We know much about Morris, some about Faulkner but very little about Marshall in the itinerary of partners in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. Who was this elusive partner in The Firm, deemed important enough to follow Morris’s name over the door of the shop? Keith E Gibeling unravels the mystery in an article for the journal of The William Morris Society, Autumn 1996 - Peter Paul Marshall: The Forgotten Member of the Morris Firm.
Peter Paul Marshall (1830 – 1900) was born in Edinburgh, the son of local artist, and was educated at Edinburgh High School. He worked as a draughtsman for Thomas Grainger, a civil engineer and early Scottish railway builder. In 1847, Marshall became an assistant to architect James Newlands and accompanied him to Liverpool when Newlands was appointed Civil Engineer to the Borough. Marshall exercised his artistic talents in Liverpool by exhibiting paintings at the Liverpool Academy in 1852 and 1854.
Marshall was living in Bloomsbury Square, London by March 1857, when he married Augusta Buchanan Miller, daughter of John Miller, an important early patron of the Pre-Raphaelites. Later that year Marshall became surveyor to the Tottenham Local Board of Health. Marshall had an active social life in Tottenham, on several occasions regaling audiences at the Tottenham Saturday Evening Entertainments group with Scottish songs and ballads. Gibeling suggests it is most likely that Marshall was introduced to the Morris Circle by Ford Maddox Brown whom he got to know through his father in law when Brown exhibited in Liverpool in the 1850s. After Marshall settled in London, Brown probably introduced him to his friends and fellow artists. In 1858 Marshall was nominated for membership of the Hogarth Club.
Gibeling concludes that Marshall’s exact role in the formation of the Firm is unclear but according to William Michael Rossetti, the idea for the Firm originated with Marshall. W R Lethaby suggests that Marshall’s name was included so prominently in the title of the business because he came forward with the idea for the enterprise and that he possessed some business aptitude. Dante Gabriel Rossetti writes about Marshall’s role as a middle man between his artistic friends and various picture buyers. Marshall continued his work as a civil engineer during the early years of the Firm. He resigned his position with the Tottenham Board of Health in 1873, under pressure following a typhoid outbreak. After his resignation, as well as exhibiting paintings, Marshall sought to assume an active role in the Firm. He seems to have been planning to open a branch in Fenchurch Street in London, though, at a meeting of the Firm on 23 rd October 1874, the other partners disapproved of the idea and indeed dissolve the partnership. Marshall, Rossetti and Brown were each paid £1000 compensation when the Firm was reconstituted under Morris’s sole proprietorship in March, 1875. It has been suggested, in light of several references in correspondence of the period, that Marshall had a drinking problem and that perhaps it was for this reason that his suggestion to open a branch of the Firm was vetoed.
In 1877 Marshall was appointed City Engineer for Norwich and moved to the city. He supervised many important projects during his time in office including the construction of the Foundry Bridge and the Isolation Hospital and an overhaul of the city’s sewerage system in 1887. Marshall continued to paint and exhibit during his time in Norfolk, mainly painting landscapes. In 1893 Marshall retired and moved to Teignmouth in Devon where he continued to pursue artistic interests. He died, age 69, on the 16 th February, 1900 weakened by a severe leg infection.