Harold H. Piffard
Harold H. Piffard
|Born||10 August 1867|
Marylebone, London, England
|Died||17 January 1939(aged 71)|
|Resting place||Old Chiswick Cemetery|
Harold Hume Piffard (10 August 1867 – 17 January 1939) was a British artist, illustrator, and one of the first British aviators. He studied art at the Royal Academy Schools in London, exhibiting his first painting at the Royal Academy in 1895. He painted a wide variety of subjects in oils and watercolour, including history paintings. At the same time he worked as an illustrator, both for periodicals such as The Strand Magazine and The Illustrated London News, and illustrating novels. From 1907 he became interested in aviation, and began flying in 1909 in an aircraft he built himself. He made his first flights in West London near his Chiswick home; in 1910 he flew at Shoreham-by-Sea, near his old school, Lancing College.
Harold Hume Piffard was born in Marylebone, the sixth son of Charles Piffard and his wife Emily, née Hume, the daughter of James Hume, a barrister and Magistrate at Calcutta. They had married in Calcutta on 1 June 1858. Charles was Clerk of the Crown in the High Court of Calcutta; Piffard's four eldest brothers were all born in India. Harold was educated at Lancing College, being sent there together with his older brother Lawrence in 1877. He briefly ran away from school to find employment on the stage, sleeping on the Embankment for several nights while he visited theatres and music halls. In February 1884, he travelled around India and worked on a tea plantation. In 1889, he returned to London and began to study art at the Royal Academy Schools, exhibiting his first painting at the Royal Academy in 1895. On 4 June 1895 he married Helena Walker at St John's Free Church in Dundee. They had four children. Helena died soon after giving birth to her fourth child in 1900; the baby died a few months later. In 1902, Piffard married Eleanor Hoile in Edinburgh; they had one son, and lived in Addison Road (now Addison Grove), Bedford Park, Chiswick, in the west of London. Piffard died on 17 January 1939.
Piffard painted a wide variety of subjects in both oils and watercolour. He made his reputation by exhibiting large history paintings at the Royal Academy, on four occasions between 1895 and 1899. The best-known of these was Saragossa 10 February 1809. The scholar of literature Philip V. Allingham describes this as "dramatically (one might even say, sensationally) depict[ing] Napoleon's forces brutally putting down the resistance of Spanish patriots inside the cathedral of Zaragoza during the Peninsular War".
Napoleon history painting
French assault on Saragossa, 10 February 1809
Courtship history painting
Jacobean bathtime scene
Piffard started his work as an illustrator in 1894 with contributions to periodicals including The Strand Magazine, The Illustrated London News and The Penny Pictorial Magazine. He began to illustrate books in 1895, eventually illustrating over a hundred novels, many of them for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, by authors including Frances Hodgson Burnett, Guy Boothby, Harry Collingwood, Mrs. Henry Wood, Richard Marsh, Max Pemberton, and J. M. Neale. From 1908 he illustrated a series of classics for Collins including works by Thackeray, Dickens, and George Eliot.
Cover of George Griffith's Valdar the Oft-born, 1895, signed lower left
Cover of William le Queux's Zoraida, 1895, signed lower left
Interior of a Bromsgrove Nailmaker's shed, 1896
Example of a full set of illustrations
The following set of six illustrations were made by Piffard for Geoffrey Harrington's Adventures by Harry Collingwood. This was published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1907.
First flights in Ealing
Piffard began making model aircraft in 1907, winning a prize for one of them at Olympia in 1909. He began to fly in 1909, using an 8-cylinder 40 horsepower ENV 'D' engine and building the airframe in his studio; he rented a shed on Back Common Road, Turnham Green, near his home to assemble the aircraft, which was a biplane with an elevator in front of the wing, and a variable-pitch propeller. From September 1909 he tested the aircraft on a rented field in Ealing to the west of Masons Lane at what was then Hangar Hill Farm (not the same as the later Acton Aerodrome, which was on the other side of Masons Lane). He managed to get the plane airborne and fly "a foot or two from the ground for a distance of a hundred yards or so." However, on 3 December 1909 the aircraft and its marquee hangar were destroyed in a storm.
Flying at Shoreham
Piffard then co-founded (with George Wingfield, a lawyer) the Aviator's Finance Company, which took out a lease on land at Shoreham-by-Sea near his old school, Lancing College, which already possessed a hangar. With Edouard Baumann and two assistants, they reworked the aircraft's design and had Hummingbird ready on 3 May 1910. It was able to take off in short hops, earning it the nickname of "The Grasshopper"; it frequently crashed because of the hidden ditches in the grass. In September 1910 he flew at a height of 30 or 40 feet for half a mile, managing to fly right across the field to a nearby hotel, The Sussex Pad, "in about 40 seconds". He had not learnt how to turn the plane in the air, and the plane had to be wheeled back to the hangar, as there was no space to take off near the hotel, but he celebrated with champagne all the same.
A local cinematograph company asked to film a flight, and he confidently accepted; Colin Manton describes this as characteristic hubris. Ignoring warnings of a dangerous ditch, he tried to fly over it, destroying the aircraft in a "comprehensive smash" which was recorded on film. The cameraman recalled that Piffard still "seemed in no way disappointed; in fact, I thought I saw a gleam of satisfaction in his eye".
In 1911 Piffard unsuccessfully tested a new aircraft, the Piffard Hydroplane, which had floats as well as wheels, on Shoreham beach. He developed no more aircraft and did not attempt to fly again, working as an artist and illustrator. The land at Shoreham became Shoreham Airport. In 2007 the Shoreham Airport Historical Association built a replica of Piffard's Hummingbird.
- ^ Kirkpatrick, Robert J. (11 July 1905). "Harold Piffard". The Men Who Drew For Boys (And Girls): 101 Forgotten Illustrators of Children's Books: 1844–1970. London: Robert J. Kirkpatrick. pp. 355–362.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Manton, Colin (2006). "Harold Piffard of Bedford Park, Artist and Aviator Extraordinaire". Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal. 15. Archived from the original on 1 November 2019. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
- ^ "Harold Hume Piffard (British, 1867–1938)". The Knohl Collection. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
- ^ "Marriages". Homeward Mail from India, China and the East (Tuesday 27 July 1858): 8. 27 July 1858.
- ^ a b c Kirkpatrick, Robert J. (1905). "Harold Piffard". The Men Who Drew For Boys (And Girls): 101 Forgotten Illustrators of Children's Books: 1844–1970. London: Robert J. Kirkpatrick. p. 356.
- ^ a b c d e f Allingham, Philip V. "Harold Hume Piffard: A Brief Life (1867–1939)". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
- ^ National Records of Scotland (7 June 1895). "1895 Walker, Helena K D (Statutory registers Marriages 282/1 82)". ScotlandsPeople. Archived from the original on 11 April 2020. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
- ^ a b c Ramus, Andy (2021). "A Brief History of Aviation at Shoreham – Part 1: Harold Hume Piffard". Shorehambysea.com. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
- ^ National Records of Scotland (8 August 1905). "1905 Piffard, Hume (Statutory registers Births 312/ 160)". ScotlandsPeople. Archived from the original on 11 April 2020. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
- ^ "Deaths". The Times. No. 48206. 18 January 1939. p. 1.
Piffard.-On 17 January 1939, Harold Hume Piffard, of 18, Addison Road, Bedford Park, W.4.
- ^ a b c Kirkpatrick, Robert J. (8 October 2018). "Harold Piffard". Bear Alley. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
- ^ Gregson, Marjorie. "The Signing of the Armistice (after) Harold Hume Piffard". Lytham St Anne's Art Collection. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
- ^ "Harold Piffard". Getty Images. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
- ^ Map and discussion of probable site: "NORTH EALING: Private flying field". UK Airfield Guide. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
- ^ "The Clarion : Armistice Centenary Edition" (PDF). St Michael's and All Angels, Bedford Park. 2018. p. 10. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
- ^ Gage, Bill (asst. county archivist) (17 April 2015). "Pioneer aviators helped develop Shoreham airfield". Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- ^ "Flying Machine". The Argus. 12 November 2007. Archived from the original on 10 November 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- At Artnet (79 artworks)
- At MutualArt (29 artworks)
- Art Renewal Center (4 artworks)
- Art UK (2 artworks)
- Books illustrated
- Works by Harold H. Piffard at Project Gutenberg
- Online Books listed at University of Pennsylvania library (22 books)
- Online Books list at Internet Speculative Fiction Database (15 books)
- Books illustrated by Harold Piffard at the Hathi Trust
- Books illustrated by Piffard in the Jisc Library Hub Discover database (which draws together 160 UK and Irish academic, national & specialist library catalogues.
- Books by Piffard at the Internet Archive
- Books by Piffard listed in the catalogue of the British Library, including two online texts.
- The Bear Alley blow on Piffard by Robert J. Kirkpatrick, includes a list of 174 books illustrated by Piffard.