Saturday, December 05, 2020

Freda Jackson and Henry Bird: Northampton's mighty artistic couple

Writing about Freda Jackson, the star of both the play No Room at the Inn and the film made of it, I suggested her husband, the artist Henry Bird deserved a post of his own. But it seems they were very much an item.

Henry regarded talent as an obligation and he served his own with exemplary devotion. He could not understand people who appeared to take art less seriously. Many regretted their hastily expressed opinion too late in the face of one of his uncompromising rebuffs. 
His late wife, the actress Freda Jackson, viewed her own art with similar rigour and both of them tended to disdain small talk. Taking a chair between them in Hardingstone House, their home on the edge of Northampton, could be a bit like sitting on the anvil while the blacksmith was at work.
As to their relationship:
They were ... devoted to each other - even if the relationship sometimes seemed to outsiders perplexingly antagonistic - and their admiration for each other's work was unflagging.
Bird came from a poor part of Northampton near the railway station, was a boy chorister at St Peter's and began taking drawing lessons at the age of 11. He took jobs to finance his part-time studies at art school. Eventually he won a scholarship to the Royal School of Art, where he won most of the big prizes.

He became a ferocious tutor himself and produced many works of public art, such as murals, in and around Northampton.

And I find I have photographed one of these myself: the rood screen at All Saints, Earls Barton.

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