Hamo Thornycroft

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Hamo Thornycroft

Hamo Thornycroft.jpg
William Hamo Thornycroft, 1884
by Theodore Blake Wirgman
Born(1850-03-09)9 March 1850
London, England
Died18 December 1925(1925-12-18) (aged 75)
Oxford, England
Known forSculpture

Sir William Hamo Thornycroft RA (9 March 1850 18 December 1925) was an English sculptor, responsible for some of London's best-known statues, including the statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the Palace of Westminster. [1] [2] He was a keen student of classical sculpture and was one of the youngest artists to be elected to the Royal Academy, in 1882, the same year the bronze cast of Teucer was purchased for the British nation under the auspices of the Chantrey Bequest.


He was a leading figure in the movement known as the New Sculpture, which provided a transition between the neoclassical styles of the 19th century and later modernist developments.


"Stepping Stones", Kibble Palace, Glasgow Stepping Stones by William Hamo Thornycroft, Kibble Palace, Glasgow.jpg
"Stepping Stones", Kibble Palace, Glasgow

Hamo Thornycroft was born in London into the Thornycroft family of sculptors. Both of his parents, Thomas and Mary, were distinguished sculptors. As a young child, Hamo was sent to live with an uncle on a farm in Cheshire until, aged nine, he began studying at the Modern Free Grammar School in Macclesfield before, in 1863, returning to London as a pupil at the University College School. [3] He subsequently, from 1869, studied at the Royal Academy, where his primary influence was the painter-sculptor Frederic Leighton. While a student, Thornycroft assisted his father, Thomas, on the monumental statue of Boadicea and Her Daughters beside Westminster Bridge in London. [3] At the Royal Academy Schools, Hamo Thornycroft won two medals and obtained his first paid commission for a work, a bust of a Dr. Sharpey. [3] In 1871, Thornycroft visited Italy and Paris and assisted his father in creating a large fountain, destroyed in World War II, for Park Lane in London, modelling several figures of poets in marble and bronze. [3] During the first half of the 1870s he exhibited works on a regular basis at the Royal Academy, showing Fame, the Sharpey bust, a bust of Mrs Mordaunt and a model for an equestrian statue of Lord Mayo. [3] In 1876 Thornycroft won the Gold Medal of the Royal Academy, with the statue Warrior Bearing a Wounded Youth. [4]

In 1894 the critic Edmund Gosse, coined the term "The New Sculpture" and formulated its early principles from his friendship with Thornycroft. Thornycroft created a series of statues in the ideal genre in the late 1870s and early 1880s that sought to reanimate the format of the classical statue. [5] These included Lot's Wife (1878) and Artemis and her Hound (1880 plaster, 1882 marble). [3] In 1880 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, [4] and produced the Homeric bowman Teucer (1881 plaster, 1882 bronze), and the Mower (1884 plaster, 1894 bronze), arguably the first life-size freestanding statue of a contemporary labourer in 19th-century sculpture. [6] A companion piece to the Mower, the Sower was exhibited in 1886 at the Royal Academy. [3]

After 1884, Thornycroft's reputation was secure and he received commissions for a number of major monuments, most notably the innovative General Gordon in Trafalgar Square. He produced other significant statues including an effigy of The Bishop of Carlisle (1895; Carlisle Cathedral), [7] Oliver Cromwell (Westminster), Dean Colet (a bronze group, early Italianate in feeling, outside St Paul's School, Hammersmith), King Alfred (Winchester), the Gladstone Monument (in the Strand, London) and Dr Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London (bronze, erected in St Paul's Cathedral). Other significant memorials were built in several cities of the then British Empire. [4] [8]

Thornycroft continued to be a central member of the sculptural establishment and the Royal Academy into the 20th century. He was awarded the medal of honour at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, [4] and was knighted in 1917. [8] He became increasingly resistant to new developments in sculpture, although his work of the early 1880s helped to catalyse sculpture in the United Kingdom towards those new directions. In sum, he provided an important transition between the neoclassical and academic styles of the 19th century and its fin-de-siècle and modernist departures.

A blue plaque commemorates Thornycroft at 2b Melbury Road, Kensington, [9] his studio designed by his lifelong friend the architect John Belcher, c. 1892. [10] [11]


In addition to his parents, Thornycroft's grandfather John Francis was also a distinguished sculptor. His brother, Sir John Isaac Thornycroft, became a successful naval engineer; their sister, Theresa, was the mother of the poet Siegfried Sassoon; Theresa and sisters Alyce and Helen Thornycroft were artists.

In 1884, Hamo married Agatha Cox, who was fourteen years his junior. At a dinner in 1889, Agatha was introduced to Thomas Hardy, who later described her as "the most beautiful woman in England" and admitted that she was one of the models for the title character in his novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles . [12] Agatha and her husband were interested in the concept of "artistic dress", and a dress worn by her (presumed to be her wedding dress) is held in the costume collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, donated by their daughter, Mary Elfrida Thornycroft, who was also his biographer. [3] [13]


Blue plaque, 2a Melbury Road, London HamoThornycroftBluePlaque.jpg
Blue plaque, 2a Melbury Road, London

Architectural work

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Council commissioned Thornycroft to produce a detailed sculpted frieze for their headquarters at Chartered Accountants Hall for a cost of £3,000. [14]

Thornycroft's frieze, carved between 1889 and 1893, includes a series of figures representing Arts, Sciences, Crafts, Education, Commerce, Manufacture, Agriculture, Mining, Railways, Shipping, India, the Colonies, and Building. [15] The figure of the architect is based on the Hall's architect, John Belcher and the sculptor on Thornycroft himself. The figure of the solicitor is H. Markby of Markby, Stewart & Co., who acted for ICAEW in its early years. [16]

Selected public works

1880 to 1889

ImageTitle / subjectLocation and
DateTypeMaterialDimensionsDesignation Wikidata Notes
"Stepping Stones" - sculpture in Kibble Palace - geograph.org.uk - 610593.jpg Stepping Stones Kibble Palace, Glasgow Botanic Gardens1878SculptureMarble
Thornycroft - A sower 40895.JPG
More images
A Sower Kew Gardens, London1886Statue on pedestalBronze and Portland stoneGrade II Q27082922 [17]
General Charles George Gordon statue, Embankment, London (2).JPG
More images
General Gordon Victoria Embankment Gardens, London1887–88Statue on pedestal with plaquesBronze and Portland stone3.1m (statue only)Grade II Q26319159 Relocated from Trafalgar Square [18] [19] [20] [21]

1890 to 1899

ImageTitle / subjectLocation and
DateTypeMaterialDimensionsDesignation Wikidata Notes
John Bright Memorial - geograph.org.uk - 1702403.jpg John Bright Broadfield Park, Rochdale 1891Statue on pedestalBronze and stoneGrade II Q26651280 [18] [22]
Oliver Cromwell statue, Westminster - DSC08116.JPG
More images
Statue of Oliver Cromwell Outside of the Palace of Westminster, London1899Statue on pedestal with supporting figureBronze and Portland stoneGrade II Q3497572 [18] [19] [23]

1900 to 1909

ImageTitle / subjectLocation and
DateTypeMaterialDimensionsDesignation Wikidata Notes
Statue d'Alfred le Grand a Winchester.jpg
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Alfred the Great High Street, Winchester 1901Statue on pedestal and baseBronze and graniteGrade II Q26461216 [18] [24] [25]
EB1911 Plate IV. v24, pg.505, Fig 9.jpg
More images
Dean John Colet and Two Pupils St Paul's School, London 1902Sculpture group on pedestal with canopyBronze and stoneOriginally installed at the school's previous site in Hammersmith, relocated in 1968. [3] [19]
Statue Of William Ewart Gladstone.jpg
More images
William Ewart Gladstone George Square, Glasgow1902Statue on pedestal with plaqueBronze and graniteCategory B Q17792886 [26]
Detail of the statue of Gladstone, Strand, London.jpg
More images
Memorial to William Ewart Gladstone The Strand, London 1905Statue on pedestal with supporting figuresBronze and Portland stone11m tallGrade II Q27081590 [18] [19] [27]
Monument Armstrong Newcastle Tyne 5.jpg
More images
William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong Barras Bridge, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1905–6Statue with screen wall, steps and relief panelsBronze and stoneGrade II Q26586754 [28] [18]
Cecil John Rhodes 004.jpg
More images
Cecil Rhodes Kimberley, South Africa1907Equestrian statue on pedestal and stepsBronze and stone Q20972960 [3] [29]
Boer War Memorial - geograph.org.uk - 2397709.jpg
More images
Boer War Memorial St Ann's Square, Manchester 1908Sculpture group on pedestal with plaquesBronze, granite and marbleGrade II Q26546131 [30] [31]
Statue of Alfred Tennyson at Trinity College, Cambridge.jpg Alfred Lord Tennyson Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge 1909Seated statue on pedestalStone [3] [32]

1910 to 1925

ImageTitle / subjectLocation and
DateTypeMaterialDimensionsDesignation Wikidata Notes
Belfast City Hall Sculpture of Sir Daniel Dixon II 2018 08 24.jpg
More images
Sir Daniel Dixon, 1st Baronet Belfast City Hall 1910Statue on pedestal with plaquesBronze and stone Q72151439 [3] [33]
Charles Tempest-Hicks MC plaque St Mary Monken Hadley.jpg
More images
CEH Tempest-Hicks St Mary the Virgin, Monken Hadley c. 1922Memorial tabletMarble Q106783020 [3] [34]
Statue of Haron BaronianLibrary garden, Knutsford Unveiled 1922Statue on pedestalBronze and stoneStatue relocated twice, since 2018 part of the Great War Centenary memorial in Knutsford. [35] [36] [37] [38]
GOC Leagrave to Harpenden 058 Luton War Memorial statue (8565085452).jpg
More images
War memorialGeorge Street, Luton 1922Statue on cenotaphBronze and Portland stoneApprox. 19m tallGrade II Q26408428 Architect, Sir Reginald Blomfield [39] [40]
Bishop Huyshe Wolcott Yeatman-Biggs half.jpg
More images
Bishop Huyshe Yeatman-Biggs Coventry Cathedral 1925Chest tomb and effigyBronze and stone [18]

Other works

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Further reading