Tuesday 17 May 2022

Spring has Sprung with Tunnicliffe

The staff here at Cheshire Archives and Local Studies are enjoying the change in seasons and have been getting out in their gardens, parks and green spaces to connect with nature.  To celebrate Spring we’ve turned to Cheshire’s most famous wildlife artist, Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe, for inspiration.

“Nature is lavish with her riches for those who have eyes to see” 

Charles Tunnicliffe, “My Country Book” (ref 112947).

Born in Langley near Macclesfield in 1901, Charles grew up in nearby Sutton where he sketched animals on the walls of the family farm buildings as a child.  A local teacher spotted his natural talent for drawing, and he attended the Macclesfield School of Art before winning a scholarship to train at the Royal College of Art, London.  
Here is a selection of his work.

Tarka The Otter

Tunnicliffe’s work was sought after commercially but he became a household name after illustrating the popular book Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson in 1932. He went on to illustrate over 300 books during his lifetime and we are delighted to have many of them in the Local Studies collection at Macclesfield Library.

Birds and the RSPB

Tunnicliffe was captivated by wild birds and he developed a scientific approach to sketching them, drawing from life where possible. The RSPB commissioned Tunnicliffe to paint many illustrations for their magazine and books, and in 1975 they awarded him a gold medal for his services to bird protection.

Alison Uttley

The author Alison Uttley began writing tales for children while living in Bowdon, Cheshire, during the 1930s. She commissioned Tunnicliffe to illustrate 19 of her books, amazed at his “imaginative way of entering my stories”.

Brooke Bond Tea

From 1954 until 1999, packets of Brooke Bond tea included small coloured ‘picture cards’ which were collected and traded by thousands of children and adults. Tunnicliffe provided the illustrations for 7 sets of tea cards between 1957 and 1965 and they remain a favourite amongst collectors to this day.

Ladybird Books

Tunnicliffe was asked to provide illustrations for the publisher Ladybird in a series called ’What to Look For In…’ about the seasons. They were “so instructive and educational that grown-ups read them with as much delight as their children”. He also illustrated a ‘Ladybird Learning to Read Book’ that was heavily used in British primary schools.



Norman F Ellison started radio broadcasting in the BBC’s Northern Children’s Hour in 1945 with a programme called ’Wandering with Nomad’. It was a hugely popular show and ran for seventeen years. He wrote six adventure stories as ‘Nomad’, for which Tunnicliffe provided the illustrations.


Although Tunnicliffe made Anglesey his home until his death in 1979, his artistic output was inextricably linked to the Cheshire landscape and wildlife of his childhood and early career. These places may have changed over time, but for all the outdoor and nature enthusiasts amongst us, our local environment continues to inspire and create wonder.

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