Bernard Sleigh

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File:Bernard Sleigh06.jpg
Detail from An Ancient Mappe of Fairyland, Newly Discovered and Set Forth, Library of Congress

Bernard Sleigh (Birmingham 1872–1954) was an English mural painter, stained-glass artist, illustrator and wood engraver, best known for his work An Ancient Mappe of Fairyland, Newly Discovered and Set Forth, which depicts numerous characters from legends and fairytales.[1] A copy of The Ancient Mappe is in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He was a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists between 1923 and 1928.

As a young man, Sleigh was greatly inspired by the work of George MacDonald and William Morris.[1]

Education and work

Sleigh was apprenticed to a wood engraver at age 14 and attended the Birmingham School of Art. He was a student of Arthur Gaskin (1862–1928), who worked with Edward Burne-Jones. While studying he came under the influence of the Birmingham Group. Being especially skilled in wood engraving, he soon caught the public eye through his engravings for books. He joined the Society of Mural Decorators and Painters in Tempera. His advertising after 1918 suggests that he could do wall paintings, memorial windows and inscriptions in metal. At exhibitions of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists he offered to do furniture inlays. He became part of the Bromsgrove Guild in 1897, receiving commissions for decorating churches such as Wallasey in Cheshire, and designing stained-glass windows.

After sending Henry Payne to Chelsea to study stained-glass technique, the Birmingham School of Art added stained-glass work to their curriculum in 1900. Bernard Sleigh was among the first to enrol for the course.

Sleigh wrote a series of stories about fairies, The Gates of Horn, in 1927. Although Sleigh aimed the book at an adult audience, his publishers J. M. Dent instead marketed the book for children, and it was thus a commercial failure.[1] Anderson describes the stories in The Gates of Horn as "engaging and well-told".[1]

Marriage and retirement

In 1900 he married Stella D Phillp, producing a son, Brocas Linwood, in 1902 and a daughter, Barbara Grace de Riemer (the children's writer Barbara Sleigh), in 1906.[2] The marriage was dissolved in about 1914.

Sleigh retired to Chipping Campden in 1937, like his mentor Arthur Gaskin, moving into Old Forge Cottage in Cider Mill Lane. His imagery by then had turned from romantic medievalism to a world peopled by fairies and elves.[3]



  • The Sea King's Daughter & other poems, Mark, Amy; G. Napier, Birmingham, 1895, illustrated and printed by Bernard Sleigh.
  • The Praise of Folie. Moriae Encomium A booke made in Latin by that great clerke Erasmus Roterodame. Englished by Sir Thomas Chaloner, Erasmus, Essex House Press, 1901, limited edition, 250 copies, woodcuts by Bernard Sleigh after William Strang.
  • English Book Illustration of To-day. Intro. by Alfred W. Pollard, Sketchley, R. E. D.;, Trench, Trubner and Co, Ltd., London, 1903, with various contributors including Bernard Sleigh.
  • An Anciente Mappe of Fairyland, Newly Discovered and Set Forth, in the Library of Congress. Illustration by Bernard Sleigh, c.1920.
  • A Faery Pageant, Sleigh, Bernard, Birmingham, 1924, poem, limited edition, 475 copies, with illustrations by the author.
  • The Gates of Horn, Ed. Sleigh, Bernard, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1926.
  • Franz Schubert: A Sequence of Sonnets and a Prose Anthology, GREW, Eva Mary. The British Musicians Office, Birmingham, 1928, with page decorations by Bernard Sleigh.
  • A Handbook of Elementary Design, Sleigh, Bernard, R.B.S.A., Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd, London, 1930.
  • Carols, Their Origin, Music and Connection with Mystery-Plays. William J Phillips, Routledge, not dated, with wood engravings by Bernard Sleigh.
  • Wood Engraving since Eighteen-Ninety, Sleigh, Bernard; Sir Isaac Pitman, London, 1932.
  • Witchcraft, Sleigh, Bernard. Oriole Press, New Jersey, 1934, illustrated by Bernard Sleigh.
  • The Song of Songs, Renan, Ernest.; City of Birmingham School of Printing, Birmingham, 1937, with decorations by Bernard Sleigh.
  • Kanga Creek, An Australian Idyll, Ellis, Havelock, Oriole Press, New Jersey, 1938, limited edition, 250 copies, illustrations by Bernard Sleigh and Ivy Anne Ellis.
  • The Immortal Hour, Fiona McLeod (Sharp William) City of Birmingham School of Printing, 1939, illustrated by Bernard Sleigh.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Douglas A. Anderson, "Fairy elements in British literary writings in the decade following the Cottingley fairy photographs episode." Mythlore, September 22, 2013.
  2. General Register Office Indices
  3. Methodist Church
  4. Sleigh, Bernard. Bibliography : Hobby Time