HILDRED (Harry) Harpin was a local artist, writer and teacher who in later life became a Catholic priest.

Known as Padre Francesco in Assisi, where he spent the last 18 years of his life, he should perhaps be better known as the Painting Padre.

Born 1907 at Marsden, near Huddersfield, Hildred lived at Swartha, above Silsden, for many years.

He had studied at Huddersfield School of Art, then at the Royal College of Art, where he won a Prix de Rome travel scholarship.

In 1928, stirred by his European travels and exposure to religious art, Hildred, originally from a non-conformist family background, converted to Catholicism.

After graduating from the Royal College he became a freelance artist, specialising in church painting.

His religious beliefs later led him to join a Religious Order, but ill-health forced him to leave after 3 years.

After he recovered his health, Hildred took up a post teaching art at Keighley School of Art, which also involved teaching art and the history of art at the adjacent Keighley Boy’s Grammar School.

He was well-regarded by the students as a talented artist, musician, and a caring and unassuming man, and his home at Swartha became a popular place for groups of local young people to meet for tea, music sessions and sketching trips.

Hildred was also very active in local politics. In 1955 he successfully stood as a candidate for election to Silsden Urban Council.

He was the founder chairman of Silsden Town Centre Development Committee.

He also edited, produced and contributed illustrations to a short-lived quarterly magazine, ‘Zest’, sold in and around the Keighley area for a shilling.

Hildred was a prolific artist of religious and landscape and was fond of painting Yorkshire scenes.

He had, from 1930 onward, also regularly visited the Holy Land, painting landscape and shrine sites on his travels.

In a memorial to the former pupils of Keighley Boy’s Grammar School killed in World War Two, he painted an image of the Risen Christ against the background of Gordale Scar and this was on display in the school for many years.

Visitors to his Swartha home also still remember the religious images and murals he painted on the interior walls of his cottage.

In 1957 Hildred left Silsden when he went to Beda College in Rome to study for the priesthood.

During his time in Rome, in 1960, he held an exhibition of his Holy Land paintings that were praised by the local critics.

In 1961 he was ordained at Carmathen in Wales and became known as Father Francis Harpin.

He served in various posts in Wales until he was appointed parish priest at Llandovery, where he gained a reputation as a preacher.

Suffering from chest problems, and advised by his doctor and bishop to spend winters away from Wales, Hildred went to Assisi in Italy, where he become an English speaking chaplain to Filipino nuns.

Hildred, now Padre Francesco, became popular with English speaking pilgrims to the town, particularly from the US, and he was persuaded to visit America on a number of occasions for preaching tours.

He died in Assisi in the early hours of the October 5, 1987 after celebrating his namesake at the Feast of St Francis on the 4th.

He is buried in the cemetery outside the town on the slope of Mount Subasio.

* Visit notjusthockney.info to see many biographies of local artists from past decades.

Mr Neville founded the website to build a compressive visual guide to artists with links to Bradford district.

He curates an accompanying exhibition of pictures by local artists that can be seen on the Big Screen in Centenary Square, Bradford, which changes every two months.

Mr Neville officially launched the new Solar Art Gallery at Ilkley Manor House prior to its opening to the public last month.

The private viewing was attended by the gallery’s founding artists, their guests, and Manor House trustees and organisers.

Mr Neville stressed the important role that art gives to a community and the value of placing it in a beautiful environment, like the Manor House.

The inaugural one showcases a piece of work from each of the 30 founding artists, covering 2D work from paintings, prints, photography and textiles to mixed media work, and 3D work including ceramics, glass and jewellery.

Visit lkleymanorhouse.org for further information about the Solar Art Galler and its forthcoming exhibitions..