Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Armstead, Henry Hugh

ARMSTEAD, HENRY HUGH (1828–1905), sculptor, born in Bloomsbury on 18 June 1828, was fourth and youngest son of John Armstead, an heraldic chaser, by his wife Ann, daughter of Hugh Dyer of Belfast. A wide reader from youth, he received little school education. At eleven he was working in his father's workshop, and at thirteen was sent to the old School of Design, Somerset House. While sketching at the British Museum he began a lifelong friendship with a fellow student, William Holman-Hunt [q. v. Suppl. II]. Subsequently, at Mr. Leigh's Academy in Maddox Street, he came to know J. R. Clayton, designer of stained glass windows, and his future brother-in-law Henry Tanworth Wells [q. v. Suppl. II]. Later he was employed at Messrs. Hunt & Roskell's factory of gold and silver work, enjoyed the occasional tuition of E. H. Baily, R.A. [q. v.], and at the same time joined the Royal Academy schools. Finally he became designer in chief to Hunt & Roskell, and in that capacity did a great deal of work in and for metal: designing, modelling, and chasing in gold, silver, and bronze. His style was influenced by that of Vechté, the great French silver-chaser, who was then in England. Among Armstead's works in metal the most important are a ‘Testimonial (the Shakespeare Cup) to Charles Kean,’ the ‘St. George's Vase,’ the ‘Tennyson Cup’ (for which he was premiated at the Paris Exhibition of 1855), the ‘Packington Shield,’ and the ‘Outram Shield,’ now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Save for a brief engagement by Hancock's firm of like character, he remained with Hunt & Roskell till 1863, when he left to devote himself exclusively to sculpture. Armstead had already practised that art in his leisure, and had won two Art Union prizes (for ‘Satan Dismayed’ and ‘The Temptation of Eve’), besides designing external mural decoration for Evelyn Shirley's mansion at Ettington, Warwickshire. A short visit to Italy in 1863–4 was followed by an introduction to Sir Gilbert Scott. Scott soon employed Armstead on the Albert Memorial, and thenceforth his position was assured. From his early tutor, Bailey, he derived some of that over-suavity of style which marked the early Victorian school of modelling, of which John Gibson was perhaps the most typical exemplar. To a certain extent, however, Armstead now rose above the tradition in which he had been reared, and his later works show little of the fluid modelling and superficial elegance which characterised his master. He was industrious and business-like; one commission always led to another, and down nearly to the end of his life he was one of the best employed sculptors of his time. Armstead's most important works are the marble reliefs on the south and east sides of the podium to the Albert Memorial and four bronze statues—rhetoric, astronomy, chemistry, and medicine—on the same structure; the external sculpture on the colonial office, Whitehall; the reredos in Westminster Abbey; the fountain in the forecourt of King's College, Cambridge; the memorial to George Edmund Street [q. v.] in the central hall of the law courts, and the effigies of Bishop Wilberforce in Winchester Cathedral and of Bishop Ollivant in Llandaff Cathedral. Armstead executed a few imaginative works such as ‘Ariel,’ ‘Hero and Leander,’ ‘The Ever-reigning Queen’ (his diploma work), and ‘Remorse.’ The last named was bought by the Chantrey trustees and is now in the Tate Gallery.

Armstead was elected A.R.A. on 16 Jan. 1875, and R.A. on 18 Dec. 1879. He was a loyal and industrious servant of the Academy and extremely popular as a man. He taught in the Academy schools from 1875 till near his death. He gave proof of unusually fine taste as an arranger of works of art when it became his turn to place the sculpture in the annual exhibitions. He also arranged the British sculpture in the Paris Exhibition of 1900. He died at his house, 52 Circus Road, St. John's Wood, on 4 Dec. 1905.

Armstead married, on 9 Sept. 1857, Sarah, daughter of Henry Tanworth Wells, and sister of {{DNB lkpl|year=12|Wells, Henry Tanworth|Henry Tanworth Wells, R.A. [q. v. Suppl. II]; he had issue three daughters and one son. A portrait, painted in 1878 by his brother-in-law Wells, is, with a bust executed by W. R. Colton, A.R.A., in 1902, in the possession of his son, Dr. H. W. Armstead. A second portrait, painted by Sir Hubert von Herkomer, R.A., in 1902, belongs to his daughter, Miss C. W. Armstead.

[Henry Hugh Armstead, R.A., by his daughter, Miss C. W. Armstead [1906]; The Times, 6 Dec. 1905; Men and Women of the Time, 1899; private information.]

W. A.