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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Thomas Duckett I (1804–1878)

Sculptor born in Claughton, Lancashire, the son of Richard Duckett, an auctioneer of Friargate, Preston. He had no formal artistic training. First apprenticed to a plasterer, he worked as a wood carver for Gillow and Co of Lancaster, but soon moved to the sculptors Franceys and Spence of Liverpool. Here he exhibited his Infant Hercules (1825) and his bust of the Rev. J. Dunn (1828). Subsequently employed by Francis Webster and Sons of Kendal, he carved a St George (1835) for the Church of the Holy Trinity (R.C.); probably the heads on the west windows of St George’s Church, Kendal (1838); the mourning soldier on the monument to Captain Considine (Chester Cathedral, 1841); and the weeping figure in memory of Francis Webster (formerly Eller How, Lindale). Even after leaving Kendal, he continued to contribute figurative sculpture to the Websters’ monuments, most notably the bust of William Pearson (d. 1856) for his memorial in Crosthwaite church, Cumbria. On 3 May 1834 the Westmorland Gazette described a ‘fine’ Ecce Homo from ‘the chisel of Mr. Duckett in the employ of Messrs. Webster’, comparing him favourably with ‘those who stand higher in the Hall of Fame’. Around 1844 he established a studio in Avenham Road, Preston, carving mostly busts and funerary monuments. In 1850, he was awarded the commission for the town’s statue of Sir Robert Peel (unveiled 31 May 1852); although he was unsuccessful in obtaining commissions outside Preston, his entries for the competitions for the Peel monument at Bolton and the Wellington monument at Leeds were highly commended. His model for a colossal statue of Sir Richard Arkwright was destroyed for lack of funds for its execution. Some of his busts are now in the Harris Art Gallery, Preston. His architectural sculpture includes the large royal coat of arms originally above the gateway to Fulwood Barracks (c.1848; now preserved nearby) and stonework for the Literary and Philosophical Institute in Preston (1846). His church monuments in Lancashire include those to Richard Gell, at Walton-le-Dale (1841); Thomas Fitzherbert Brockholes – with an elaborate coat of arms – at Poulton-le-Fylde (1858); Jeremiah Horrocks, at Much Hoole (1859); and Catherine E.M. Bassnet Williamson, at Clifton (1864). It possible that some of the later works are by his son Thomas (d. 1868) who trained at the Royal Academy Schools. In 1845 Duckett designed figurative sculpture for an elaborate hearse, costing nearly £300, for Mr Billington of the Bull Hotel in Preston. He showed his work at the ‘Exhibitions of Works of Art in Painting, Sculpture and Architectural Design’ held in the Gallery of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge at Avenham, Preston in the 1850s; in 1854 he exhibited a plaster Peasant Girl and a marble Cupid Bound copied from a terracotta relief by John Gibson; he was Vice-President of the Institution, 1863–65 and 1873–75. His marble Nymph disturbed at her Bath (c.1866) is at Towneley Hall Art Gallery, Burnley. Duckett and his wife are buried in the cemetery in New Hall Lane beneath an unusual tombstone, bearing a head on each elevation.

Bibliography: Art Journal, 1878, pp. 169, 207; D.A. Cross, Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria, Liverpool, 2017, pp. xi, 63, 107–08, 169; C. Hartwell and N. Pevsner, Lancashire: North (The Buildings of England), New Haven and London, 2009, pp. 237, 240, 410, 468, 505, 523, 707; K. Johnson, Preston through Time, Stroud, 2011, p. 76; Mapping Sculpture; Preston Chronicle: (i) 6 September 1845; (ii) 22 November 1845; (iii) 15 April 1854; (iv) 9 January 1858; (v) 11 June 1859; (vi) 21 January 1860; (vii) 12 March 1862; (viii) 19 March 1864; (ix) 1 April 1865; (x) 19 March 1870; (xi) 16 February 1878; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009, pp. 378–79; A. Taylor (ed. J. Martin), The Websters of Kendal. A Northwestern Dynasty, Kendal, 2004, pp. 51–52, 60.

David A. Cross, 2017