Mystery of Preston paintings is solved

Landscape paintings by a former Preston Council painter and decorator are to get a new home - on the walls of a Spanish villa.

By Fiona Finch
Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 3:45 pm
Tony Heath with one of the paintings he bought
Tony Heath with one of the paintings he bought

The cross Europe journey for the paintings of English rural scenes in Galgate and Glasson Dock, Cumbria’s Eden valley and Derbyshire, follows their purchase by Cheshire businessman Tony Heath.

He saw and liked the watercolour paintings by Prestonian C.F.Harrison. The paintings were listed on Facebook's Marketplace and he bought them from a Fulwood resident whose father had been a friend of the artist.

It was the beginning of a detective journey as Tony, 55, sought to discover more about the artist and his paintings.

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Artist Freddie Harrison who took up picture painting in retirement

He placed a request for information on the Preston Past community page and it came to the attention of the family of Prestonian Charles Frederick Harrison, who was also known locally as Freddie.

Freddie’s stepson Michael Entwistle said: “He exhibited a painting at the Harris (art gallery) in the 1980s. He had a really good eye for detail. There’s a whole body of work he has left behind, at least 30 paintings. None had ever been sold apart from these six.”

Michael is hoping to create a website to showcase Freddie’s work.

Freddie also carried out much freelance work as a signwriter.

Landscape by C.F.Harrison

Michael and his mother Evelyn, who married Freddie in 1983, were able to share more information about Freddie's life and interest in art.

Micahel recalled his step-dad's council work had included painting the Pantheon (column) scrolls at the top of the Harris gallery in the mid-eighties. But the keen fisherman only took up his picture painting hobby after taking early retirement in 1985 due to a knee injury.

Michael said: “Fred was single minded when it came to painting, fishing, signwriting or anything he turned his hand to. He had an extraordinary eye for detail, shade and shadow. At times eccentric, he always strived for perfection. He mainly worked in water colours and liked to paint landscapes and wildlife scenes.

“A lot of his work was inspired by his fishing trips to Yorkshire, Cumbria and Wales where he particularly enjoyed fishing the Eden, Eamont and Wye river A lot of his paintings are scenes of bridges over rivers. He would take a photograph from his fishing spot and then use that as a reference when actually doing the painting at home.”

Painting by C.F. Harrison

A keen fisherman he enjoyed fly fishing at Appleby and was a member of the Yorkshire fly fishing club.

Michael recalled: "He was very artistic. Fred also made all his own flies (dry fly). He would while away many an hour creating delicate and beautiful multi-coloured flies in his bedroom - when he wasn’t painting or sign writing!"

He was a prize winning crown green bowler and played at Acregate Lane Labour club, Preston.

Michael added: "Unfortunately, Fred developed vascular dementia around 2010 and all painting, fishing, signwriting and making dry flies ceased."

Painting by C.F. Harrison

Freddie was born in Preston and first lived on Great George Street attending the Little Mission School on Acregate Lane from the ages of five to seven, St Matthew's primary school on New Hall lane from seven to 11 and Ribbleton Avenue C. of E. school from 11 to 14, before attending the local technical college from 14 - 16. He then took an apprenticeship in a local architect's office.

Michael reported: "He was not interested in sweeping floors and making tea, he wanted to do technical drawing and so left the apprenticeship."

National service followed in 1947 and after serving with the peacekeeping forces in Germany he left the forces in 1949.

The paintings, which Tony paid £40 for, had been hanging on a stairway since 1990 but after redecorating had been consigned to the attic and their owner thought they deserved a new home.

New owner Tony, who runs a specialist electric cable family business in St Helens, said: “He was obviously a very talented man. There’s lots of information coming back.”

Tony is set to semi-retire and hopes to live half the year in Spain and said the paintings will remind him of his north west links. He said: "The pictures are destined for warmer climes as they will be travelling to Murcia in Spain to take pride of place in my new house. These are originals. I just like the look of them."

Freddie Harrison with wife Evelyn

Meanwhile he is temporarily lending some of the paintings to his brother for his new home.

River scene by C.F. Harrison
Bridge scene by C.F.Harrison
Landscape by C.F.Harrison