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Review: The Hepworth Wakefield

Attraction - Museum

Wakefield, United Kingdom

Hepworth at The Waterfront

  • By SilverTraveller merrymeg

    6 reviews

  • 2012
  • Solo

128 people found this review helpful

I travelled by train to Wakefield Westgate Station and took the free city bus from outside the station entrance to a stop near this museum. The bus runs every ten minutes until about 3pm (except on Sundays) and calls at the central bus station and the other railway station, Wakefield Kirkgate, for those using alternative routes. There is also a car park at the museum which is paid for on entry if that is your preferred transport.



The destination was billed as "The Waterfront" on the bus route as the museum sits alongside the River Calder, adjacent to a weir which was in full spate when I visited after the recent heavy rain. The area itself still has quite an industrial feel to it but the river walkway and weir provided an interesting backdrop from inside the museum as there were some brightly-coloured craft moored there as well.



Once inside there is a welcome desk in the large foyer with a cafe, shop, activity room and toilet facilities on the ground floor. Worth noting are the indoor picnic area provided alongside the activity room as an alternative to the cafe and the lockers for bags and coats which return the £1 coin used to operate them when you leave. There are two lifts to the gallery floor, though only the smaller one is in use on "quiet" days.



Upstairs there are a number of rooms devoted to the work of Barbara Hepworth, born and educated in Wakefield, but until now more readily associated with St Ives where one of her studios may be visited. The exhibits are labelled but the light-coloured text, often at a low height ,is not the easiest to cope with for "seniors" so I'd recommend borrowing a large print guide for explanations if you think that might be a problem.



As well as examples of sculpture in various materials there are some short videos about her life and work and a few of the models she made have been preserved. The largest piece is the winged figure she made for the facade of the John Lewis store in London. There are also a few items from her personal collection (spanning many centuries) which may have influenced her approach to her work (in addition to her love of the outdoors) and a selection of tools from her workroom.



At the time of my visit there was a room devoted to the pictures she'd produced of hospital theatres, concentrating on the hands of surgeons. This interest of hers arose after an operation needed by her daughter (before the days of the NHS) and she maintained contact with one consultant. I found these pictures very arresting, especially when viewed from a distance as the figures were so solid (or sculptural). There was an air of intense concentration in the faces when viewed at close quarters, while the way they were grouped together maintained a focus on their hands.



Also on show were paintings and drawings by her contemporaries, as well as some other sculpture which reflected the ideas of the period. Everything was well-spaced and for those who wished to linger in a particular gallery there were benches as well as some portable stools.



The day I went was during the school holidays and there were free activities for children in two different rooms. For those with an interest in local history there was also an exhibition of paintings by two local sisters born in the Victorian era and some reference books as well. Time did not permit a visit to the cafe for me but it was well-patronised and the gift shop offered a variety of items on different themes.



As an aside, the road signs in the city all refer to the Hepworth Museum even though in my view it could be seen as an art gallery. But however you refer to it, the Hepworth is well worth a visit. Except during school holidays and on Bank Holidays it is closed on Mondays but there is a late night opening on the third Thursday of each month. You can easily pass a couple of hours there and possibly longer on days when there are talks or family activities which are advertised online and in the brochures. There is no admission charge (so concessions for seniors don't apply) but donations are always welcome.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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