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Holt Antiques at Walsingham Mill

English Antique Folk Art - Harry Macdonald The Woodcarver From Woolmer Green - A 15th Century Style Carved Wood Sculpture Depicting Joseph & His Two Sons, Manasseh & Ephraim

English Antique Folk Art - Harry Macdonald The Woodcarver From Woolmer Green - A 15th Century Style Carved Wood Sculpture Depicting Joseph & His Two Sons, Manasseh & Ephraim

Regular price £775.00 GBP
Regular price Sale price £775.00 GBP
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In a village called Woolmer Green, Hertfordshire, England, lived a wood-carver. His name was Harry Macdonald and he came from Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Harry had walked south along the A1 during the Great Depression of 1929-1939 looking for work. When he arrived at Woolmer Green he found a barn for rent. He decided to stay, selling his hand-made wood-carvings to travellers along the Great North Road. He quickly realised that it would help if he created something eye-catching to stop the traffic by his workshop.

Over the next few years Harry covered his workshop in brightly carved figures, including a carved policeman by the side of the road holding up its hand in a ‘halt’ command.

He made the barn into an extraordinary place, a kind of fairytale world. The garden was transformed into nursery-rhyme village, complete with puppet-like working parts. A cow jumped over a moon. 230 scottie dogs wearing bow-ties ran round the walls of the house. Carved giraffes and toucans looked down onto the road. A witch flew past the chimney on her broomstick. You could turn a handle and a hand-coloured elephant would blow water from its trunk. There was a model Holy Land too. Either way, it was hard for drivers not to pull over and take a closer look as they slowed down for the big bend on the road.

Mr Macdonald was usually to be found around the house, normally in his workshop. His droll, Northern manner made many perceive that he was a rather grumpy man. Grumpy or not, he could always be relied on to open the peacock gates of his garden to visitors. Firstly, visitors had to drop a few pennies into a slide mechanism at the entrance. It would transport the coins straight through the garden and the workshop window into his hands. Visitors could then wander around, amazed and transported into a storybook world, with Harry’s mournful and suspicious gaze checking on his visitors through his grubby window.

He died in 1971.

The fantasy garden was bulldozed after his death against much protest and many of the carvings and features were destroyed. A few exceptions survived. Many that adorned his house disappeared without further trace.

This carved wooden sculpture made by Harry's hand, based on those of the 15th-century, is one of those survivors and we now offer this for sale. In its original polychome, the figure depicts St. Joseph and his two sons.

Provenance - Ex private collection. Presented previously through an East Anglian saleroom.

Condition - As per the images. Surface wear. A further detailed condition report is available upon request.

Size - Height 58 cm (23")


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We are a member of the following 3 Professional Institutions:

1. LAPADA (London and Provincial Antique Dealers Association) –  LAPADA is the UK’s largest trade association for professional art & antique dealers (representing approximately 500 UK dealer members). All items are backed by our LAPADA guarantee;

2. CINOA –Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d'Art, (or International Confederation of Art and Antique Dealers' Associations) is the world association of art & antique dealer associations (representing 5000 dealers from 32 associations in 22 countries); and

3. The Norfolk & Suffolk Antique Dealers Association - Representing reputable, high quality antiques dealers based in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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