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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Esmond Burton (c.1886–1964)

A carver in wood and stone and modeller in plaster, born in East Molesey, Surrey. He trained with Laurence Arthur Turner. He was a member of the Master Carvers Association (President, 1957–59) and a member of the Art Workers’ Guild from 1919.  He was also a member of the Vintners’ Company (Master, 1948). Among his earliest works of public sculpture is a war memorial for the Vintners’ Hall, City of London (1920). He also carved war memorial crosses for St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (1921), and St Thomas of Canterbury, East Clandon, Surrey (1921–22), the latter to a design by H.S. Goodhart-Rendel; and, for Sir Edward Maufe, large stone eagles to crown the Shelter in the RAF Cemetery at Brookwood (1947) and the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede (1949–53), both Surrey. He created a considerable amount of sculpture for churches, including tympanum reliefs of The Crucifixion, Resurrection and Christ in Glory for St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast; a sarcophagus with a recumbent effigy to the 5th Earl of Orford in St Andrew’s Church, Wickmere, Norfolk (1931); reredoses for the north chapel of St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex (1933, to a design by Goodhart-Rendel) and the Lady Chapel of St Ippolyts, Hertfordshire (1946); and stone figures for Ripon Cathedral, Yorkshire (1947, for the fifteenth-century choir screen) and St John the Baptist, Burford, Oxfordshire (1950, for a Gothic-style Lady Chapel reredos of 1911). His secular architectural sculpture includes carved relief panels of Technology and Science for the College of Technology building (now Aston University), Birmingham (1953); of Midas Holding a Cornucopia and The Granting of the Bank of England’s Charter for the Bank of England’s New Change Buildings, City of London (c.1957–59); of people at work for the General and Municipal Workers Union headquarters building (now part of University College London), Bentham House, Camden (1954–58); and, as attributed to him on stylistic grounds by the authors of Public Sculpture of Bristol, a series of ten relief panels on Chantry Court, Bristol (1950–52). In Parham House, West Sussex, the Ship Room is so-called because of the ship Burton modelled in plaster over the fireplace (1935). Some of his freestanding figures may be found in the University of Oxford: in St Hugh’s College, on the library staircase, St Hugh of Avalon (c.1936), and in Lady Margaret Hall, a marble group, The Prodigal’s Return (1916), and two stone statuettes, St Catherine of Alexandria and St Elizabeth of Hungary.

Bibliography: ‘A Craftsman’s Portfolio’, Architectural Review, vol. LX, no. 361, December 1926, pp. 258–59; W. Aumonier (ed.), Modern Architectural Sculpture, New York, 1930, pp. 124, 131, 142; Sir Henry Blashfield, ‘The Sculpture of Esmond Burton’, Country Life, 27 January 1950, pp. 234–35; Mapping Sculpture; D. Merritt and F. Greenacre, with K. Eustace, Public Sculpture of Bristol, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 116–17; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Birmingham (ed. J. Beach), Liverpool, 1998, pp. 3–4, 186; The Times: (i) 28 April 1964, p. [1] [‘Death Notices’]; (ii) 11 June 1964, p. 9 [bequests]; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 7, 8, 204–05, 287–89, 453.

Terry Cavanagh, June 2024