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.”
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.