The story of a local artist: Brenda Poppy Cox

Brenda Poppy Cox

Sometimes amazing things happen in Lewes. A couple of months ago a woman stepped through the cafe door, “Do you want some art?” – a great opener to any conversation. It turned out that this surprise visitor had come to clear her mother’s home on South Street, Lewes. She had discovered a mass of her mother’s drawings, paintings and sketches that she simply didn’t have space to keep. She told us that she was on the cusp of throwing the papers away.

Zoe-Anne Wadey told us all about her mother and how she had painted and created all her life while living in Lewes. We were intrigued & moved by her life story; we encouraged Zoe to come back with whatever she couldn’t keep.

Zoe disappeared and returned an hour later wheeling an amazing, heavy old painted stove, tin watering cans and a box of sketches. A magical and utterly charming collection; everything decorated with fairies, elves and gnomes. These were the artworks of her mother, Brenda Poppy Cox.

Brenda Poppy Cox's work in The Buttercup Cafe. Photo taken from

We think most of the painted objects were made by Brenda in the 1960s & 70s; she has a child-like, naive style to her drawing and painting. Many of the pieces look like narrow boat art at first glance.

Brenda Poppy Cox lived on South Street until her death in 2004. She had always written stories and drawn but her daughter told us that Brenda had to turn down offers of formal training and a place at art school to look after her family.

We are delighted to have Brenda’s artwork on display across the cafe in The Buttercup yard at the moment thanks to the kindness of her daughter. Come and have a look at a truly local artist’s work.

Stories & Poems from The Mulberry Tree - published by Arthur H Stockwell Ltd

Brenda’s daughter also had her mother’s stories and drawings published in 2004. They are magical tales, many set around Lewes. There’s an old tree with a fairy door at its roots, a tree full of “funny little men” and it is based on the majestic Mulberry Tree in The Grange Gardens:

“To my surprise the fairies were playing hide-and-seek,
And one by one I found them upon the bark, behind the twigs, in every cranny and creek”

One story tells of a giant’s cave found by the builders of Cuifail tunnel; a cave full of giant cooking pots, chairs and beds. You’ll never look at that dull tunnel in the same way again!

We have a copy of the book (Stories & Poems from The Mulberry Tree by Brenda Poppy Cox) in the cafe. Do come and read one of the magical tales while you have a coffee.

You can see the painted stove we have on display in The Buttercup yard in the background of this photo

Did you know Brenda Poppy Cox? We’d love to know more about her and her work. Please do share with us your stories and memories.

2 thoughts on “The story of a local artist: Brenda Poppy Cox

  1. I just found this article, was mum’s birthday yesterday, she would have been 79. Thank you for fabulous tribute. Best Wishes, Zoe Wadey.

    • Your mum’s artwork is much admired and really is part of who we are here at The Buttercup. Thank you so much for allowing us to share her creativity x

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