The Twickenham Museum
People : Artists and Painters

Edward Whymper
Engraver and first man to climb the Matterhorn
1840 - 1911

Edward Whymper in climbing kit

Edward Whymper was born in Lambeth in 1840. He was apprenticed to his father's wood-engraving firm at the age of 14. His family moved to Haslemere in Surrey and 1859. In 1860, he travelled to the Alps to make illustrations for Longman’s, the publisher. He wrote that he wished “to acquire such a knowledge of snow and ice as might perhaps procure me a post upon some future English Arctic Expedition”.

The statue of Whymper at L'Argentière-la-Bessée in France

While in Switzerland he became interested in the new pursuit of mountaineering and made many first ascents. He made 7 unsuccessful attempts to climb the Matterhorn before finally summiting on the 14th of July 1865. On the descent, one of the party slipped and fell, dragging three other climbers to their death.

He continued to run the family engraving business while indulging in his love of climbing and remote places. He travelled to Greenland and South America, publishing “Travels amongst the Great Andes of the Equator”, often considered his greatest work.

The English Heritage Plaque in Waldegrave Road

In 1906, two days short of his 66th birthday, he married Edith Lewin, 45 years his junior. They moved to 82 Waldegrave Road in 1907 (now the Waldegrave Clinic), but the marriage did not last and they were divorced in 1910.

The plaque on Whymper's grave

He died while visiting Chamonix on 16th September 1911. He was buried in the churchyard of the Protestant Church there but his remains were moved to the new Cimetière du Biollay in 1913 where a plaque on his grave reads 'EDWARD WHYMPER AUTHOR - EXPLORER - MOUNTAINEER BORN IN LONDON 27th APRIL 1840 DIED IN CHAMONIX 16TH SEPTEMBER 1911'. An English Heritage blue plaque was unveiled on his Teddington house on 16th September 2011, exactly one hundred years after his death.

References:

Richmond and Twickenham Times, 23rd September 2011
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition

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