Diagonally opposite my studio and just a few doors up from Arden House (see previous entry) is The Phoenix Tavern.

 This is a vector drawing. The best example of this retro, travel poster style is done by Nigel Wallace and can be found at  http://www.whiteonesugar.co.uk  Now back to my fascinating blog…

This is a vector drawing. The best example of this retro, travel poster style is done by Nigel Wallace and can be found at http://www.whiteonesugar.co.uk Now back to my fascinating blog…

In 2010 while renovations were being carried out at the Pheonix, something intriguing was discovered beneath the floorboards. You guessed it. The headless skeleton of a young woman surrounded by occultist symbols which were carved into the adjacent floor joists… Oh wait… That was the discovery I was specifically told NOT to write about. Sorry

No what was also found was this 2cm x 2cm b/w photo.

Who is this woman? Mother? Wife? KGB operative? She’s clearly no oil painting…

Except now she is.

Ta dah!

I’m starting a campaign to find out who this woman is and in order to draw (and paint) attention to this lady and hopefully discover her identity, I’ve done a life-sized portrait of her. And this is how I did it.

Using charcoal I copied the little photo onto an A2 sized stretched canvas. I added a little shading to make it a tad more dramatic. Then I sprayed the drawing with fixative and began colouring it in using oil paint. I saw this technique on YouTube so I hope it works.

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 Finished Oil Painting

Finished Oil Painting


Do you recognise this woman? Did your parents, grandparents drink in this pub? If she was a local woman it may be possible that her descendants are still living around here. As I was painting her, I noticed she has one very distinct feature. (Two if you include her eyes pointing in slightly different directions) And that is that her mouth is narrower than her nose. This is very unusual and may be a trait passed down to her children.

Do you recognise this feature in anyone? Do you know anyone who bears a resemblance?

It may even be possible that this lady is still alive. Is it you and are you still alive? If so, come to the Phoenix and claim your free beer. (for legal reasons this offer can not be extended to people who are not alive)

I think it’s probable that the snap fell out of someone’s wallet and slid between the floor boards. I also think the photograph was taken in the 1940’s or 50’s and judging by the condition of the snap it was lost not long after it was taken.

For now we’ll call her Sophie (Phee for short) Nix. So who was Ms Phee Nix? Was she a bar-lady, an acrobat, a prisoner on the lamb or a man in drag?  In order to establish some background and perhaps find some clues, let’s delve in to the history of The Phoenix Public House…

The original hall was built around 1330, so straight away we’ve positioned this photograph to be no older than 685 years. She was discovered in the Ashes Room which didn’t exist before 1610. We’re narrowing the gap! It has been a tavern since the early part of the 18th century and if we assume the picture was dropped by a customer, then we’ve slashed the time period to around 300 years. The Ashes Room was located on the first floor and was probably a residence attached to the pub. It was the publican’s home and then a Bed and Breakfast so it’s conceivable Sophie Nix may have been visiting from places afar… which means this search may need to go nation wide if not global.

Now, as photography didn’t really become popular until the 1880’s and the picture was discovered in 2010 that gives us a window of 130 years. Did you or anyone you know visit The Phoenix Tavern between the years 1880 and 2010. If so please get in touch so that we can at least eliminate you from our enquiries.

The search continues and I will be filling you in on any developments.

Please subscribe and get in touch especially if you know who Ms Phee Nix is or if you have any questions.

An unveiling of this picture will take place at The Phoenix on November the 2nd at 7:30 where there will be drinks and nibbles and a free comic for anyone who mutters the secret passwords, “Where’s this bloomin’ free comic then?”

Thank you.