James Henry Govier (1910 - 1974)

James Govier

James Henry Govier

James Henry Govier was a British painter and etcher, who worked in Swansea and East Anglia.

He was born in Britain on 1 August 1910, at Oakley, Buckinghamshire, the only son of Henry Govier and Mary Ann Measey. He had an older sister, Elizabeth, and a younger sister, Florence. In 1914 the family moved to the small town of Gorseinon in Gower near Swansea, where James was educated at the local school. At the age of fourteen he left school to work in one of the local tin works. At seventeen he became an evening student at the Swansea School of Art and Crafts (now part of Swansea Metropolitan University). James was taken to see William Grant Murray, the head of the School, and at the age of twenty gained a Glamorgan County Scholarship to study fulltime at the School. From 1930 James came under the influence of William Grant Murray; and he exhibited with many Welsh artists, including Alfred Janes, Ceri Richards and Kenneth Hancock. In 1935 he exhibited with past students at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea. From 1935 James studied in London at the Royal College of Art under the tutorship of Malcolm Osborne, RA, RE. At this time he became an acquaintance of the poet Dylan Thomas, and worked with other Welsh artists in London. In 1938 he gained his ARCA along with the Art Travelling Scholarship, which he was unable to take up because of the outbreak of war.

From 1938 Govier worked as Malcolm Osborne's assistant at the Royal College of Art, and also helped Robert Austin 1940-1942.

In August 1940 he joined the Royal Engineers, constructing gun emplacements and in the development of chemical warfare, stationed in Westmoreland in one of 10 secret units. In 1942 by order of the Air Ministry he was transferred to the Royal Air Force model making section for North Africa and Italy, stationed at RAF Medmenham, which included Danesfield House and Phyllis Court, in Buckinghamshire. Here he was a leading aircraftman and model maker working on the models of the D- Day Landings, producing models for the Dambuster raids (Moehne and Sorpe Dams), the D-Day landings and objectives in Africa and Italy.

Model Making

Model Making at R.A.F. Medmenham.
James is on the centre right table operating a camera obscura which gives a 3 dimensional view of a photograph.

He was then posted abroad to North Africa. He was stationed at La Marsha in Tunisia in 1943 and at San Severo, Italy 1944-1945.

James in Italy

James Govier in Italy - 1944

James was demobilised in 1945, and living in Aylesbury, he started to exhibit with the Aylesbury and District Art Society, becoming an acquaintance of the Society's patron, Augustus John.

RAF Book

R.A.F. Service and Release Book

In 1947 he became art and woodwork master at Eye Grammar School in Suffolk and stayed there until 1965. He lived in Eye until his marriage in 1950, when he moved to Hoxne, also in Suffolk.

In 1950 he married Freda Muriel Tye of Hoxne, a student at Ipswich Art School specialising as a commercial display artist. The couple started married life in Hoxne, and in 1957 moved to 'The Retreat', a large thatched house in Hoxne. They had a son, Stephen James and a daughter, Jane. Govier continued to exhibit with the Aylesbury Art Society and Ipswich Art Club.

In 1965 the Eye Grammar School closed, and Govier moved to Diss Grammar School, where he remained until his early retirement in 1972. He continued to paint oils and watercolours of East Anglia.

Many of his pictures were of Hoxne.


James Henry Govier died on 21 December 1974.

He left behind him a large variety of works, from small, delicate pencil drawings and etchings to vibrant oils and translucent watercolours. Some of his canvasses are almost impressionistic in style, showing the quality of the chiaroscuro he so frequently used.

Some of his paintings of Hoxne:

Low Street from Oak Hill and Downbridge

Oil painting of Hoxne Low Street from Oak Hill and Downbridge - 1952

Post Mill

Hoxne Post Mill


Watercolour of Low Street - 1960

THe Retreat

Oil Painting of The Retreat - 1964

Goldbrook Bridge

Oil Painting of Goldbrook Bridge

Interior of Hoxne Church

Interior of Hoxne Church

High House, Hoxne

Watercolour of High House, Hoxne

Courthouse Cottage

Oil painting of Courthouse Cottage, Hoxne

Larch House

Watercolour of Larch House, Hoxne

Red Lion Corner

Watercolour of Red Lion Corner

49 Low Street

Watercolour of 49 Low Street

41 Low Street

Watercolour of Knight's Cottage, 41 Low Street, Hoxne

The Retreat

Watercolour of The Retreat

Low Street

Pen and Ink drawing of Low Street

Oil Sketch of Hoxne

Oil Sketch of Hoxne

Oil of Oakley Park and the River Dove

Oil of Oakley Park and the River Dove

Abbey Farm Barn

Abbey Farm Barn in ink and watercolour

Oil of Low Street

Oil of Low Street

Pest House

Pencil drawing of The Pest House, Reading Green, which was used as an infirmary for the isolation of the sick

Hoxne Landscape

Watercolour of Hoxne Landscape

The Old Police Station and Court Cottage watercolour

The Old Police Station and Court Cottage watercolour

James Henry Govier's works can be seen at the National Museum of Wales (Cardiff), The National Library of Wales, the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery (Swansea), The British Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), Christchurch Mansion (Ipswich), Norwich Castle Museum, Buckinghamshire County Museum, Keswick Museum and Art Gallery and The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Pictures and information provided by Stephen Govier