Herbert Colborne Oakley   (1869 - 1944)
Biography - St. David's, Wales

United Kingdom St. David's City.

At the South-West tip of Wales.
Surrounded by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

St. David's Cathedral
St. David's Cathedral.
The present cathedral, dating from the twelfth century, honours the patron saint of Wales, canonised by Pope Calixtus II (1119 - 1124).  In medieval times, it became a pilgrimage centre, when the same pontiff decreed that two pilgrimages to St. David's were equal to one to Rome.

Surrounding the St. David's area is the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which includes a footpath stretching 186 miles (300 km) along the mostly rugged coastline, mainly at cliff-top level. Some of the most beautiful scenery lies in the roughly 10 miles of coastal path adjacent to St. David's.

When the artist first visited St. David's is unclear, the earliest records indicate he was already a repeat visitor to the area in 1924 - at the age of 54.  The beauty of the rural coastal area clearly appealed to him, as witnessed by the many letters to the editors he was to write in later years, championing the preservation of the countryside. He describes the area as:

"the far confines of Wales - in fact, the Land's End of Wales"

possible the remoteness also held a special attraction for him.

When his regular hotel, Warpool Court, became unavailable, he obtained temporary accommodation with the Arnold family, Ivor and Ruth.  The relationship was to last a lifetime.

He stayed with them, initially in their house in Goat Street, St. David's, and later at their farm "Y Glasfryn", from the early 1920's until his death in 1944.   Throughout this period, he would travel almost annually to France and Italy.  There appears to have been a considerable friendship developed between his hosts in France and Wales, possibly also Italy, with a number of visits occurring from the younger members of these continental communities to St. David's.

Right: Y Glasfryn
(loosely translated from Welsh: "The green bank"
being on a somewhat higher point of ground
than the surrounding area.)
Haymaking In Field
Left: The artist (in light jacket)
observing the hay making at Glasfryn.
Circa 1930 - 1935.

It is from this association with the Arnold family, and the items of his work that he bequeathed to them, that we derive most of the material presented on this site.  However in the relatively short time that this project has been ongoing, a surprising amount of additional information, primarily on his paintings, has come to light - surprising indeed in view of the almost total absence of a record of his work in current day reference material.

The artist's studio in St. David's at Pigsfoot Lane, overlooking the valley of the River Alun - near the cathedral and very close to the Deanery.

    He was to develop a close relationship with the Dean of St. David's Cathedral, and the studio, which was relatively large and apparently well maintained, was made available to the Dean through the periods the artist was absent from St. David's, for use by visiting clergy.

The vast majority of the portraits and still life paintings on this web site were more than likely painted at this studio.

HCO date unknown The artist circa 1930 -
when most of the portraits on this web site were painted.

John Jones

John Jones

R. Forbes

R. Forbes

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"The H. C. Oakley Virtual Gallery" Copyright © 2005-2013 Andrew Gray