jet-ski in sight. I count myself very lucky to have spent my
boyhood sailing boats in Pyefleet Creek and riding bicycles around the countryside.
Our family dog Roger was a mongrel black Labrador. With the cooperation of the local bus crews, he learned how to catch
the bus to Colchester from the bus stop outside our house and spend a few days with his girlfriends before catching the bus back
from a busy bus station! We would hear the bus arrive and he would quietly sneak in, tail between his legs, for he knew he was in
for a couple of days on the end of a chain. He loved the water and would swim for pleasure, which was handy because he normally
stank of mud. As he was so fond of the sea I would take him out in my sailing dinghy and he seemed to enjoy it. I had to take care
though, because if I wanted to go alone he would try to join me in the boat. His other hobby was trying to catch rabbits on the
far side of the field behind the house - he would charge in a straight line gathering speed all the way, but when he got near
they would step aside, and as he was going too fast, he would skid and somersault for the next twenty yards or so just like in the
Disney cartoons. A dog of all dogs...an Essex dog.
We moved there to be close to the Colchester military hospital, where my oldest brother was sent having been badly wounded during
the Normandy invasion. For us youngsters it was heaven being surrounded by marshes back and front, and high tide sometimes
coming up to a few yards from the front door. We sailed On the Blackwater and the Colne, both being within easy reach
depending on the tides. The house had been fortified with sand bags to act as a checkpoint for the causeway, and after the war
we children had to move the many hundreds of sandbags and several gun emplacements. It was hard work bringing it back into a decent
state, but once it was done it was 'Swallows and Amazons' time again! In the 1940s there was only one other house there, and not
many tourists. The locals would tell them the salt flats were highly dangerous and could swallow them up instantly, so it was rare
to see anybody out there except the odd marsh-man. At certain high tides part of the road would be under water, and drivers
would knock and ask if we had a phone (before mobiles); they didn't realise that the water was deep enough to flood their engines.
In the bad winter of 1947 a snowdrift covered the front of the house right up to the upstairs windows due to the heavy winds,
and all was dark inside. We were cut off for a while until the road was cleared, but the marshes opposite were covered in thick
ice bought in by the tide.
I even slept in our extremely cosy tack room, as I had very muddy boots on most of the time. One of my younger brothers ran away
and lived in a tent out on the Pyefleet marshes for some months; I would have joined him but art school beckoned. It was a sad day
when we moved to London and our paradise was sold."
This is a Birdseye picture of Strood Villa bought by my family in around 1945. It was on the edge of the marshes and was used as fortifications to guard the Strood causeway leading to Mersea Island during WW2. We had to de-fortify it, which meant moving many hundreds of sandbags and several gun emplacements. It became a brilliant family home, a real-life 'Swallows and Amazons'
to us children. The image was drawn from memory by my brother Colin Grimes.
The Grimes family moved from Strood Villa at either the end of 1948 or very early in 1949, and moved to London.
In 1952 Leslie and Annie retired and settled in Ibiza, where Leslie concentrated on painting locally and taking part in local art exhibitions
Annie died in February 1979 in London aged 84, and Leslie died in January 1983 aged 85, in Richmond-upon-Thames.
Peldon History Project
Sources of information:
Leslie Grimes - Artist and Cartoonist by Geoff Gonella
- a comprehensive with many illustrations of Leslie Grimes' work.
It is available as a PDF file
- Go to Leslie Grimes.pdf (1.8Mb - opens in a new window)
Pyefleet House, Strood Close, Strood Villa by Geoff Gonella
Leslie Grimes talking to Peldon Women's Institute
(1) Gerald Grimes's blog 'GERALDGEE'
(controlled, and occasionally used, by son Jonathan Grimes).