Inspire Conservation have just completed conservation repairs to a finely carved fire surround at Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire. Michael Sheppard conducted a condition report on several fire surrounds at the 13th century castle earlier in the year. The Picton Castle Trust wished to undertake careful stone conservation repairs and cleaning to the Main Hall fire surround by renowned carver, Henry Cheere.
Born in Clapham, Surrey, Henry Cheere was apprenticed in 1718 to mason-sculptor Robert Hartshorne. By 1726 he had established his own workshop near St Margaret’s, Westminster and established a team of apprentices and was joined by Flemish sculptor Henry Scheemakers. In 1743, Cheere was appointed carver at Westminster Abbey, an appointment which led to his creation of at least nine monuments in the Abbey. In 1750 he was appointed a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
He was knighted on 10 December 1760 and created 1st Baronet Cheere, of St Margaret’s, Westminster on 19 July 1766. He retired from business and sold the contents of his workshop in March 1770.
According to the Pevsner Buildings of England series guides, Henry Cheere was “the first English-born sculptor to match the virtuosity of the continentals” and “formed his style on the small, crisp, curvaceous shapes of the French sculptor Roubiliac. Much of his work is unsigned, as is his commonly considered c.1760 masterpiece at Shadoxhurst, Kent.
The carving at Picton is of exceptional quality and is undoubtedly a mark of his talent and experience. The stone conservation treatments included selective lime mortar repairs, consolidation and grouting of the carved panels and flue repairs. The Trust is hoping to raise the next set of funds to conserve the remaining fire surrounds in various rooms within the house.