Frederick Richard Lee, born in Barnstaple in 1798, was the son of a successful Barnstaple architect, Thomas Lee. After living in Kent for many years, he came back to Devon in 1858 with his second wife, Mary, to live in Broadgate House, Pilton. Having inherited his father’s fortune and, by then, being well-established as a major figure in the English landscape painting world, he travelled widely in this country and abroad, and from the 1860s spent his time between Broadgate House, his yacht in which he sailed the world, and South Africa, where he owned several farms.
He was a prolific painter – compared to Constable, with only about twenty paintings to his credit, Frederick produced over 300 known works, plus many more in private hands completely unknown to the wider public. A large painting of the River Taw at Bishop’s Tawton is displayed at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon and a dilapidated little oil painting of his on board came to light recently at the North Devon Athenaeum. The scene was identified as ‘The Lane towards Pitt Farm, Raleigh in Pilton’ (above), painted in July 1830, and he was known to have painted other scenes in this valley of the River Yeo, the whereabouts of which are now unfortunately not known. For more on his story, click on the picture.