A double celebration has taken place to commemorate one of Halifax’s greatest artists, the sculptor Jocelyn Horner.
Last Sunday a blue plaque was unveiled in a ceremony at Green Hayes, the house at Savile Park Road, Bell Hall, Halifax, where Jocelyn Horner was born, lived, worked and died.
And earlier in the day one of Jocelyn’s major works, a statue of The Boy David, was dedicated at St Jude’s Church, just a short distance along Savile Park Road from Green Hayes.
Jocelyn Horner was one of Halifax’s most important daughters, a sculptor – she didn’t like to be called a “sculptress” – who was also devoted to the welfare of others and a lover of animals.
She was born at Green Hayes in 1902 and attended the former Halifax High School at Clare Hall and Grovelly Manor, Bournemouth, and later, in 1920, studied at Leeds College of Art. There she was a contemporary of two of Britain’s greatest modern sculptors, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, who became a lifelong friend.
During the 1920s she made a series of children’s portraits and animal studies. But, perhaps surprisingly, she had no intention of making sculpture her career and in 1937 turned to the welfare of blind people and also animals.
She trained as a home teacher for the blind and during the second world war looked after a group of blind London people who had come to live in Halifax. She was also a Red Cross nurse during the war.
After 15 year break from sculpting she took up her interest in art again and studied modelling at Leeds College of Art and became a part-time member of staff at Halifax School of Art.
As a sculptor she won some major commissions. Probably her best known work is a group in bronze of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, which was commissioned by the Bronte Society.
The sculpture, more than 4 ft high and weighing 10 hundredweight, was commended by the sculptor Jacob Epstein and won Jocelyn a major award, the Leeds Gold Medal, in 1951.
Jocelyn Horner intended the work to be the centrepiece of a Bronte Memorial Chapel at Haworth Parish Church. In the event it was first shown at Leeds Art Galley and is now in the garden of the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth.
Jocelyn Horner is also known for sculptures of both the head and also the hands of Sir John Barbirolli, famous conductor of the Halle Orchestra, who was also a close friend.
She created many other works, including The Boy Jesus and the Lamb for the then Cross Lane Infants School at Elland, a bust of famous Halifax author Dr Phyllis Bentley, and a plaster figure The Annunciation, bought by Leeds Art Gallery.
She also made The Cross and Figure of Christ, a bronze figure on a 2ft cross of Lakeland slate which was a personal gift to Dr Eric Treacy, then Bishop of Wakefield and a former Vicar of Halifax.
She also created a statuette of Christ on a Donkey for Halifax RSPCA. Jocelyn Horner had a deep love of animals. She was a member of the RSPCA branch committee in Halifax and it is recorded that at Green Hayes in 1955 she had four dogs, two birds and a tankful of fish.
In 1972, the year before she died, Jocelyn Horner was asked to make a sculpture of St John the Baptist for the then Halifax Parish Church. She made a miniature but died in January 1973 before the larger work could be completed. In tribute her friends had the miniature cast in bronze.
Remembering Jocelyn is a family affair
Last Sunday’s events to commemorate Jocelyn Horner were organised by Halifax Civic Trust, which decided, in its golden jub-ilee year, to install a blue plaque in memory of the woman who was a member of its committee when the trust was founded in June 1962.
The plaque was sponsored by Lawrence Funeral Service, which has operated from Green Hayes, Bell Hall, since soon after Jocelyn Horner died in 1973.
And the bronze statue of The Boy David at St Jude’s Church was donated to the trust by the Tallis family in memory of Peter Tallis, who died earlier this year.
The statue had originally stood in the entrance to Holy Trinity Secondary School, Holmfield, Halifax, the gift in 1964 of Sarah Thwaites, who was for many years headmistress at Holy Trinity Junior School, not far from Green Hayes in Savile Park Road.
When the school closed in 2010, to be replaced by the new Trinity Academy, the statue came into the hands of Halifax Metals, run by the Tallis family at Shay Lane, Ovenden.
After Peter Tallis’s death the family agreed to put the statue into the safe keeping of Halifax Civic Trust, which has transferred it on permanent loan to St Jude’s Church.
There it was dedicated on Sunday by retiring vicar the Rev Martin Russell. He said that in its position in the entrance porch the statue could be enjoyed by everyone. The figure appears to beckon with his outstretched left hand – “welcoming people to the house of God,” said Mr Russell.
Lawrence’s – now part of the nationwide Dignity group – was founded by John Lawrence in 1857 and it was his descendant, Gordon Lawrence, who combined two funeral parlours in Halifax at Green Hayes in the 1970s.
Members of the Lawrence family, Fiona – daughter of Gordon Lawrence – and Greg Reinsch, still run the business and the basement studio where Jocelyn Horner created her sculptures is still in use by the firm as a workshop.
* Jocelyn Horner’s sculpture, The Boy David, at St Jude’s Church, Halifax;
* A blue plaque for Jocelyn Horner at her former home, Green Hayes, Bell Hall, now the home of Lawrence Funeral Service, which sponsored the plaque. From the left are the Dr John Hargreaves, chairman of Halifax * Civic Trust, which organised the event, the High Sheriff of West Yorkshire, Virginia Lloyd, and husband Clive Lloyd, Ann Martin, Greg Reinsch and Fiona Reinsch, of Lawrence’s, and the Deputy Mayor of Calderdale, Coun Lisa Lambert, with consort Ken Lambert;
* Sculptor Jocelyn Horner
* Works of Jocelyn Horner - the bust of Sir John Barbirolli, famous conductor of the Halle Orchestra, who was a personal friend of Jocelyn Horner and Christ on a Donkey, made for Halifax RSPCA