Reprinted from Newsletter 107, dated 2003 April–May

Jack Hepworth: artist, architect, beekeeper, founder member

John Brunsdon, Jim Nagel

A man with receding white hair and aviator-style glasses looks slightly downwards with a look of concentration. He wears a chequered collared shirt.
Jack Hepworth, 1911 Aug 11 – 2003 Jan 28

Sadly we have lost another of our founder members. Jack Hepworth served on the committee as treasurer. As a qualified architect his input was invaluable, giving credibility to our society in its early difficult years.

A noted modern artist, Jack earned his living as an abstract painter in the 1930s, using the name Arthur Jackson (his Christian names); the Tate bought one of his works in the 60s. Just before the war he trained as an architect, and in the Royal Engineers worked on factory buildings in Lancashire, the Sudan and Palestine. Demobbed, he finished his training and worked under the celebrated Sir Leslie Martin, first on railway projects and then the Royal Festival Hall. Later he worked for the hospital board and schools in London.

After marrying in 1951, Jack had a brief period in architectural partnership in Bath. When Morlands offered him the job of company architect, he worked there for the rest of his career. Besides the remarkable O Block (now being called the Hepworth Building) and others in Glastonbury and Highbridge, he designed a big new tannery at Redruth in the late 1960s.

Jack also designed three houses at the top of Bushy Coombe for members of the Morland and Scott Stokes family — all the coombe once belonged to Ynyswitrin (now Preston Manor), the home of John Colby Morland and then of his son Humphrey Morland. The nearby house in Bulwarks Lane where the Hepworths lived and the orchard opposite it were once, according to the deeds, a violet farm. Jack was also a beekeeper who helped set up the hives at the Rural Life Museum.

His wife, the former Anne Folliott Scott Stokes, daughter of our founder president, died in 1996, and they are buried together at the Meeting House in Street. Our sympathy goes to their children: Mary lives in London and Jonathan in Devon. The youngest, Ben, a chartered surveyor specializing in rural practice, lived with his father for the past few years and hopes to keep on the family house.

Putting the lid on it

Some men stand on a curved section of material suspended by a crane, at a building site. Other men guide it into position.

When the time came to put the roof on our new dry-process building [O Block] there was tremendous local interest. Six months ago, inhabitants of Wells and Glastonbury had watched the progress through their towns of special lorries carrying 60-foot-long, seven-ton slabs of pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete, and now the time had come for the slabs to be lifted into position.

The roofing contractors hired two cranes for the job: one of 50 tons lifting capacity — one of the biggest self-propelled cranes in the country — was fitted with a 130-foot jib for the occasion and the other, looking quite small in comparison, a 35-ton crawler crane. The contractor told us that the job presented several unusual snags: normally the cranes would work inside the building, but they were too heavy for our floors and so they had to work outside. This meant they were working on newly made-up ground, and particularly on the riverbank side of the building it was feared that there might be insufficient strength there to support them.

News of this operation had reached the BBC, which sent a television reporter down to cover the hoisting of the first slab for the West of England news programme. It took several hours to get everything ready for the first lift, and both cranes had to be moved several times to find the best position, but finally all was in order, and in a few minutes the first of the 48 shells was on the roof in exactly the right position. Having found the right way to do the job, it was much easier to position the remainder of the shells, and the roof was completed on schedule in about 10 working days.

This sort of roof is very unusual in this country, but it has many advantages over the conventional factory roof, and we expect many other firms will follow our example.