Former teacher collaborates ‘goat shed’ art book

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After boxes of drawings, paintings and prints from the 1920s, 30s and 40s were found in a goat shed in Little Steeping in 2003, renewed interest in a forgotten Australian artist was unearthed

Now, a decade later, drawing heavily on all the documents from the goat shed, the first book about the artist, Henry Rayner, has been released with help from Sheilagh Wilford, a retired art teacher who taught in local and Australian schools.

Sheilagh who lives in the small village near Spilsby found many examples of the artist’s work, autobiographical manuscripts, correspondence, press clippings, notebooks and essays.

“It was a treasure trove of information about the artist himself, and the many famous people he mixed with in the 1920s and 1930s,” she explained.

Although Sheilagh realised that Rayner was nowadays largely forgotten, during his life he had been a noted artist.

Henry Rayner made London his adopted home, drawing and etching many London scenes.

He retired to Margate in 1955, and died two years later. His wife and daughters kept all his documents safe, in the hope that one day, their husband and father would receive the attention he deserved.

After they died in the 1990s, everything passed to an old school friend of one of the daughters, Barbara Griffin, who had known the family well in the 1940s, and was now retired and living near Spilsby in Lincolnshire.

The best examples of the artist’s work were auctioned off. All the remaining documents had no apparent value, so everything that was left was stored in a goat shed until a decision could be made about what to do with it.

Sheilagh was allowed to take all the documents away for conservation and Shortly afterwards came into contact with author Roger Staton, who was researching the same artist.

The two collaborated and Sheilagh is credited with providing additional research and analysis for the book.

The book is titled ‘An Australian artist in London: the untold story of Hewitt Henry Rayner and his friendship with Walter Sickert’.

“Given that interest in Australian artists is growing, and with London’s Royal Academy staging a major exhibition of Australian art in the autumn, I think the time is right for Henry Rayner’s story to be told. He was certainly an Australian artist. But his adopted home was England” said author Roger Staton.

The book is out now and retails at £30 and contains nearly 100 examples of his drawings, paintings and prints and 75 photographs. Visit for more information.