Historic Churches of Buckinghamshire

Historic Churches of Buckinghamshire is a project launched in 2018, with only a few churches included at the moment.


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Harry Hems

Harry (Henry) Hems, 12 June 1842 - 5 January 1916. Active: 1861 - 1911. Sculptor, architectural sculptor, ecclesiastical sculptor Born in London. He was the son of Henry Hems (born c.1819 in Whitechapel, London), ironmonger and cutler and grandson of George Wostenholm Senior, cutlery manufacturer. Harry began working as a cutler and was then apprenticed as a wood carver. After a visit to Italy in the 1860s, he was commissioned to work on the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (1866-8). Hems moved permanently to Devon and established the Ecclesiastical Art Works, Exeter which was a highly successful ecclesiastical sculpture and church fittings business. He built new workshops in Longbrook Street (1883) which were noted in the local press for being the first public building in Exeter to be adorned with sculpture (a female in contemplative attitude holding a tablet and a pair of callipers). The premises were greatly extended in 1884 with a street frontage of over 300 feet, they included a tramway to connect the various workshops and a telephone. Hems's Ecclesiastical Art Works won medals at the Centennial International Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876 and were represented at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1878 by an oak chest and a sculpture in alabaster entitled 'Safe in the Arms of Jesus'. The firm also won prizes at the Chicago World Fair, 1893 and the Antwerp Exhibition, 1894. Among the commissions carried out by Hems's firm were: the reredos at St Ann's Church, Hessenford, Cornwall (1883); the pulpit, Holy Trinity, Westward Ho! (1885); restoration of 14th century screens at St Andrew's, Aveton Gifford, Devon (1885); the pulpit, alabaster font, oak carved screen, stalls and miserere seat designed by the architect, G.H. Prynne of Newton, for St Peter Port Church, Guernsey (1886); a carved oak scroll for the Guille Allés Library, Guernsey; carvings in the choir stalls at Truro and Lincoln Cathedrals (the latter c.1891); restoration of the high altar screen at St Albans Cathedral under the supervision of Sir Reginald Blomfield, architect, including the addition of figures to blank niches and a cross (a 'Resurrection' in marble by Alfred Gilbert was also added) (1899); restoration of the village cross at Northlew, Devon (1900); memorial tablet and window to R.D. Blackmore, Exeter Cathedral 1901-4; a memorial to H.M.S. 'Doris' (captured during the South African War), Devonport Park, 1903; reredos for the church of St. Mary and St. Michael, Doddington, Northumberland (1903); and works in America and Australia. Three of his children joined the firm before 1900 (Greville Chester (born 1869), Harry Turner (born 1873) and Wilfred Westenholm Preswell (born 1885)) when it became known as Harry Hems and Sons. Harry served as a town councillor in Exeter. (https://sculpture.gla.ac.uk)

 One Church with features by Harry Hems - Designer

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Holy Trinity Bledlow 1898: Chancel Screen (now under tower). Designer was Harry Hems.
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Historic Churches of Buckinghamshire

All photographs by Michael G Hardy unless stated otherwise


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