Skip to main content

Public Statues and Sculpture Association

James Forsyth (1827–1910)

Architectural and ecclesiastical sculptor, born in Kelso, Scotland. He was a son of Adam Forsyth, a mason, and the elder brother of William Forsyth, also a sculptor. At 13, Forsyth was an apprentice carver and gilder in Kelso, but by 1851 was in Wells, Somerset, working for the architect Anthony Salvin, shortly afterwards moving to London. Forsyth’s first major commission was the execution of two great fountains to the designs of W.A. Nesfield at the 1st Earl of Dudley’s Witley Court, Worcestershire: Flora, 1859, and Perseus and Andromeda, 1860. Forsyth’s most extensive ecclesiastical commission followed in the mid-1860s at St John’s Church, Frome, for which he carved: along the approach to the north porch, a Via Crucis (‘perhaps unique among English churches’, Foyle and Pevsner); flanking the west porch, figures of the Evangelists on the exterior and four saints inside; the high altar reredos; a Madonna and Child and a Pietà for the Lady Chapel; and a series of 18 medallions in the nave arcade spandrels (miracles on the north wall, parables on the south). Forsyth also executed a number of tomb monuments, including Lord Lyttelton, 1878, and 1st Earl of Dudley, 1888 (both designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, both Worcester Cathedral); Bishop Parry, 1881, and Hon. James Beaney, 1893 (both Canterbury Cathedral); Bishop Fraser, 1887 (Manchester Cathedral); George Godwin (d. 1888), Brompton Cemetery; Bishop T. Legh Claughton, 1895 (designed by James Oldrid Scott, St Alban’s Cathedral); and Bishop Pelham, 1896 (Norwich Cathedral). Forsyth exhibited at the Royal Academy (21 items, 1864–89) and at the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts. His son, James Nesfield Forsyth, was also a sculptor.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 111–12; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Leicestershire and Rutland, Liverpool, 2000, pp. 216–17; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Liverpool, Liverpool, 1997, pp. 2–3; A. Foyle and N. Pevsner, Somerset: North and Bristol, 2011, p. 508; ‘The life and works of James and William Forsyth’, theforsythbrothersILN: (i) 6 April 1867, pp. 345, 346; (ii) 26 October 1878, p. 384; (iii) 4 June 1887, pp. 632, 634; (iv) 16 June 1888, pp. 650, 652; (v) 4 March 1893, p. 279; Mapping Sculpture; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire, Liverpool, 2010, pp. 198, 216–17, 255–57, 267–68; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country, Liverpool, 2005, pp. 55–56.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022