Masterstroke of painter inspired by love of Lynn

Charlotte Paton looks at the life of a West Norfolk artist, Walter Dexter, whose reputation is still growing more than 52 years after his death.

Like many other people all I knew of Walter Dexter was that he painted wonderful views of King's Lynn and that he died tragically as the result of an accident. Having delved a little deeper I have found there is so much more to this fascinating and unusual man.

Born in Wellingborough in 1876, his family came back to Lynn when Walter was a boy, his father returning to work in the family photographic studios. Walter was the eldest of four sons and one daughter, all of whom showed artistic skills and were at one time involved in the family business which moved into the town's High Street and extended its range to stationery and fancy goods.

He developed his love of Lynn – and particularly the river – from the time he spent there as a child with his grandfather.

Having gone to Croads school in Lynn, and been given painting lessons by Henry Baines the famous West Norfolk artist, Walter went to Birmingham School of Art at the age of 16. He was soon making a name for himself.

He went on to study in Belgium and Holland, but by his early 20s he was back in his beloved Lynn, where he lived on a converted fishing boat moored on the River Nar.

Just before the first world war he met his wife Helen. It would seem Walter did not fight in the war but instead worked as art saster at Bolton Grammar School, with Helen helping at a children's clinic there. They had no children of their own.

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On their return to West Norfolk they lived at the Toll House on the A47 main road at East Winch.

Helen was active in the suffrage movement, and acted as its local secretary. That they were unconventional is borne out by those who remember them.

He died in 1958 after a collision with a 16-year-old motorcyclist while he was walking across the Saturday Market Place at Lynn.

Walter's pictures are now much sought-after. Kevin Lines, of Keys the auctioneers at Aylsham, likes his work very much. He feels the quality of his work is superb and he has been very much under-rated, particularly his still-life paintings.

Charlotte Paton would like to hear from anyone who has recollections of West Norfolk artist Walter Dexter. Contact her by e-mail at

For the full story about Walter Dexter see the EDP Sunday supplement in this Saturday's EDP.

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