Born in Bloomsbury, Henry Hugh Armstead was a sculptor and illustrator. He was the son of John Armstead, a chaser and heraldic engraver. He trained first under his father, then at the Government School of Design at Somerset House and afterwards at private art schools.
At eighteen he went to work for the silversmiths Hunt and Roskell, where the works he later made included the Kean Testimonial, a set of nine pieces of silver presented to the actor Charles Kean and the Outram Shield made for presentation to the Lieutenant-General Sir James Outram. He made both clay models for the objects, and chased the cast silver. In the late 1850s Armstead was commissioned to make a statue of Aristotle in Caen stone for the Museum of Natural History in Oxford. After this he increasingly focused on sculpture rather than metalwork.
At the Palace of Westminster he carved eighteen oak panels in the Queen’s Robing Room illustrating the legend of King Arthur beneath a series of murals by William Dyce.
Armstead worked closely with George Gilbert Scott on the Albert memorial from an early stage in the design process, making small scale models of the projected sculptural groups for Scott’s architectural model.
When it came to the sculpture on the actual monument, he was chosen to make half of the Frieze of Parnassus, a representation of 169 major cultural figures carved out of hard Canpanella marble. Armstead carved the poets, musicians and artists on the south side of the monument and the painters on the east.
Armstead also sculpted the large fountain at Kings College, Cambridge (1874-79), incorporating a statue of its founder, Henry IV, and numerous effigies, such as Bishop Wilberforce at Winchester, and Lord John Thynne at Westminster Abbey. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1875 and a full member in 1880.