In case the name James Jervis Blomfield does not ring any bells among Vancouverites today, allow me to reintroduce him to you through one of his better known works, the original design of the crest of the city of Vancouver, used from 1903 to 1969. Devised in 1901 when James would have turned 29, it was painted for official adoption in 1903, and it remained the official crest until a simplified Coat of Arms was granted by the College of Heralds, London, England on March 31, 1969. Chuck Davis wrote more on the subject of the coat of arms HERE.
Born James Jervis Alfred Bloomfield (he later dropped an o from his name, and added his mother’s maiden name Jervis) in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, his father brought the family to Calgary around 1885, then to New Westminster in 1889, where he established the stained glass firm Henry Bloomfield and Sons. It was the great fire of New Westminster that destroyed their family home in 1898, ultimately causing them to move to Vancouver in 1898. (Read a harrowing account of the fire told from his brother Charles Bloomfield’s perspective on page 75 of Royal city: a photographic history of New Westminster, 1858-1960 by Jim Wolf.)
I took a trip to the Vancouver City Archives recently to see some of his work in person. The Archives holds two original illustrations of the city’s coat of arms by James Blomfield, the first being a preliminary rendering (which I’m presuming it is actually the original painting from 1903), as well as a special memorial painting from January of 1945, at which point Blomfield would have been approaching the age of 73. You can see the legacy of stained glass artistry from the Bloomfield/Blomfield family in this fine rendition.
James Blomfield made numerous arts contributions to the city of Vancouver. In April 1900, he co-founded the Arts and Crafts Association in Vancouver, as described in a short notice in The Canadian Architect and Builder. According to Gary Sim’s Art & Artists in Exhibition: Vancouver 1890 – 1950, this group was a precursor to the Studio Club (1904), and later the B.C. Society of Fine Arts (1908). In addition to the many significant works of stained glass while working at his father’s firm, James Blomfield also designed the granite and bronze Queen Victoria Memorial Drinking Fountain in Stanley Park, and he produced some very fine etchings and watercolour paintings, one such painting is seen on the cover of the James P Delgado book Waterfront.
James Blomfield left Vancouver in 1907, and eventually settled in Toronto in 1920. He was buried in the Hamilton Mausoleum in Hamilton, Ontario, which itself is another extraordinary chapter, as told by Chuck Davis on VancouverHistory.ca.
Remarkably, you’re still able to make a direct connection to the Bloomfield family today, as this GPS tour takes you right past the door of his father’s Vancouver home, the Henry Bloomfield House, which still stands at 2532 Columbia Street.