Sisters stunned to discover 150 paintings in dad’s Derbyshire loft – now set to be sold for good cause

Hundreds of paintings by a man who lived in Derbyshire for 70 years are to be sold for a charity that supported him when a chronic disease robbed him of the hobby that he loved.

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 11:04 am

Hugh Penfold’s rich artwork, which includes Derbyshire landscapes as well as atmospheric scenes captured on holidays in Scotland, Cornwall and Sussex, were discovered by his daughters following his death.

The paintings, which included 150 found in a loft at Hugh’s bungalow in Shelton Lock, will be auctioned on May 31 to raise money for Derby’s Lilian Prime MS Centre.

The charity supported Hugh after he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which affects the central nervous system, just as he was retiring. It blighted the last 30 years of his life and eventually stopped him doing the thing he loved most – painting.

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Hugh Penfold with one of his paintings.

Hugh’s passion came to the fore following his passing at the age of 96 in late 2020. Sisters Sheena Penfold and Anne Morris had the difficult task of clearing their parents’ home. Hugh’s wife Rita had died three years previously.

Though they were deeply aware of their dad’s devotion to painting, nothing could have prepared them for the sheer volume of artwork they uncovered. Around 200 paintings came to light, including his final pieces depicting the couple’s garden in Shelton Lock.

Sheena, a retired account director, said: “He must have painted those for mum. There were so many paintings it was unbelievable. We gave family and friends the opportunity to choose one of dad’s paintings as a memento and we’ve kept loads. But there are so many we’ve decided to auction around 100 to raise money for MS. It’s our father’s legacy and we would like to use it to help others.”

Hugh was born in West Chiltington, Sussex, and purchased his first set of oil paints when he was 16 and working as a draftsman in London.

Hugh Penfold was a prolific artist.

He was conscripted into the Royal Air Force during the Second World War when he had little time to paint.

Following the conflict, Hugh studied at Worthing College of Art before moving to Portsmouth where he worked in advertising. Sheena said: “It was there where he met and fell in love with our mum, leading Wren Rita Bradshaw. She originated from Darley Dale, near Matlock. They married in 1950 and moved to Shelton Lock where they lived for the rest of their lives.”

Hugh worked as a graphic designer in Derby, initially at Bemrose Advertising and the Product Support Graphics. He was involved in a diverse range of projects from producing instruction manuals for Rolls-Royce to creating technical illustrations for the original ‘The Times Atlas of World History.

Sheena said: “In his spare time, he picked up his brushes and headed to his easel in his conservatory. He was a true artist at heart. He painted prolifically throughout his adult life, predominantly in oils, sometimes exhibiting at Derbyshire galleries. He often painted commissions or gifts for family, friends and colleagues. His works were mostly landscape paintings of the places he and mum loved to visit.”

One of Hugh Penfold's paintings.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “Hugh’s family would like his wonderful talent to be admired and enjoyed by others. We’re delighted to be offering a collection of around 100 of Hugh’s oil paintings in our May 31 Fine Art and Collectors Auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire. All proceeds will go to the Lilian Prime MS Centre, which Hugh attended for many years.

“We hope Hugh’s legacy will contribute towards helping the centre continue its great work in supporting and improving the quality of life for Derbyshire people affected by MS."

Hugh and Rita Penfold with their daughters Anne Morris, left, and Sheena Penfold.