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Worplesdon’s Sime Gallery Is Putting Its Artist In The Spotlight Once More

Published on: 2 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 2 Oct, 2020

Worplesdon’s hidden gem must surely be the Sime Gallery at the Memorial Hall in Perry Hill.

The artist Sidney Sime. Pictures courtesy of the Sime Gallery.

Sidney Sime was an artist whose talents are slowly but surely being recognised once more, made possible by the dedication of the gallery’s trustees and volunteers.

Best known for his illustrations in magazines and work in the books of Irish fantasy author Lord Dunsany, Sime’s life reads like a Victorian novel.

He was born into a humble background in Hulme, Manchester, in 1865, one of six children. Receiving little education he had variety of jobs at a young age including being a pit boy in coal mines for five years.

However, he managed to go to Liverpool School of Art where he won several awards. The first painting of his to be exhibited was at the city’s Walker Art Gallery in 1889.

Moving to London, he became an illustrator for The Illustrated London News, Pick Me Up, Pall Mall, and The Butterfly magazines. He also drew theatrical caricatures of the era.

In 1898, Sime had a stroke of good fortune when he inherited his solicitor uncle’s house in Scotland and a sum of money. In the same year he married Mary Pickett.

An example of Sidney Sime’s oil paintings.

He painted many Scottish landscapes, but moved to Worplesdon in 1904, next door to a friend, Duncan Tovey.

Sime met fantasy writer Lord Dunsany at his castle in Ireland, and later provided illustration for many of Dunsany’s books.

He had a brief sojourn to the USA with newspaper tycoon Randolph Hurst. Sime went on to provide the frontispiece for Arthur Machen’s book The Hill of Dreams.

One of Sime’s Bogey Beasts illustrations.

Sime was also introduced to composer Joseph Holbrooke, and collaborated with him to publish Bogey Beasts – a series of mythical pictures of imaginary characters, along with ‘jingles’ Holbrooke composed.

Other work included the frontispiece for William Hope Hodgson’s The Ghost Pirates, and set designs and costumes for Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird.

Disillusioned with the state of art in the 1920s, Sime was, however, persuaded, somewhat reluctantly, to hold two exhibitions.

One of a series of caricatures Sime drew of people from Worplesdon.

However, in Worplesdon he took to sitting in a corner of the New Inn pub drawing caricatures of local men. Many of these characters have now been identified and their lives researched.

Sidney Sime died in 1941 and is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard.

In 1956, his widow bequeathed all 800 pieces of his artwork in her possession to the trustees of Worplesdon Memorial Hall as well as leaving monies from the sale of their house, Crown Cottage, for a gallery to be created inside the hall.

Sidney Sime worked in a number of styles.

Although it has been open since 1956, the gallery was rarely visited by local people until recent years. Sime’s work was brought to local recognition with an exhibition at Guildford House Gallery in 2010, and in 2017 the first major exhibition since his death was held at The Lightbox in Woking. Click here for previous story.

An oil painting by Sime of a Scottish scene was loaned for Art UK’s exhibition at the London Art Fair in 2018, and a large fantasy oil painting was loaned for an exhibition at the Palazzo Roverella Gallery in Rovigo, Italy, from September 2018 to January 2019.

An example of Sime’s fantasy paintings.

The Sime Gallry is now operated as a charitable incorporated organisation. It received a National Lottery Heritage Fund resilient grant of £42,000 in 2019, click here for previous story.

Now, 15 months of discussions with advisers has resulted in a business plan in which the gallery has extended its opening hours to Wednesdays and Sundays, from 2pm to 4pm.

There are to be guided tours in conjunction with St Mary’s Church, more family half-term workshops, enhanced Heritage Open Days opportunities, developing outreach with talks to groups, workshops with schools and colleges and people living with dementia, private tours and parties for small groups to the gallery.

Worplesdon Memorial Hall.

Centenary events for the Memorial Hall in 2022 will feature the launch an annual Sime lecture and temporary exhibitions will be planned for 2023 through to 2028 in Surrey.

The gallery has also received an additional Heritage Lottery emergency Covid-19 fund to cover costs due to loss of income.

Free visits of a maximum of five people, due to current restrictions, can booked sending an email to enquiries@sidneysimegallery.org.uk or phone 01483 233869.

Volunteer stewards are also being recruited. You can apply via the gallery’s listed on Voluntary Action South West Surrey’s website, or call 01483 233869.

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