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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Percy George Bentham (1883–1936)

Sculptor born in Fulham, London. He trained initially at the South London Technical Art School under W.S. Frith and subsequently at the Royal Academy Schools where, in 1907, he was awarded a first prize of £20 and a silver medal for a set of four models of a figure from the life. He also studied in Paris and in these years worked in the studios of Alfred Drury, William Robert Colton and Albert Bruce Joy. In 1909 he married Ellen Celia Hobbs (the couple had two sons and one daughter, the younger son, Philip [1910–1981], also became a sculptor). In 1915 he showed at the Royal Academy (RA) for the first time (he was to show 13 works up to his final appearance in 1930). In 1919 he became a member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors; on the division of membership into Fellows and Associates in 1923, he became an Associate (he was a council member 1931–25). In 1922 he became a member of the Art Workers’ Guild. Although primarily a sculptor, in 1920 he painted a series of scenes from the life of St James for Hepworth & Wornum’s reredos for St James, Emsworth, Hampshire: evidently they were poorly received by the incumbent. Rather better received were his two alternative models for bronze soldiers intended to stand atop First World War memorials: examples may by seen at Audenshaw, Greater Manchester (1920); Trowbridge, Wiltshire (1921); Haydon Bridge, Northumberland (1921); Ballywalter, County Down, Northern Ireland (1922); Dukinfield, Greater Manchester (1922); and Carnforth, Lancashire (1924). In 1922, he designed a memorial to the organist Thomas Weelkes for the crypt of St Bride’s Church, City of London. From about 1924, Bentham worked from a studio in Gunter Grove, Chelsea; upon his death, the studio and all his models passed to his son, Philip. Among the plasters was a group entitled Fisherman and Nymph, which Bentham had shown at the 1922 RA (no. 1281). On seeing this in the studio, one of Philip’s patrons purchased it for casting in bronze and in 1968 it was installed as a decorative addition to Coombe Abbey Lake, Warwickshire. An important commission dating from the mid-1920s, is Bentham’s colossal figure of Navigation, formerly in Collcut & Hamp’s 1922–25 extension to the P&O offices, Leadenhall Street, relocated following their demolition to the Leadenhall Building (the ‘Cheesegrater’). Bentham also carried out carving to others’ designs, one of his principal employers being the architect Albert Richardson: for him he executed carvings at St Mary’s, Shelton, Bedfordshire (rood screen, c.1931); St Mary’s, Eaton Socon, Huntingdonshire (aisle corbels, reredos, rood screen, etc, 1932); and St Mary’s, Eynesbury, Huntingdonshire (angel corbels, rood figures, 1933). He was, 1933–35, President of the Master Carvers’ Association of London. He died, aged only 55, on 17 June 1936.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, pp. 274, 347; Mapping Sculpture; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Warwickshire, Coventry & Solihull, Liverpool, 2003, p. 19; C. O’Brien et al, Hampshire: South (The Buildings of England), New Haven and London, 2018, p. 259; C. O’Brien and N. Pevsner, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough (The Buildings of England), New Haven and London, 2014, pp. 249, 284, 468, 480; The Times, 19 June 1936, p. 11 (obit.); P. Usherwood et al, Public Sculpture of North-East England, Liverpool, 2000, pp. 28–29; Who Was Who; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 365–66, 367–68.

Terry Cavanagh, April 2024