Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Halfpenny, Joseph
HALFPENNY, JOSEPH (1748–1811), topographical draughtsman and engraver, was born on 9 Oct. 1748, at Bishopsthorpe in Yorkshire, where his father was gardener to the Archbishop of York. He was apprenticed to a house-painter, and practised house-painting in York for some years. He afterwards raised himself to the position of an artist and a teacher of drawing. He acted as clerk of the works to John Carr the architect (1723–1807) [q. v.] when he was restoring the cathedral at York, and skilfully repaired some of its old decoration. From the scaffolding then erected he made those drawings of Gothic ornaments for which he is principally remembered.
In 1795 he commenced to publish by subscription his ‘Gothic Ornaments in the Cathedral Church of York,’ which was completed in twenty numbers in 1800. It was reprinted in 1807 under the old date, and a second edition appeared in 1831. The work consists of 175 specimens of ornament and four views of the interior of the church and chapter-house. It is specially valuable as depicting portions of the building since injured by fire. His ‘Fragmenta Vetusta, or the Remains of Ancient Buildings in York,’ was published in 1807. In both these works he was his own engraver. He drew and engraved the monument of Archbishop Bowet in York Minster for the second volume of Gough's ‘Sepulchral Monuments,’ and an etching in the British Museum of a portrait (by L. Pickard) of Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, who died in 1614, is ascribed to him by Granger. The Grenville Library (British Museum) contains five views of churches in Yorkshire, published in 1816 and 1817 (after his death) by his daughters, Margaret and Charlotte Halfpenny. In the South Kensington Museum is a water-colour drawing by him of ‘The Bridge, Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire’ (1793); and in the British Museum a ‘Landscape with Mansion in the Distance’ (1793), purchased at the sale of the Percy collection in April 1890.
He was twice married, and was survived by two daughters. He died at his house in the Gillygate, York, on 11 July 1811, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Olave's, adjoining the ruins of the old abbey.
[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Gent. Mag. 1800 pt. ii. p. 760, 1811 pt. ii. p. 91; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers (Graves's edition); Gough's Sepulchral Monuments, ii. pt. i. p. 11, and pt. ii. plate xxvii. p. 75; Hargrove's Hist. of York, 1818, pp. 599, 600; Browne's Metropolitan Church of St. Peter, York, 1847, p. 318, in the index of which the name is erroneously given as William Halfpenny; Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual; Brit. Mus. Cat. of Printed Books; Brit. Mus. Print Room Cat.; Cat. of Gallery of British Art at South Kensington.]