Pritchett, Robert Taylor (DNB12)

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PRITCHETT, ROBERT TAYLOR (1828–1907), gunmaker and draughtsman, born on 24 Feb. 1828, was son of Richard Ellis Pritchett, head of the firm of gunmakers at Enfield which supplied arms to the East India Company and to the board of ordnance. His mother was Ann Dumbleton. After leaving King's College school Robert was brought up to his father's trade, and made himself thoroughly famihar with the details of the business. By 1852 he had become intimate with William Ellis Metford [q. v.], 'the father of the modern rifle.' The 'Pritchett bullet,' with a hollow, unplugged base, which he and Metford invented in 1853, brought him fame and an award of 1000l. from the government on its adoption by the small-arms committee. As early as 1854 Pritchett was using his three-grooved rifle of his own invention. The abolition of the East India Company in 1858 deprived Pritchett's firm of its principal customer, and he sought other interests; but for some years he kept in touch with military rifle matters (partly through the Victoria Rifles, which corps he joined at its foundation in 1853), and he lectured on gunlocks and rifles at the Working Men's College and elsewhere. He interested himself in 1854 in the foundation of that college, of which Frederick Denison Maurice [q. v.] and Charles Kingsley [q. v.] were among the pioneers. He remained a liveryman of the Gunmakers' Company till his death.

Art meanwhile became one of Pritchett's pursuits. He exhibited views of Belgium and Brittany at the Royal Academy as early as 1851 and 1852. He soon formed intimate friendships with John Leech [q. v.], Charles Keene [q. v.], and Birket Foster [q. v. Suppl. I]. Through (Sir) John Tenniel he joined the staff of 'Punch,' for which he executed some 26 drawings between 1863 and 1869. In 1865 he sketched in Skye and the Hebrides, and next year he executed 100 illustrations for Cassell, Petter & Gal pin. In 1868, after a visit to Holland, he received a commission for work from Messrs. Agnew, who showed a collection of his pictures in their galleries in 1869. One picture was purchased by Queen Victoria, and he was soon employed on many water-colour drawings of royal fimctions from 'Thanksgiving Day' in 1872 to Queen Victoria's funeral in 1901. Meanwhile he returned to Holland, where he dined at Loo with King Leopold II. and came to know Josef Israels. In 1869 and 1871 he exhibited scenes at Scheveningen at the Royal Academy, and in the latter year he published 'Brush Notes in Holland' and made numerous sketches in Paris after the Commune. After a visit to Norway in 1874–5 he issued 'Gamle Norge' (1878). In 1880 he cruised round the world with Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Lambert in their yacht the Wanderer, and illustrated their book on 'The Voyage of the Wanderer' (1883). In 1883 and 1885 he joined as artist the tours of Thomas (afterwards Earl) and Lady Brassey in the Sunbeam yacht, and many of his drawings appeared in Lady Brassey's 'In the Trades, the Tropics and the Roaring Forties' (1885) and 'The Last Voyage of the Sunbeam' (1889).

Pritchett also drew illustrations for 'Good Words' in 1881 and 1882, and made drawings for H. R. Mills's 'General Geography’ (1888) and the 1890 edition of Charles Darwin's 'Voyage of the Beagle.' Exhibitions of his work were repeated in London between 1884 and 1890, and he lectured on his travels. He was an enthusiastic yachtsman, and an expert on yachts and craft of all kinds. He illustrated the Badminton volumes on 'Yachting' (1894) and 'Sea Fishing' (1895), and wrote much of the text of the former. His 'Pen and Pencil Sketches of Shipping and Craft all round the World' first appeared in 1899. A collector of curios, he was an authority on ancient armour, and issued in 1890 an illustrated account of his collection of pipes in 'Smokiana (Pipes of All Nations).' He was more successful in black-and-white than in water-colour; his drawings of shipping are noteworthy for technical accuracy.

Pritchett, who was an ardent sportsman, a good churchman, and a clever raconteur, resided for many years at The Sands, Swindon, and subsequently at Burghfield, Berkshire, where he died on 16 June 1907; he was buried in the parish churchyard. His wife, Louisa Kezia McRae (d. 1899), whom he married on 22 Oct. 1857, his son Ellis (d. 1905), and his daughter Marian predeceased him. With the exception of some netsuké, which he bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and some silver badges of the Ligue des Gueux, which he left to the British Museum, most of his curios, together with some of his drawings, were sold by auction by Messrs. Haslam & Son at Reading on 30 and 31 Oct. 1907; some of his pipes were subsequently dispersed by sale in London. The Victoria and Albert Museum has magazine illustrations, landscapes, and other drawings by him. His portrait by Daniel Albert Wehrschmidt was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1899.

[Preface by H. G. W. to catalogue of sale at Reading; M. H. Spielmann's History of Punch, 423, 520 (portrait), 521; Graves, Dict. of Artists and Roy. Acad. Exhibitors; Brit. Mus. Cat.; The Times, 20 June 1907; Encycl. Brit. 11th edit. (s. v. Rifle); E. H. Knight, Dict. of Mechanics, i. 401-2; Engl. Cycl. iv. 91; private information.]

B. S. L.