This website has been set up as a tribute to my father, Alfred Thomas Warbis. Alfred worked in advertising, but in addition produced a series of pen and ink drawings of buildings and scenes in the areas where he lived. About 5,000 of these were published in local newspapers in London (where he was born), in Devon and Somerset, and particularly in Leicestershire, where he lived during and after the Second World War. The sketches featured in this website are solely from his time in the Midlands, and were drawn between 1950 and the early 1970s. Those representing scenes in the North-east Leicestershire area were published in the Melton Times. A small number of sketches were published in the Coalville Times, and the remainder come from a series of over 1,200 of his sketches published in the Loughborough Echo between 1950 and 1974 under the title “From an Artist’s Sketchbook."
Each drawing was accompanied by a small article about the building illustrated, its history, its owners or previous owners and its location. These articles were written either by Alfred or his wife Mary. I have spent many hours in Loughborough library searching through back copies of the Loughborough Echo on microfilm, and have found the articles which accompanied a few of the pictures in my possession, although much work still remains to be done in this respect.
Apart from any artistic merit which Alfred’s works may have, they are of great interest historically, often showing the extent to which our lives have changed over the last 70 years. The article which accompanied From an Artist’s Sketchbook No. 20, a picture of the Cross Keys Hotel in Loughborough published in September 1950, explains that Loughborough’s only set of traffic lights stood on this site! How times change! The sketch of Burton Street in Melton Mowbray is testimony to the traffic congestion suffered by every town and city in Britain today. Other changes, whilst of less significance, are nonetheless interesting: a sapling depicted by my father in the foreground of a scene from the early 1950s has now become a tree of such huge proportions as to make the same view impossible, the ground floor of a house in another sketch is now entirely hidden by a tall wooden fence, and most notably the group of terraced houses in a Rothley scene has long since been demolished to make way for a Baptist Church. Some scenes, on the other hand, remain almost entirely as they were fifty years ago, as if strangely frozen in time.
I hope that anyone who lives in or knows North Leicestershire will find these sketches of great interest.