The British Water Colour Collection


The Gateway, Baalbec David Roberts  Herbert Powell collection
The gateway, Baalbec   David Roberts
Herbert Andrews Powell first came to my attention as the Lieutenant Colonel of The newly established War Hospital in Guildford, Surrey in 1916.  Born in Kent in 1863, after graduating from Corpus Christi College in Oxford he trained in medicine at Bart’s Hospital in London.  Herbert Powell began his career as a doctor in practice in Winchester but by 1897 he had moved to his deceased father’s home, “Piccard’s Rough,” in Guildford and had given up practising medicine.

This did not mean that he was idle.  While in Winchester he had publishing a book of poetry, “Lyrics of the White City,” but verses such as,
“Behold the day-king, full astir
In royal opulence,
Kindle the mystic gossamer
To an unseen incense,
And princely rise
Through breathless skies
In splendour to his noon-day audience.”
may not have proved as popular as he had expected so he put all his energy into civic duty.  Within a year he was a member of the Guildford Board of Guardians running the local poor law institution and increasingly he involved himself with the District and County Council. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Surrey County Nursing Association from its formation and in 1916 helped to establish a local nursing home.  He was a member of the Guildford Education Committee and in 1900 he was added to the committee of the Peace on Guildford Bench.

Samuel Atkins, ‘Shakespeare's Cliff, Dover’ date not known Powell collection
Shakespeare's Cliff, Dover   Samuel Atkins

In 1915 during the early stages of the First World War, Herbert and his wife Elizabeth Powell placed their house, “Piccard’s Rough,” at the disposal of the War Office.  It provided 50 beds for sick and wounded soldiers with Mrs Powell as its Commandant and Mr Powell as Medical officer.  In 1917 this hospital was reserved for the convalescence of military nurses. 

George Chambers, ‘The Hay-Barge’ date not known Powell collection
The Hay Barge  George Chambers

In the meantime, in March 1916 the Workhouse Infirmary was requisitioned as a Military Hospital and Herbert Powell became its Commandant.  He was given the honorary title of Lt-Col. and was ably assisted by Major Hancock RAMC.  Initially there was accommodation for 300 patients but later it could take 480.  The nursing staff were mostly volunteers from the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment who had taken a nursing certificate or special training.  A major part of Powell’s responsibilities was transporting the wounded soldiers from Guildford station to the War Hospital in Warren Road.  Many British, Australian and Canadian soldiers were tended there.

From April 1919 the hospital was used primarily for cases of malaria and in 1919 it ceased to be a military hospital enabling Herbert and his family to return to their pre-war lifestyle.  He had resigned his honorary Commission in 1918 but in 1922 he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey.

Tour d’Horloge, Rouen, 1829, graphite and watercolor on paper by David Cox, British, 1783-1859. Presented to Tate Britain by the Art Fund, Herbert Powell bequest in 1967.
Tour d'Horloge, Rouen  David Cox

Throughout his life, Herbert Andrews Powell collected fine watercolours, perhaps following on from his father Thomas Wilde Powell, who was a patron of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  He was encouraged by his wife, Elizabeth, who came from the Courtauld family.  Herbert’s sister, Christiana Herringham, was an artist, copyist and art patron.  In 1903 she was the only woman on the committee which established the National Art Collection, originally the idea of John Ruskin, to preserve Britain’s artistic heritage.  In 1929 Herbert began giving his collection of British watercolours to the nation, to be exhibited around the country, and subsequently the Herbert Powell Collection became part of the National Arts Collection.

Memorial at Watts Cemetery

Herbert Powell was a trustee of the Watts Gallery in Compton, Surrey from 1905 until 1946.  His son Lawrence Powell, an architect, designed the Sunken Gallery and later also became a trustee.  There is a memorial to Herbert Andrews Powell at Watts Cemetery where he was buried in January 1950.

Sources:
http://billiongraves.com/pages/record/HerbertAndrewsPowell/3184380
Mary Lago, “Christiana Herringham and the Edwardian Art Scene,”  1996
Powell, “Lyrics of the White City,” 1896
Surrey Advertiser at Surrey History Centre, Woking
Guildford Institute Scrapbook, “The Great War,” compiled by M C Elias Morgan
Pictures:-
Samuel Atkins, ‘Shakespeare's Cliff, Dover’   
The Gateway, Baalbec David Roberts  
George Chambers, ‘The Hay-Barge”
Tour d’Horloge, Rouen, 1829, graphite and watercolor on paper by David Cox, 
Herbert Powell Collection in  Tate.org  and  Nationalgalleries.org

Comments

  1. What exquisite paintings! I never knew about him. Thanks.

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