Harry Sheldon

Harry Sheldon, Berkhamsted Town Council Collection cared for by Dacorum Heritage

his easel was his staff of life

Harry Sheldon was once a very familiar figure to Berkhamsted inhabitants.  He was often   seen painting about the town, practising the firm belief that working outdoors in front of his chosen subject was the best way to capture the spontaneous effect of light and movement in a landscape.  You would have seen him out in the town in all weathers, well wrapped up and regularly perched in the most surprising places, sometimes on the kerb edge, on a traffic island or, at times, tucked away in hedges.

Harry Sat with his back to the camera as he paints on a large board with paper attached. in the background you can see rolled countryside, fields and trees in the distance. We are looking over his shoulder seeing his work. he wears a hat and tweed looking jacket. the photo is black and white.
Harry Sheldon at work painting Aldbury from Pitstone Hill. Gazette dated 16 January 1981.

Today we share some of his work, which we care for at the Museum Store.  The watercolours we show you form part of  Berkhamsted Town Council’s collection. They all appeared in the book Berkhamsted Story,   which was written by  John Cook and published by Berkhamsted Town Council to commemorate the millennium.  It is believed that either John Cook or Berkhamsted Town Council commissioned Harry Sheldon to create these beautiful illustrations especially for the book.

Brought up in Marple, Cheshire,  Harry came from a long line of artists. He studied art at the Whitworth School of Artin Manchester and eventually studied figure drawing for five years under L S Lowry at the Salford School of Art.

He joined the Coldstream Guards at the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1942, he went out to India, commissioned into the 8th Gurkha Rifles.  While there waiting to be invalided home from Karachi Military Hospital, Harry’s paintings were spotted by the then Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, who put his name forward as an official War Artist.

A Young Garhwali Man in Traditional Dress by Harry Sheldon © The Gurkha Museum.

“I grabbed the idea. It was a bit odd – I was an officer going into battle with a revolver and a sketch pad. The pad was more important to me.”


He painted dozens of battle scenes in Burma and the Middle East.  Many now hang in army museums in India, Singapore and England. During the war, he painted most of the famous Indian Army commanders, including Mountbatten, Wavell, Auchinleck, Browning and Slim, and all the Indian Army VCs.

For more than three decades, Harry resided in Berkhamsted, dedicating himself to capturing the local scenes and characters in his artwork. His paintings were highly sought-after in the local community and beyond.

For many years, Harry donated his pictures as prizes for charitable raffles.  Most notable was his support in funding The Hospice of St Francis.  In 1979, he offered  a line drawing of a long boat on a Hertfordshire canal to raise money for the new Hospice which was planned for Berkhamsted.  Harry went on to reproduce the drawing to make notebooks and Christmas cards to raise further funds.

Gazette 6 Mar 2002

Harry, pictured with Ghurka soldier who visited the town.  In 2000 he was commissioned by the 1st battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles to paint the portrait of a rifleman to mark the millennium and to hang in the regimental mess at Church Crookham in Hampshire. Gazette 6 March 2002.

Sadly, Harry's health began to decline two years prior to his passing on 26 February  2002, at the age of 84. Nevertheless, his legacy endures through the numerous works he produced during his lifetime, some of which are cared for by Dacorum Heritage at the Museum Store.


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