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NAME: Simon Kalman

DATE: 18 February 2016


As some of you might already know, Hew Purchas, who taught art for over 30 years at QE, died on 16th February. I remember him as someone who taught me a lot about printing (on that very old 'Catherine Wheel' press) after he realised I has hopeless at art (painting or drawing!)

RESTRICTED THREAD: please make Hew Purchas or other art teaches at QE the main subject of your reply.


NAME: Vic Coughtrey  Vic CoughtreyThen & Now

DATE: 18 February 2016


The following is from the Goldmark directory of British artists (italics are mine):

Hew Purchas 1933-[2016]: Painter & teacher born in Hornsey, Middlesex, who attended Ealing School of Art 1950-53 and Chelsea Scool of Art 1953-55. Among his notable teachers [were] Prunella Clough and Julian Trevelyan. He taught as Head of Art [at QE] 1956-87. Purchas was commissioned to paint the National Savings Poster of Burnham Market. He was a full member of Norfolk & Norwich Art Circle. Group Exhibitions included the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, NEAC, RBA and the Radlett & Llewellyn Alexander Galleries. Among later solo exhibitions was the Bow House Gallery, 1990; Norfolk Open Studios, 1997 and the Richford Gallery, 1999, in Wells-next-the-Sea, where he lived.

It is quite a revelation to me that he was only 23 and straight from art school when he started teaching at QE in 1956. I took him to be middle-aged! As a natural rebel, I found him excitingly different from the rest of the staff, with his beard (there wasn't a lot of facial hair around in the '50s, especially at QE!) and his colourful jackets. I found him a lot more inspiring than his predecessor, Mr Symonds, and did well in his classes, while others were messing around and playing him up. To some of them, his 'arty' appearance precluded him from being taken seriously. No doubt this perception changed radically in the '60s and '70s? When I was working in the Art Department in the late '90s, there was a large canvas by him depicting the original school buildings in Wood Street, hanging over the top of the stairs in the art block. Is it still there?


NAME: Martyn Day  Martyn DayThen & Now

DATE: 16 February 2016

CONNECTION WITH QE: Inmate 1956-1963

I remember H.P with fondness and gratitude. He taught us all about 'Perspective' - which is more than you could say about many of the other masters at Q.E in the late 1950s. I really dug his beard too!


NAME: Nick Dean  Nick Dean Nick Dean gallery

DATE: 19 February 2016


Purchas was known affectionately as "Piggy" in my time and was clearly a man of discernment because amazingly I came top in art in 1C. In my final term - the first with a comprehensive intake - he asked me rather earnestly if I had detected any obvious changes from previous years. When I told him that some new boys addressed me (as a prefect) as "sir", he chuckled merrily - "Oh, that's good. I should encourage that!" A few years later, I came back to the school for lunch and noticed that HP's picture of Jenkins was missing from the refectory. I asked Bernie Pinnock about this. It transpired that, following recent redecoration of the refectory, it hadn't been re-hung, but evidently nobody had noticed. Bernie initiated some immediate gossipy enquiries with G L Smith and others, but, to what effect, I don't know. Is it still at the school? And, finally, thanks to Vic for confirming that it was indeed Piggy who painted the view of Tudor Hall (I thought he had, but wasn't sure): does anyone recall where hung in the sixties? Also the refectory?


NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 24 February 2016


I too remember Hew Purchas with affection as an art teacher. He was a larger than life character and did well to remain as a teacher at the school for so many years. He was of some weight, though not to the extent of Sam C0cks and somewhere on the site comment is made of both of them arriving at school in a Morris Minor and it springing up from the springs when they both got out of the car. Well done, Vic, for finding an example of his professional painting on the internet [reply 1]. Are there any other examples to be found? I do hope his paintings hanging at school have a prominent place. Well done, Nick, for coming top in art in 1c. Have you ever done painting since and if so is it approved of? My wife is the artist in our family, from which genes the children have inherited. One of my wife's paintings at school went up to the RA summer exhibition and a lovely painting of a garden by my daughter Grace hangs in our bedroom. I did not realise it at the time but his christian name 'Hew' is a comparatively rare name, apparently ranking at the last reckoning 36,794th in the popularity of names stakes. Apparently it is a Scottish variant of Hugh and at one time was the usual form of the personal name in Scotland. The Welsh have a different variation. I do not recall his being especially Scottish. Another point of interest I find is that whilst we had exams and placings in the form for art we had no exams and placings in music during the time we had Dickie Whittington. Incidentally I looked up my old school reports for my form placings in art and see I came 25th,18th,8th,12th= and 16th= respectively in forms 1b and 2b, the end of which teaching ceased as with music. I got 67% in one exam and one term had no placings or exams at all. (Why?) I am amazed that there were pupils who did worse than me or were assessed so.


NAME: Nigel Wood  Nigel Wood

DATE: 28 February 2016


"It's quite a revelation to me that he [Hew Purchas] would have been just 23 and straight from art school when he started teaching at QE in 1956." [see reply 1]. Likewise to me. I'd have thought Mr Dilly (who started teaching at QE some eighteen months later) to have been considerably younger. He was actually a little older. In the case of Mr Purchas the beard and the gravitas were distractors (red herrings?) of course. I don't recall my form playing him up systematically or even casually, but I was probably daydreaming. I've already put in my two penn'orth about him on 32/61. He was a delightful man and I regret that I didn't pay him a visit while this was still possible.


NAME: Ray Sloss

DATE: 29 Febuary 2016

CONNECTION WITH QE: Student 1956-8

I was very sad to hear that Hew Purchas had died. I mentioned before that he gave me an art prize (a very nice Windsor and Newton paint box), he also asked me to opt for art as an exam subject. My father refused permission saying "you are doing Latin!" I did actually pass Latin 'O' Level but I'd rather have done art. My father's many moves around the country resulted in me leaving school early. I did an external science degree later and taught Design, Electronics and Computing for 35 years. I would have been more suited to a technical college than QE. I remember explaining to Jenkins and the panel at my initial interview in the library how a steam engine, a car engine and a jet engine worked - they should have realised!


NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 10 March 2016


I did attend the funeral of Hew near his old home at St Nicholas Church. I also went round his old home at 51 High Street before the service along with his cousin Norman, whom I met on the bus on the way to Wells-next-the-Sea. In addition I attended the wake provided on his widow's instructions at The Bowling Green Inn, which was opposite the church. At the service the Bible Reading of 1 Corinthians 13 (shades of the QE Fouders Day service) was made by his brother The Revd. Canon Tom Purchas and tributes were given by three people, his nieces Anna Castiglione and Katie Gifford and his stepson Michael Cull-Dodd. Hew married his wife Frances, now his widow, about 10 years ago. The lady was a near neighbour whom Hugh knew along with her husband before her previous husband died and whom he befriended afterwards. I combined attending the funeral on the Monday with visiting the three-day North Norfolk railway gala weekend on the previous Friday to Sunday. At Hew's funeral and at his house beforehand was Neil Kobish, who was a Latin teacher at QEs and apparently he is also one of Hew's executors. He used to go on holidays with Hew and spoke of their visiting art galleries and homes of artists (Hew's interests) along with architectural and archaeological sites (Neil's interests). There was also Sally Ibbotson there. She was apparently a school secretary for all QE headmasters after EHJ and probably other OEs may recall the lady. She said that she enjoyed working for all four headmasters despite their different ways. OEs who had learnt from Hew and were engaged in the worlds of painting and fine arts sent their condolences and some of these were related in Anna's tribute. I did speak with some other OES who attended on the day, especially Roger Birchall (At QEs 1958-63) who was in my brother John's 1st-form class and who has contributed to several of the recent issues of >The Elizabethan magazine. We talked about soccer and about my brother John. I expect a tribute to Hew will appear in The Elizabethan soon, perhaps in the next edition and possibly the local paper at Wells-next-the-Sea may have a tribute. One of the points made in the tributes at the church was in relation to how well dressed he always wanted to be and on most occasions he wore a bow tie. Reference was made to his kindness, especially to family and pupils. I have enclosed a scan of the front page of the order of service of the funeral.


NAME: Nigel Wood  Nigel Wood

DATE: 13 March 2016


I think James has done us proud with his very interesting pot pourri of material gathered on the occasion of Hew Purchas's funeral. I found the picture of the deceased from the front page of the order of service especially moving, as it corresponded so well with my memory of him from fifty years ago.


NAME: Simon Kalman

DATE: 14 March 2016


I too would like to thank James for sharing details of Hew Purchas's funeral, especially for scanning the front cover of the Order of Service.

10th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 14 March 2016


In regard to Hew's death he apparently went into his local hospital (Queen Elizabeth's Hospital) after a fall and was expected to come out again this February. Although I do not know the full details of Hew's case, how sad it is that so many do not survive a hospital stay at a place where they are meant to get better. My dear Auntie Ella died in a hospital up in County Durham in a similar way and at a significantly younger age. In regard to Hew's body of work I note that there is a site on the internet containing many examples of design projects that Hew Purchas worked on. I assume it is the same Hew we are interested in. Quite remarkable! I enjoyed talking very much with Hew's niece Anne and her husband, both chartered accountants like myself and who have been working for KPMG. I also chatted much with his cousin Norman, who studied at Highgate school and Lincoln College Oxford (reading history) and lives in Fulham, which he loathes. Move elsewhere I urged him.

11th REPLY

NAME: Hugh Hoffman

DATE: 24 August 2016

CONNECTION WITH QE: pupil 1955-60

Art was not considered an 'academic' subject and was therefore not treated seriously during my time at QE (the same can be said about Music). I was not good at art either. But despite this I was a great admirer of Hew Purchas's skill - he once drew pencil portraits of some of the class at great speed and produced very accurate likenesses.

12th REPLY

NAME: Nick Dean  Nick Dean Nick Dean gallery

DATE: 26 September 2016


Neil Kobish has written an obituary of Hew Purchas for The Elizabethan. Some interesting revelations: for example, I don't think I knew that HP and Eric Crofts had clubbed together to buy the minibus that used to take groups of boys down to the Holly Tree Hostel. I can certainly recall being driven there by NAK exactly 45 years ago next month! I have omitted from the extract a number of anonymised messages submitted to the OEs about HP. These were mostly admiring and affectionate. Unfortunately, the two pictures of Hew in the obituary had to be removed, as they broke up in pdf format (due to an interference pattern in the originals). However, there is already a nice portrait in the Museum

13th REPLY

NAME: Stephen Giles  Stephen Giles

DATE: 28 September 2016

CONNECTION WITH QE: inmate 1957-64

Many thanks to NAK for such an excellent obituary. Is there a recent photo of NAK? I can just about remember what he looked like in 1964!

14th REPLY

NAME: Nick Dean  Nick Dean Nick Dean gallery

DATE: 01 January 2017


Consulting EHJ's autobiography in connection with another reply, I came across this reference to HP's portrait of Elizabeth I: "We centred in the refectory the magnificent copy of a little-known portrait of Queen Elizabeth that Mr Purchas did for us ... The architect [of the refectory] was so struck by it that he earnestly urged us to make sure that it was known to be a copy, to avoid later dispute as to which was the original! ... On grounds of craftsmanship alone he was quite right."

15th REPLY

NAME: Charles King  Charles King

DATE: 02 March 2017


Just discovered this site. Terrific! I too have appreciative memories of Hew Purchas though my memories of his art classes are influenced by the fact that I came from rather a poor family. When we were given homework such as drawing a washing machine I was too embarrassed to confess we didn't have one. I therefore copied one out of a newspaper advert, which of course had no light or shade. Somehow, though, I managed to pass Art O level. I had a completely undistinguished career at QE's, though I appreciated the experience. I was a bit of a disappointment to the school for choosing not to go to university but instead to join the Barnet Press as a trainee reporter. I had always wanted to be a journalist but in those days entry into the profession was via local newspapers rather than university. It was the right decision in that respect but in later years I regretted not having the university experience.

16th REPLY

NAME: Brian Seal  Brian Seal

DATE: 06 March 2017

CONNECTION WITH QE: pupil 1957-63

Welcome to the club, Charles! So what happened to you from the Barnet Press?

17th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 07 March 2017


I too welcome you to the site, Charles, and hope you will contribute more. I have never been a full or even part time reporter to a paper myself but I used to contribute results for and stories about Borehamwood Athletic Club to the Elstree and Borehamwood Post in the 1960s. In relation to Hew Purchas, when I last spoke with Neil Kobish at the end of 2016, he said that there would be another retrospective exhibition of Hew's work in 2017, probably at Wells-next-the-sea, where he last lived. If it has not yet taken place (which I doubt) and I hear further I will supply details to this site for those who wish to travel to it. Something may appear in the next edition of The Elizabethan. The exhibition will be next month. Go here for info/tickets (and scroll down to "Art Exhibition: Hew Purchas re-visited")

18th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 12 March 2017


Thanks for putting the link on re the Hew Purchase exhibition of April 8th to 12th, 11 a.m to 7 p.m at the Sackhouse in Wells-next-the-sea by the Wells Maltings Trust, Vic. I myself had a look on the internet. It says that it is a non-ticketed event, so no advanced booking would be needed but I daresay there is an entry charge or donation to some charitable fund or other. I may go if I can combine it with visits to heritage steam railways such as the one at Sheringham.

19th REPLY

NAME: Nigel Wood  Nigel Wood

DATE: 14 March 2017


My advice to James (see reply 18) is to take some warm clothes; I've never felt colder in my life than walking on Cromer sea front in June. It's a lovely area: Sheringham Park and Felbrigg Hall spring to mind.

20th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 18 March 2017


Should I go, Nigel, I will heed your advice and take some warm clothes. I too have experience of cold and wet weather at the East coast resorts.

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