Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
John Thomas
(1813-1862)
A prolific sculptor and architect, he was born in Chalford, Gloucester.

After serving an apprenticeship as a stone-mason he joined his architect brother in Birmingham, where he was noticed by the eminent architect (Sir) Charles Barry, who immediately employed him as a stone and wood carver on his Birmingham Grammar School.

Barry later appointed him the Supervising Carver on the Palace of Westminster, London, where his workshop employed a generation of British architectural carvers, including Glasgow's Walter Buchan and John Crawford .

Astonishingly prolific and versatile, he worked in every genre of sculpture and produced public as well as architectural sculpture.

Amongst his public monuments are the statues of Thomas Attwood, Birmingham (1859), and Queen Victoria, Maidstone (1863).

Amongst his architectural commissions are the reliefs on Balmoral Castle and the sculpture on Windsor and Euston Stations.

For Glasgow, he executed the sculpture on the former National Bank, 57 Queen Street (1846-9, relocated to Queen's Park as Langside Public Halls, 1901-3); the models for the sculpture on the former Commercial Bank of Scotland, 4-16 Gordon Street (1853-7, carved by A H Ritchie ); as well as the models for the exuberant plasterwork for the interior of the former Union Bank, 191 Ingram Street (1854, now Corinthian).

He found a worthy patron in the Glasgow cotton manufacturer John Houldsworth, who commissioned him to design and execute the Houldsworth Mausoleum in the Necropolis (1854) and the furniture and décor for his house at 1 Park Terrace (c. 1859).

Although the latter commission was left incomplete on Houldsworth's death, the richness of the designs became the talk of London society and prompted Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to view them for themselves at the sculptor's London studio.

More than impressed by what she saw, after hearing the name of his patron, the Queen is said to have exclaimed "Houldsworth? His name should be Goldsworth!"

As an architect, he designed Headington House, Oxford; Somerleyton Hall; and extensions to Windsor Castle.

He exhibited his work at the RA , 1842-61, BI, 1850, and at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

A dispute over his colossal statue of Shakespeare for the 1862 International Exhibition hastened his death in April 1862.

John Thomas was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

Sources:

  • Gunnis , 1951
  • Portraits Of 100 Glasgow Men [Houldsworth]
  • Information from Joanne Thomas.
 
Works in our Database:
1: Gordon Street (City Centre),
Former Commercial Bank of Scotland, 4-16 Gordon Street
Narrative and Allegorical Reliefs of Children and Associated Decorative Carving (1853-7)
Modeller: J Thomas; Carver: AH Ritchie; Architect: D Rhind; Builder: D Rae
2: Langside Avenue (Shawlands),
Langside Public Halls, 1 Langside Avenue
Allegorical Figures of Commerce and Plenty and Related Decorative Carving (1847; rebuilt 1902-3)
Sculptor: J Thomas; Architects: John Gibson; rebuilt by AB McDonald
3: The Necropolis (Townhead),
Alpha
Houldsworth Family Mausoleum (1854)
Sculptor and Architect: J Thomas
 
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