People Sculpture

Athens – the Sheffield connection

Photograph by Patrick Comerford (2017)

This sorry-looking statue of George Canning, the British Prime Minister who from 1825 to 1827 saved Greece from conquest by the Turks, stands in the George Canning Square in Athens.

But what is its connection to Sheffield?

George Canning, who was Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister, gave diplomatic support to the Greeks in the struggle against the Turks for freedom and ensured the eventual creation of an independent Greek state. In 1827, he signed the Treaty of London with Russia and France, with the object of securing Greek independence.

Canning’s successor as Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, tried to undo his work by making a truce with Turkey, but the Treaty of London had secured Greek independence.

The statue of George Canning from 1834 has a simple inscription: ‘George Canning 1770-1827’.

It was unveiled, wrapped in British and Greek flags, by the Greek Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, on 6 April 1931, at a ceremony attended by Sir Patrick Ramsay, the British ambassador, and the English builder and developer Charles Boot (1874-1945), who donated the statue to the Greek nation.

And here are the Sheffield connections.

Charles Boot was the Sheffield-born son of Henry Boot, the builder, and became a successful businessman and creator of Pinewood Studios.

He acquired the 10ft-high statue when he bought Thornbridge Hall, Great Longstone, near Bakewell, in 1929.

The statue, the work of famous Jordanthorpe-born sculptor, Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841), had originally been at Trentham Hall, Staffordshire, the last work commissioned by the Duke of Sutherland.

It was transferred to Thornbridge Hall, and after the death of the Liberal statesman, Chantrey made a replica which was erected at Westminster Abbey.

As a result of big business dealings between his firm, Henry Boot and Sons, with the Greek Government, it occurred to Charles Boot to present the statue to the Greek nation, and has remained here ever since.

Sadly, if you think that Sheffield has a graffiti problem, then I suggest you look at Athens.

Buildings Sculpture

Cairn’s Chambers

We’ve already had a look at the history of Cairn’s Chambers on Church Street, a Grade II-listed building that has been empty for most of the past sixteen years.

Built between 1894-1896 by Charles Hadfield for Henry and Alfred Maxfield, an established Sheffield firm of solicitors.

Almost unnoticed these days, are the decorative features that emblazoned the building, and which survived a Second World War German bomb.

The stone carvings, at the front, were the work of Frank Tory and Sons, Sheffield-based architectural sculptors, operating from the early 1880s until the 1950s, consisting of Frank and his twin sons Alfred Herbert and William Frank.

The crowning glory of Cairn’s Chambers was the statue of Hugh McCalmont Cairns (1819-1885), 1st Earl Cairns, an Irish statesman, and Lord Chancellor of Great Britain. He became a Q.C. in 1856, Solicitor-General in 1858, and was knighted in May of the same year, becoming Attorney-General in 1866.

The statue looks extremely miserable these days, weather-beaten, covered with dirt, and with some parts missing.

As well as the statue of Cairns, the building also features a sundial, and the heads of the then Prince and Princess of Wales, later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Buildings Sculpture

Bainbridge Building

I bet most of you have never noticed this above a door at the top of Norfolk Street. This carved panel is on the old Halifax Bank at the corner of Surrey Street. The building was commissioned by Emerson Bainbridge, a mining engineer consultant and philanthropist, following the death of his wife, Jeffie.

It was erected as a memorial to her and opened by the Duke and Duchess of Portland in 1894.

The first floor formed a shelter for waifs and strays, and a large suite of offices on the second floor were given to the local branch of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, of which Bainbridge was a committee member.

The ground floor consisted of shops that were let out to tenants in order to raise revenue to support the rent-free premises above.

The sculptor is unknown, but the architect was John Dodsley Webster, who also designed the Gladstone Buildings next to the Cathedral.


Goodwin Fountains

The Goodwin Fountains in the Peace Gardens. Eighty-nine individual jets of water inviting Sheffield’s kids to run through them during the summer and avoid them during winter. These are dedicated to Sir Stuart Goodwin (1886-1969), head of the Neepsend Steel and Tool Corporation. He gave away over £500,000 to charities and was honoured with the original Goodwin Fountain which stood at the top of Fargate between 1961 and 1998.


Holberry Cascades

The Holberry Cascades. Named after the Chartist leader Samuel Holberry (1814-1842), they consist of eight large water features located on either side of the four main entrances to the Peace Gardens. The waterfalls from the bronze vessels represent both the pouring of water into Sheffield’s five rivers, and the pouring of molten metal used in the city’s metal industries. 57,000 litres of water are pumped through its water features, the system using a water re-circulation system, and is kept clean using a brine solution rather than chemicals.


Bochum Bell

The Bochum Bell, in the Peace Gardens, was presented to the people of Sheffield in 1985 by our twin city of Bochum in Germany to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the link between the two cities. The steel bell was made by apprentices at the Krupp AG Works and reflects the shared heritage of the two cities in the manufacturing of the highest quality steel and steel artefacts. The bell is located in the top flower-bed along Pinstone Street. A Bochum Bell also exists at Donetsk in the Ukraine, another sister city.


City War Memorial

In 2009, when Philip Laing, a university student, got drunk and urinated on Sheffield’s War Memorial in Barker’s Pool, he didn’t realise he’d suffer the wrath of the city, as well as the rest of the country. He was spared jail and ended up quitting his university course.

Enthusiasm is still felt for the City War Memorial, erected in 1925, “to create a sacred centre where the people of Sheffield may meet on Armistice Day, and where the bereaved can lay their wreaths, and see the flag hoisted half-mast to honour their dead.”

In 1923, the Lord Mayor, F.C. Fenton, launched an appeal, aimed at ratepayers, to fund a memorial already designed by architect Emanuel Vincent Harris, an 80-foot high obelisk, to be sited at the junction of Townhead Street and Church Street.

The plan was abandoned due to being “unsuitable in design and location.”

However, the War Memorial Subcommittee was persuaded to consider a new design in front of the proposed City Hall. It launched a competition to select a more suitable design, restricted to artists working, or with practices, in the city. The contest attracted 34 entries; the winning design chosen by E. Vincent Harris.

The final design was by Charles Canus-Wilson, the architect, with George Alexander responsible for the sculptured designs of the figures.

The Grade II-listed City War Memorial is set on a bronze case, with the sculptures on a granite plinth, into which is set a flagpole, over 100 feet in length and weighing nine tons, with a bronze crown.

The panels on the base, near the Sheffield coat-of-arms, shows emblems of the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy, the Army and the Royal Flying Corps.

Below these, are insignias to commemorate the Yorkshire Dragoons (Queen’s Own) South Africa 1900-1902, the Royal Engineers, the Tanks Corps, the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment, the Royal Army Service Corps and the Army Medical Corps.

There are also four figures of four ordinary soldiers, heads bowed, and rifles reversed, standing on a ledge above an octagonal pedestal. It was originally to have had four females standing between the soldiers, but these were lost to save money.

The cost of the memorial was £5,345, funds coming from the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, fund-raising performances at Sheffield’s 44 theatres, music halls and cinemas, collection boxes in shops, the university and schools, a “Flag day” and a contribution from the British War Graves Association.

The bronze was cast by Conrad Parlanty Castings Ltd of Herne Bay, while the flagpole was made by Earle’s Shipbuilders and Engineers, Hull.

The flagpole arrived at The Wicker by rail, occupying six trucks, and was manoeuvred through the streets using steam-tractors during the early hours of the morning. It was designed to be the same height as the City Hall (opened in 1932) and was set 20-feet into the ground for stability.

The City War Memorial was unveiled on 28 October 1925, by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles H. Harington, GBE, KCB, DSO.

During the December Blitz of 1940, a bomb exploded near its base, causing the six-ton bronze base to shift five inches out of position. It was repaired in 1949, parts of the memorial dismantled and taken to Herne Bay at a cost of £680.

In 2005, the memorial was assessed, and a £60,000 programme of essential repairs carried out by Rupert Harris Conservation. The mast was treated for corrosion and repainted, and the crown and ball at the top of the mast re-gilded using 24-carat gold leaf.

Interestingly, the 1940 shrapnel damage remains, kept as a reminder of the memorial’s history and purpose.

Companies People Sculpture

Frank Tory and Sons

As we discover the historic buildings of Sheffield, and the intricate sculptors that adorn many, the name of Frank Tory frequently appears.

Frank Tory and Sons were a firm of sculptors that worked on many of the city’s buildings from the early 1880s until the 1950s. Apart from stone, the family also worked in wood, marble, bronze and fibrous plaster.

Frank Tory (1848-1938) was a Londoner who trained at the Lambeth School of Art. He came to Sheffield in 1880 after accepting a commission from the 15th Duke of Norfolk to work on the new Corn Exchange.

The contract brought him into contact with architect Matthew Ellison Hadfield and his son, Charles, who encouraged him to stay in Sheffield and offered him several commissions.

Tory set up a studio amongst terraced houses, and was joined in 1901 by his twin sons Alfred Herbert Tory (1881-1971) and William Frank Tory (1881-1968).

The Corn Exchange was destroyed by fire in 1947 and demolished in 1964. However, some of his finest work can still be found at Parade Chambers (High Street), St. John’s Church (Ranmoor), Cairns Chambers (Church Street), Carmel House (Fargate) and the Cathedral of St. Marie.

Perhaps Frank Tory’s greatest work is on Parade Chambers, with decorative sculptures of Geoffrey Chaucer and William Caxton, created in 1883 for Pawson and Brailsford, printers and stationers (pictured).

Alfred and William were born on Winter Street and attended the Broomhill County School and the Weston Academy for Sons of Gentlemen. They learned their trade from their father, who also taught at the Sheffield School of Art.

While Frank Tory worked on some of the city’s finest Victorian structures, his sons were responsible for sculptures on twentieth century buildings, including Sheffield City Hall, the Central Library, the White Building (Fitzalan Square), Victoria Hall (Norfolk Street) as well as Leeds Civic Hall and Chesterfield Town Hall.

After their father’s death, the firm moved to Ecclesall Road, at a site that is now the Porter Brook pub, eventually retiring in the 1950s after which the firm was wound up. 

Buildings Sculpture


Oh, how happy sculptor Judith Bluck (born 1936) must feel. Thirty-four years after creating a brick wall relief, it now adorns the outside of a boarded-up toilet block at Moorfoot.

The frieze was created for the Manpower Services Commission in 1985, the theme based on different kinds of skills used in the “little mesters” workshops formerly on the site.

Bluck visited Kelham Island Museum for inspiration and made a master in Glass Reinforced Polyester Resin from which a mould was formed. Pan tiles, each 25cm square, were produced by Nori (a subsidiary of Accrington Brick).

Working from her studio in the Yorkshire Dales, Bluck was also responsible for the Crucible Fountain outside the Moorfoot building (covered in another post).

She also created numerous works around the country including Small Workhorse, at Ealing Broadway, Legend of the Iron Gates, Wilmslow, Sheep in Milton Keynes, and a 20ft high relief narrative on security doors at Portsmouth Crown Court.


Crucible Fountain

It might have seen better days, and quite frankly, it’s at the arse-end of The Moor. But how many people even notice the monument outside the Moorfoot building?

It is called the Crucible (or Crucible Fountain) and was commissioned by the Property Services Agency, Department of the Environment, to stand in front of the former Manpower Services Commission building. It was installed in 1979, the work of sculptor Judith Bluck, and cost £30,000.

Unsurprisingly, the sculptor chose something that was “rooted in Sheffield,” and based the design on a crucible used in the steel industry, along with the shape of a bird with spread-out wings.

After being conceived as a paper and wire-scale model on a turntable, the sculpture was created in Accrington, using a building with lifting gear, to lift a rolled steel joist armature, covered in chicken wire, and then sprayed with Glass Reinforced Polyester Resin.

The surface was created with a coating of “techfil,” made up of recycled fuel ash and crushed coal mixed with resin and applied by trowel. This was then sanded down and stippled with centrifugally atomised bronze.

Brought to Sheffield, the 30ft monument was mounted on two reinforced concrete pads.

Originally, the sculpture included water, supplied by three separate jets, positioned so that water falling off the structure didn’t blow in the wind and soak passers-by.

The surface texture was created to enhance the sound of water and provide a sparkling effect. By night, the monument was illuminated to augment the overall appearance.

A lot has happened to it since then.

The water was switched off in the distant past and the floodlights removed. The raised garden in which it stands was planted with shrubbery that eventually consumed much of the lower part of the monument.

I kid you not when I say that the sculpture provided the perfect safe place for the homeless, hidden from view, in which to sleep overnight.

Most of the overgrowth was removed in early 2016 when this part of The Moor was used in the filming of Brief Encounters, an ITV comedy-drama, detailing the beginning of the Ann Summers company, through four women who sought happiness and fulfilment by selling lingerie and sex toys.

Now in need of much care and attention, this cries out for restoration.

Note: Look out for Bluck’s wall frieze outside the disused toilet block nearby, covered in a separate post.