Blind Angmering artist’s work saved from rubbish skip

Graham Simons and Linzi Dougherty with Henry's painting' D15051014a.
Graham Simons and Linzi Dougherty with Henry's painting' D15051014a.

A STRIKING painting by a blind artist from Angmering has been saved from a gloomy ending in a rubbish skip.

Henry Pepper painted the dramatic portrait of St Margaret’s Church, in Angmering, over the course of three years – all while battling against the onset of blindness.

Henry, who was better known as Harry to his friends and family, took on his project during his respite stays at the former Royal Blind Society’s Bradbury Hotel, in East Preston.

He finished his masterpiece in 2005 and gifted it to the Bradbury Hotel as a thank-you before dying in 2008.

However, when the centre announced it was shutting shop last year, Henry’s work was at risk of being relegated to the rubbish heap.

Luckily, history enthusiast and volunteer for Rustington Museum, Graham Simons, spotted the artwork and saw the local value of the canvas.

“I couldn’t believe that it was going to be thrown away,” said Graham, 56, of Rustington. “This is someone’s little slice of why they were here. That’s why I wanted to keep it.”

Graham, a retired firefighter, approached Angmering Library to see whether the Arundel Road facility could become the new and lasting home for Henry’s colourful composition.

Staff were delighted by the idea and agreed to hang it, indefinitely, in the library’s community area.

Library assistant Linzi Dougherty was responsible for arranging to preserve Henry’s work and said it’s proving a hit with locals.

“The local people are really interested in the history of the village,” she said. “There’s a really big thing of people wanting to know about other local people.

“So we’re just delighted to feature Henry’s work in the library. It was great that Graham realised its significance and that he was able to save it.”

The painting was placed in the library earlier this month. Speaking of the image, Graham added: “I was really impressed by it. That red sky is quite captivating. I couldn’t do what Henry did with full vision, let along partial vision. It’s amazing.”

Henry’s work is featured alongside other community exhibitions in the library, including a book with details of the village’s war heroes killed in the First World War and a display of Angmering’s more interesting attractions.

Graham is now urging people to think before throwing away items. If in doubt, have them appraised by a local museum, he said.