Tributes flow for legendary harbour artist Bill - our 'William in Orange'

Old picture of artist Bill Stockman

Bill Stockman doing what he loved the most - Credit: Submitted

One of Brixham’s legendary and most iconic figures has died. 

Tributes have poured in for harbourside artist Bill Stockman who has died after illness at the age of 85. 

Bill, famous for his orange smock, was known as William In Orange.  

Brixham is famous for its links with William of Orange who later became King William 111 of England. The listed Prince of Orange statue at the harbour commemorates his landing in the port in 1688.  In his time, Bill presented a picture of William of Orange landing for the then Crown Prince of Holland, Prince William, now King William. It was the young Prince’s first Royal Engagement at the time of his visit to Brixham.  

Bill has painted for the Orange Order and many Brixham and lifeboat paintings, amongst many other subjects. His black and white dog Scamp almost always appeared. 
Daughter-in-law Tina said: “He painted right up until his health failed, even though he was retired.  His last commission was a large painting of William of Orange landing in Brixham, once again for the Orange Order.” 

He will be greatly missed by Jill, his wife of 61 years, and all his family, including children Julie and Andrew, his grand-children and great grandchildren.  

Picture of diamond wedding couple

Bill and wife Jill celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary - Credit: Submitted

His professional artist life started in 1969 on Brixham’s Artists Corner along with the other well-known artists who featured in postcards. He started the Strand Art Gallery, now run by his son, Andrew, in 1972 
Bill’s father was born in Torquay in 1901 so his family came from generations of Stockmans from Torquay. 

He was born in Battersea at Clapham Junction in January, 1935. During World War Two he was evacuated without his parents and stayed with his grandparents in Torquay.  

Bill's father, also called William, eventually ran a cafe at the bottom of the steps near the then Odeon Cinema. The food was all home made by Bill's mother. Because the cafe was so close to the Town Hall, they were asked to prepare the catering for a then quite well-known pop band called the Rolling Stones. Bill was even allowed into their dressing room. 

Old picture of Torquay cafe

The Stockman cafe in Torquay - Credit: Submitted

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Bill went to Torquay Boys' Grammar School and excelled in art. He went on to join the RAF. He trained as chef and got to fly once - on his last day. 

He painted pen and ink drawings of the inside of the cookhouse. One of his most detailed drawings was of him and his kit bag at Newton Abbot train station looking at a timetable and with a large steam train. 

Another piece of work at the age of 16 was a painting from memory of Paddington Station after a trip to London complete with a Torbay railway poster. 

Bill married Jill at Paignton Parish Church in 1959. At the time he was a caterer and had bought a cafe on the corner of Hyde Road and Dendy Road in Paignton. 

His aunty, Ena, encouraged him to sell paintings in the cafe. He then began to visit the Brixham quayside in the evenings with his easel and paints and began producing vivid orange scenes of Brixham. He joined a band of artists.

His art gallery had an interesting beginning. One day Bill and his canvasses ended up in the harbour after a customer poaching row. Tea rooms owner Tony Clapp offered Bill the chance to dry off and have a cup of tea - as well as the use of a first-floor room. The whole of the top was eventually to become the Strand Art Gallery where the other harbourside artists were to join him to work in harmony for decades. 

Bill was passionate about his family, painting and Brixham where he was chairman of the chamber of trade for three years. 

He enjoyed bowls and gardening - he and Jill won the Best Garden in Brixham title three times 

Julian Lane wrote: “He will be remembered for being a tourist attraction doing his iconic paintings. If anyone deserved an MBE it should have been him.” 

Anthony Wollard said: “Brixham has lost a legend.” 

Barry Kendal wrote: “Brixham has lost a true gentleman.” 

Lynda Ward said: “So sad, a real icon in Brixham.”