Categories
Sculpture

Pan: Spirit of the Wood

Photograph by Sheffielder

Within the Rose garden at the Botanical Gardens, in Sheffield, is a sculpture called Pan: Spirit of the Wood. This was a gift to the city by Sir Charles Clifford, proprietor of the Sheffield Telegraph and Star, on his death in 1936.

However, the city’s inhabitants had to wait a long time to see the sculpture, only made available after the death of his widow, Lady Alice Clifford, in 1941.

He had expressed a wish that the sculpture would be placed in Endcliffe Wood or Whiteley Wood, but it wasn’t until 1952 that Spirit of the Wood was finally placed in the newly designed and restored Rose Garden at the Botanical Gardens.

Although his will referred to Peter Pan, it was almost certainly a statue of Pan: Greek god of pastures, flocks and woods, seated on a tree stump. Around the statue are brass birds, rabbits, mice, frogs and squirrels, while elves are imaginary woodland spirits. Cast in bronze, about 2 metres high, the sculptor has remained unknown.

The condition of the sculpture deteriorated over the years and it wasn’t until 2003 that restoration was undertaken at a cost of £40,000.

Spirit of the Wood was sent away to Chris Boulton, a restorer, who found that it had been made in sections and bolted together. Grit was blasted away, the patina removed, and rough cement detached from the stone base.

It was discovered that the cast was of poor quality, with the likelihood that the sculpture had been made of scrap-metal.

Once completed, Pan: Spirit of the Wood was reinstalled in the centre of the Rose Garden and nowadays forms part of the Riddle Trail.

The only clue to its creator can be found on an inscription – “H.W. Cashmore – Westminster” – a company of metal workers that had a foundry in Balham.

It had been set up by George Henry William Cashmore and Malcolm Hankey and became part of the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts, established in 1894 by Walter Gilbert as a company of modern artists associated with the Arts and Crafts movement.

The guild worked in all sorts of materials including metal, wood, plaster, bronze, tapestry and glass. As a result of their most famous commission, the iron and bronze gates at Buckingham Palace, they were issued with a Royal Warrant appointing them metal workers to King Edward VII, an honour repeated two years later under George V.

By 1908, the guild was using H.W. Cashmore at 96 Victoria Street, Westminster, as a showroom and studio.

The partnership between Henry William Cashmore (he’d now dropped the initial G from his name), and Malcolm Hankey was dissolved in 1911 and became known as H.W. Cashmore and Company.

The showrooms flourished and attracted the attention of Country Life magazine in March 1914, which did a feature on the company.  Later the same year, The Gardeners’ Chronicle provided perhaps the best insight into the workings of H.W. Cashmore.

“Mr Cashmore has been careful to surround himself with workers who are not only skilled in their several branches, but are also imbued with the true craftsman’s instinct, and are therefore capable of applying themselves zealously to the realisation of high ideals. The effect is seen in the many examples of beautifully wrought and finely-finished metal work and carried out by the firm’s staff in a manner worthy of the invariably artistic designs to which they work.

“These productions take the form of garden statuary and elegantly modelled figures, ornamental bronze work, wrought iron gates, grilles and railings. The appreciation of their work now reaches to the most distant parts of the world. Examples of their skill and taste have gone as far afield as India, China, Japan and South America, as well as to the United States and Canada.

“Much of their work is used in the new commercial buildings of the world, on the other hand, a great deal of their skill seems to be utilised by clients who inhabit some of the most beautiful of the old English country homes – as found at Eltham Hall and Rushton Hall.”

Photograph by Sheffielder

Although records suggest that Spirit of the Wood was created in the 1930s, the likelihood is that it originates to about 1915 when Sir Charles Clifford bought Whirlow from Denys Hague, a coal-owner. Britain was at war, with metal commanding premium prices, and the inclusion of scrap-metal in its creation was understandable.

The sculpture probably stood in his garden at Whirlow, as did a pair of wrought iron gates, most likely by H.W. Cashmore as well, also bequeathed to the city, with Sir Clifford hoping that they would stand at the entrance to the bird sanctuary in Ecclesall Wood. As it happens, the gates are still hanging outside Clifford House on Ecclesall Road South (as Whirlow became known).

It seems we shall never know the designer of Spirit of the Wood, the obvious answer being that it was probably designed by one of Cashmore’s employees. Sir Charles doubtless ordered the statue from a catalogue, or even after visiting the Westminster showroom.  

Categories
Places

Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Photograph by Sheffielder

It’s a Sheffield park that we take for granted, but the story behind the Botanical Gardens is not as straightforward as we might believe. The next time you visit, spare a thought for our ancestors who probably didn’t have the opportunity.

It is Sheffield’s oldest park, with origins going back to 1833 when Thomas Dunn, the Master Cutler, called a public meeting following a petition signed by 85 local residents concerned about the lack of public open spaces and facilities to promote both healthy recreation and self-education in Sheffield. It was resolved, at the meeting, to develop a Botanical Garden.

Photograph by Sheffielder

By 1834 the Society had raised £7,500 through shares, and, having taken practical advice from Joseph Paxton of Chatsworth and Joseph Harrison of Wortley Hall, they purchased 18 acres of south facing farmland at Clark House from Joseph Wilson, head of the family of snuff makers.

“The roads to it were good, the land itself lay very well to the south, it was well sheltered and very fertile.”

Photograph by Sheffielder

The laying out of the grounds was determined through a competition, the winner chosen from a panel of judges made up of experienced gardeners –  Joseph Paxton (Chatsworth), Joseph Cooper (Wentworth), Joseph Walker (Banner Cross) and John Wilson (Worksop Manor).

A design submitted by Robert Marnock, former Head Gardener at Bretton Hall, was chosen for the new Botanical Gardens – . “He laid out the Gardens in the then highly fashionable Gardenesque style, the main characteristic being that all the trees, shrubs and plants were positioned in such a way that each plant can be displayed to its full potential in scattered planting.  The approach involved the creation of small-scale landscapes, winding paths, expanses of grass and tree-planted mounds.”

Photograph by Sheffielder
Photograph by Sheffielder
Photograph by Sheffielder

The runner-up in the competition, Benjamin Broomhead Taylor, was appointed as the architect for the buildings. The pavilions became known as Paxton’s Pavilions, hinting that these were designed by Joseph Paxton, but it is more likely that he merely offered advice in their design.

The Botanical Gardens were finally opened on the 29th July 1836, under the patronage of the Duke of Norfolk, Duke of Devonshire, Earl Fitzwilliam, Lord Wharncliffe, the Earl of Surrey and John Stuart Wortley.

“Two excellent bands of music were stationed in the grounds, and refreshments of various kinds offered. The buildings, consisting of a lodge or grand entrance, on the left of which are the conservatories, and the residence of Robert Marnock, the Curator, are erected in a very tasteful style of architecture, which reflects the skill of Mr Benjamin Broomhead Taylor.

“The walks assume all the intricacy and mystery of a labyrinth maze, while the monkey cages, the bear’s den, the eagles’ habitation, water-works etc., give a variety to the whole.

“The gardens command a view of many miles of rural scenery, with the grand imposing appearance of the New Cemetery (General Cemetery) in front, seeming, as it were, to form a portion of the grounds.”

Photograph by Sheffielder

A few things to note here. One, is that the Botanical Gardens were built in what was then open countryside. Second, the Gardens were only open to the general public on about four gala days each year; otherwise admission was limited to shareholders and annual subscribers.

In 1839, The Gardeners’ Magazine reported that the attempt to combine a zoological garden had not succeeded. “In fact, the filth, stench, roaring, howling, and other annoyances incident to carnivorous animals, are altogether inconsistent with the repose which is essentially a botanic garden.”

Photograph by Sheffielder

Robert Marnock left the Botanical Gardens in 1840 and moved to Hackney in London. Soon afterwards, the Council of the Royal Botanic Society appointed him Curator and to lay out the grounds in Regent’s Park.

In 1844, financial problems led to the failure of the first society, but the Gardens were rescued with the formation of a second society (also known as the Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society) which purchased the land from the former society for £9,000. The conservatories were extended, a tea pavilion and the present Curator’s House were constructed within the succeeding decade. A period of steady development and growing international renown followed for the next 30 years.

Photograph by Sheffielder

In 1897, falling income, competition from the new free city parks and residential development in the area meant that the Gardens were in danger again. It was decided that the proprietors could not make them pay and were disinclined to maintain them. It was suggested that several of the shareholders would give their shares, and others would sell theirs, for £5 each, if the Sheffield Town Trust (dating back to 1297) would purchase the Gardens and maintain them for the benefit of the people of Sheffield.

In 1898 the Sheffield Town Trust paid £5,445 for the value of the shares, becoming owners and managers of the Gardens for the first half of the 20th Century. The Gardens were reopened without fuss on Thursday 20th August 1899, and it was then that free admission was introduced and continues today. Demolition of unsafe buildings was necessary and only the conservatory domes were repaired. The Gardens thrived until World War II, when extensive damage left the Sheffield Town Trust unable to afford the repairs and restoration required.

Photograph by Sheffielder

In 1951, a Special Committee decided that they could lease the Botanical Gardens at a nominal rent; the maintenance of the Gardens as a Botanic Garden; that no organised games or sports other than a children’s corner be permitted; that the staff of the Gardens be taken over by Sheffield Corporation.

Sheffield Corporation accepted the offer and the management of the Gardens passed to them on a 99-year lease for a peppercorn rent of one shilling per year raised to 5p a quarter in 1971. The Town Trust remains the owners of the Gardens.

With the aid of a grant from the War Damage Commission, the Council was able to instigate repairs to the domes, creating an Aviary and an Aquarium, and restoring Sheffield Botanical Gardens to their former glory. However, a downturn in the economy during the 1980s meant a severe reduction in funding and once again the Gardens were on their way to dereliction.

Photograph by Sheffielder

In 1984, the Friends of the Botanical Gardens, Sheffield (FOBS) was established as a group providing education for the public and supporting the Gardens. Practical volunteer work to help staff maintain the Gardens started in 1993.

The Friends managed to arrest the decline in many parts of the Gardens but not the listed structures, even the Paxton’s pavilions were derelict and in danger of collapse.

In 1996 the Friends set up the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust with the aim of applying for grants to restore the Gardens.

Photograph by Sheffielder

The Heritage Lottery Fund announced its Urban Parks Programme in January 1996. Soon afterwards, an organisation known as the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Partnership was formed to produce a bid for the Gardens. Its membership was Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust, Friends of the Botanical Gardens, Sheffield Town Trust, the City Council and the Landscape Department of Sheffield University.

The Gardens were awarded a grand of £5.06 million, which was to be matched by £1.22 million in funds and £0.41 million in work in kind.

The project was designed to restore the Gardens, all the buildings and features to their 19th century condition whilst adapting to modern requirements. This included the full reinstatement of the Paxton’s pavilions to become a splendid home for frost sensitive plants from around the world.

The restored Gardens were officially opened in June 2007 at a cost of approximately £6.69 million.

(Information for this post was provided by Sheffield Botanical Gardens, Sheffield Town Trust and ‘Sheffield Botanical Gardens – People, Plants and Pavilions’ by R. Alison Hunter).

Photograph by Sheffielder
Categories
Other

What happened to those iron railings?

Photograph by Claire Pendrous

In May 1942, the minutes of the Sheffield Town Trust recorded the following: – “Railings around the Botanical Gardens have been requisitioned by the Ministry of Works and Buildings – approximately 300 yards – bought originally at a cost of £877.”

Considering that £877 is worth about £41,600 today, and that the railings had probably been erected during Victorian times, it was an inconvenience that the Town Trust fought and lost.

This occurrence happened all over the country during World War Two, suggested by Lord Beaverbrook (in charge of aircraft production) to Winston Churchill, intended to make people think they were contributing to the defence of Britain following the catastrophe at Dunkirk.

“They took away our railings. Men came and cut the ornamental railings from the copings on the little walls outside of the houses, along the whole length of the road, they were taken away to be melted down to make weapons.”

Photograph by London Parks and Gardens Trust

The action, ordered as part of Regulation 50 of the Defence (General) Regulations 1939, left stumps of old railings in our walls, and if you look carefully around Sheffield, evidence can still be seen outside many private houses.

In 1950, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph said that “a generation is growing up which does not remember the iron fences and gates which adorned, in some instances, and gave a prison appearance in others, to our homes and public buildings.”

During the war, the willing public went along with the scheme, taking solace that old iron railings would be put to good use. However, if the truth had been known, their enthusiasm to co-operate might have been less agreeable.

In recent times, John Farr, a correspondent, reckons that only 26 per cent of ironwork was used for munitions, and that by 1944 much of it was rusting in council depots, quarries or railway sidings, with some filtering through to the post-war metal industry.

It started out as a conspiracy theory and turned out to be true.

By September 1944, over one million tons of ironwork had been collected, far more than was needed. Faced with an oversupply, the Government allowed the programme to continue, if only to save face.

Ironwork was stockpiled away and even after the war, when raw materials were in short supply, the widely held view was that the Government quietly disposed of it and even buried it in landfill or at sea.

Photograph by Garton & King Ltd

Of course, any evidence conveniently disappeared, with records of this wartime effort destroyed, and leaving some unlikely explanations as to what happened to this iron hoard.

Towards the end of the war, when munitions were running out, it is suggested that bombers flying over France were loaded with pieces of cut-down railings which were dropped on the enemy.

Another rumour suggests that ironwork was used as ballast for ships in West Africa, and that today houses in ports across Ghana and Nigeria can be found with smart Victorian railings.

In London, there are eye-witness accounts of barges dumping ironwork into the Thames Estuary, to which it remains, but we do know for certain that up until the 1980s there were scrapyards around Britain still piled high with the stuff.

And so, it makes you wonder what happened to those expensive iron railings from outside the Botanical Gardens. Perhaps they adorn the outside of a respectable house in Lagos.

Botanical Gardens. Photograph by Google Street View