Search for artist leads to Tadcaster Grammar School
A lifelong interest in artwork has brought an historian from Newcastle to Toulston, Tadcaster.
John Millard is passionate about art, and particularly realist painter, woodcarver and illustrator, Ralph Hedley (who was born in December 1848 and died in June 1913).
Born in Richmond, Hedley and his family moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1850.
He studied art and design at the government school there and attended evening classes at the Life School under William Bell Scott.
After serving his apprenticeship as a woodcarver, Hedley established himself as a successful painter of portraits and landscapes, as well as becoming an accomplished woodcarver including work in Tadcaster.
On a visit to Tadcaster Grammar School recently, Mr Millard brought with him several documents, including a page out of Hedley’s journal dated January 1900.
This states that work designed for Henry Hugh Riley-Smith at Toulston Lodge, Tadcaster by architects Bromet and Thorman cost a total of £3455 25s 0d, which was an incredible amount of money for its day.
The work included the carved oak for the dining room, inner and outer halls and staircase and the elephants which all exist today.
Everything was made in workshops in Newcastle and brought down to Tadcaster.
“I have been told that no sandpaper was allowed in the Hedley workshop; all the carving was finished with sharp chisels,” said Mr Millard.
“It really takes your breath away when you look up and see all that amazing workmanship.
“It is 100 years later this year since the death of Hedley and from March to November an exhibition celebrating his life will be held in Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead,” added Mr Millard.
And the researcher added: “I am not the organiser, but am helping Amy Barker of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums because of my interest in Ralph Hedley and I wanted to come to Tadcaster to see for myself the magnificent carvings he made all those years ago.”
Hedley also worked on wood carvings in The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas in Newcastle and St Andrew’s Church, also in the city.
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