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The Hemy Family of artists/musicians

The Hemy family, originally from Germany, moved into Newcastle and then one branch moved to Hartlepool. They were a family of artists of reasonable note and musicians, Hartlepool Museums holding several paintings by members of the family in store. 

See The Hemy Family Album

Hemy ,Henry     Musician   b.1780 Saxe Gotha in Lower Saxony  as Henry Hemi and studied Sax Gotha College.  His father was Johannis Hemmi  b. 1740 in Saxe Coburg.

 In 1805 he came to Britain to serve in the Duke of Buccleugh’s Dumfries militia as a musician.

He married  a Scot Nancy Napier and lived in Newcastle, changing the surname to Hemy. He taught music and played in many local bands.  In 1850/1, when 72 he went to the Australian goldfields with members of family but returned to Newcastle advertising himself as a Professor of Music and becoming well known in the area.

He died in 1850 in Newcastle and is buried in St Andrew’s Cemetery.


Hemy , Henry Frederick  Musicianb. 12 Nov 1818 Newcastle, died Hartlepool  9.6.1888

Talented musician from a young age but had love of the sea and became apprentice  to Tyzack, Dobson and Co. and his first voyage was to Montreal. He married Margaret McDonald  in 1840 at St Paul’s Jarrow  and Charles Napier Hemy,  their first child was born in Blackett St Newcastle, the first of 10 sons and 3 daughters.  He took his family to Australia in 1850/1 but returned to Newcastle in 1854. In 1877 he entered Ushaw College near Durham as Professor of Music. He wrote dance music, hymns, songs and pianoforte tuition books. He became a Roman Catholic and was organist at a number of churches through his life and also taught music.  In 1887, while still actively composing and playing, he moved to 1York Place Albion Terrace and Regent St Hartlepool where he died of pneumonia in June1888. A poster printed by Ord the printer shows the extensive pieces of music dedicated to prominent Hartlepool people, that Hemy wrote for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. His wife survived him and died in 1900 in Falmouth where son Charles Napier Hemy lived.

Charles Napier Hemy  artist  b. 24 May 1841 Newcastle. Was taken as a young boy to a Roman Catholic Church where his father was organist and preferring this to the Scottish Chapel his mother attended, asked to be baptised into that faith. Was taken with family to Australia in 1850/1 and on this journey his love of the sea and also art began. On return to Newcastle, began to study art at the Government School of Design at 13.

He then thought of becoming a priest, studying at St Cuthbert’s College in Ware Hertfordshire for two years. He then stowed away at sea and had to be taken on as an apprentice at 15 yrs of age. He became ill on board and was brought back to England and began painting.

At 19, he entered a Dominican Monastery in France but at 22 left and returned to Newcastle as he realised this was not his vocation either. The family were then in Gateshead, and Charles began painting small seascapes  and by selling them, he began to support himself. As two of his younger brothers,Thomas Hemy and Bernard Hemy were also painters, he became Charles Napier Hemy. The name was chosen because his mother was an admirer of her cousin Sir Charles Napier.

Charles worked in the William Morris workshop, admiring the work of the Pre Raphaelites, which is evident in his early work, and spent summers in Cornwall painting. In May 1866, he married Mary Anne Lloyd  but sadly she died in 1880 before any children were born. He moved to Falmouth and married Amy Freeman who was also a convert to the Roman Catholic faith and they had 10 children.

Hemy continued to paint in Cornwall in particular and in 1896, exhibited ‘ How we Caught the Pilchards’  at the Royal Academy and this was an immediate success. Because of this, he was elected as an associate of the Royal Academy. He had exhibited every year from 1865 to his death in 1917, but it was with his marine pictures that he achieved greatest  notoriety .  When he died, he was buried in Falmouth with his mother, wearing his Dominican habit.

Much of his work is sadly in store in museums and galleries as it is deemed by some unfashionable at the moment.  As a guide, a watercolour ‘Fresh Breeze off the Cornish Coast’ sold in 1989  for £1,350 and an oil painting ‘Wind against the Tide Tilbury Fort’ £6025 in 1987.

Hartlepool Museum Service holds five of his works in store.

For more information on this artist see:

Master of the Sea:Charles Napier Hemy RA,RWS by Margaret Powell 2004 ISBN -13 978-0-906720-37-0

Charles Napier Hemy 1841-1917 – Tyne and Wear Council Museums

Bernard Benedict Hemy  b 1855 d. 1913  Son of Henri F Hemy was an artist who spent most of his life in South Shields painting marine subjects around the Tyne and two of these are held in Hartlepool Art Gallery store.

Thomas Maria Madawaski Hemy b 1852 and was born off the coast of Brazil en route to Australia, his last Christian name being that of the ship. He lived in Sunderland, North Shields and finally London where he exhibited 15 times in the Royal Academy. There are two of his painting in Hartlepool Art Gallery store.

Oswin Bede   Hemy b. in 1856. Oswin became music master at Ushaw College , Durham. In 1877, he married Laura Letitia Walker  at St Peter’s Tynemouth. They had five children and settled in Hartlepool  possibly in the late 1890s after leaving Esh near Ushaw. An advertisement for music lessons  shows him first living in Johnson Street.  The children of the marriage were Frederick b. 1887, Oswin Cyril b. 1875, Herbert William b.1879, Cecilia Constance  b. 1885and Laurence b.1889

Oswin Bede died in 1916.

Cecilia married Joseph Henry Bennett in St Joseph’s Church West Hartlepool on 14.12.1907 and they had three children : Constance Josephine 1907, Benjamin Oswin 21.9.1910 and Laura Letitia 24.3.1916. All were unmarried. Laura taught Y1 at Sacred Heart for many years and died in 1986.

Herbert William  married Isabella Hildreth who had 5 children and then died in 1921. He then married her sister Elizabeth in 1925. Of these children, Veronica b. 1913 married Herbert William Orde in 1940 who was headteacher at Sacred Heart from 1966-1972

SEE family tree of Henry Frederick Hemy


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