There can be few people in Berkhamsted who aren’t familiar with Harry Sheldon’s paintings. Berkhamsted’s Story, a book for the millennium, written by John Cook and illustrated by Harry, was distributed across the town and beyond.
Christmas cards illustrated by Harry for the Round Table in the 20 years until the millennium shared images of Berkhamsted and the surrounding countryside to families at home and abroad.
Pictures painted by Harry and donated as prizes for charitable raffles for many years adorning the living rooms of the lucky winners and here at The Hospice of St Francis, we are lucky enough to count Harry, one-time student of LS Lowry, celebrated official war artist for the 8th Ghurkha Rifles and Fellow of the Royal Society of Art, as one of our early supporters.
A beautiful line drawing of his of a long-boat on the canal (above centre) was shown at Berkhamsted Library in September 1979 as part of a public display - including posters and leaflets - outlining plans for the Hospice. It was later sold to raise money for us but not before being reproduced to make notelets and Christmas cards to sell in shops and at the Christmas Bazaar to secure the first £5,000 to get the Hospice off the ground.
A line drawing Harry did of Sunnyside Church featured on the programme cover for An Evening of Music & Carols at Sunnyside Parish Church in aid of the Hospice in December 1980 and every year, Harry would donate a painting for our Christmas Bazaar in Berkhamsted’s Court House, according to original Bazaar group member, Mary Rattee.
Harry’s picture of St Francis House featured on our first ‘Boxes in Houses’ Appeal – now our Home Box Scheme, which was launched in 1983 (organised by Wyndham Roberts, pictured top left) with the aim of raising £30,000 a year to cover the cost of nurses’ salaries and bring the first patients into St Francis House.
“I remember Harry doing lots for the Hospice,” recalls Angela Morris, 81, a long-standing member of St Peter’s Church, Hospice-Church Link, and early Hospice supporter who has since moved to Winchester.
“I used to sell hundreds of little packets of his notelets. There were three designs including the long boat and the Yew tree on the corner of Castle Street outside St Peter’s.
“He also donated many watercolours which were reproduced as Christmas cards for the Hospice and I remember at least two of his paintings in later years - a misty canal scene and a painting of people coming out of St Peter’s and crossing the road – being made into prints and sold to raise funds for the Hospice.
“Harry and Joan, his wife of nearly 60 years, were regular worshippers at St Peter’s and it would have been there that he met and knew Pam Macpherson and got involved.”
Harry lived in Berkhamsted for over 30 years, never owned a car, was renowned for his bow-ties and will always be remembered for positioning himself on traffic islands or on the canal tow path – never letting the bustle of everyday life interrupt his creativity.
After enduring two years of declining health, he sadly passed away aged 84 on 26th February 2002 but his legacy in terms of his prolific output of local scenes and characters – snapped up at his annual exhibitions - will live on for years to come.
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