Designer, modeller, metalworker and entrepreneur. Born in Rugby, he studied at the Birmingham Municipal School of Art (1890–93), where one of his tutors was Benjamin Creswick; at the National Art Training School, South Kensington; and in France, Belgium and Germany. In 1898, he either set up, or was instrumental in setting up, the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts, a commercial enterprise employing skilled artists and craftsmen working in metal, wood, stone, plaster, stained glass, etc. Phillip Medhurst, Gilbert’s biographer, has described his role in the Guild as obtaining commissions and presenting patrons with ideas which would then be executed by the firm’s specialist practitioners. In 1904, Louis Weingartner (d. 1934) joined the Guild as chief modeller. In 1918, Gilbert left the Guild to join H.H. Martyn and Co Ltd and when Weingartner subsequently left the two continued to collaborate (although Weingartner seems not to have joined Martyn’s). After Weingartner’s retirement in 1930, Gilbert’s son, Donald (1900–1961), a fine art sculptor educated at the RA, collaborated on many works with his father. The highpoint of Gilbert’s commissions with Weingartner and the Bromsgrove Guild was the ornamental metalwork for Aston Webb’s gates to Buckingham Palace (1905–08) and for the adjacent gates and screens erected as part of the Queen Victoria Memorial; for their work here the Guild was appointed ‘Metal Workers to His Majesty King Edward VII’. Following the end of the First World War, Gilbert, Weingartner and Martyn’s executed a number of war memorials, including those at Eccleston Park, St Helen’s, Merseyside (1921–22); Burnley, Lancashire (1926); Crewe (1922–24); Troon, Strathclyde (1924); Morley, West Yorkshire (1927); and Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire (1931). Their most important collaboration, however, is probably, the sculpture for the principal reredos of the Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool (1919–24). Gilbert and his family’s residence in Hanbury, Worcestershire, during these years, explains the presence of the plaster models for the ‘Nativity’ and ‘Resurrection’ panels from the reredos in Hanbury Church. Gilbert’s collaborations with his son and Martyn’s include decorative sculpture for Derry & Toms (1929–33) and Barkers (1936–39; 1955–58) department stores, Kensington High Street; the carved doors for the (former) Cornhill Insurance Offices, 32 Cornhill, City of London (1935); and, in the Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street, London, the bronze doors to the Grand Temple (1927–33) and the war memorial shrine (1939). Gilbert retired from Martyn’s in 1940, dying in 1946 in Littlehampton, West Sussex.
Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 229, 232–33, 233–35; D.A. Cross, Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria, Liverpool, 2017, pp. 41–43; F. Lloyd et al, Public Sculpture of Outer South and West London, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 151–52; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Edinburgh (2 vols), Liverpool, 2018, vol. 2, pp. 381–84; Mapping Sculpture: Bromsgrove Guild, Walter Gilbert, H.H. Martyn & Co, Louis Weingartner; P. Medhurst (comp.), Walter Gilbert. Romance in Metalwork (Internet Archive), CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, annotated edn., 2012; E. Morris and E. Roberts, Public Sculpture of Cheshire and Merseyside (excluding Liverpool), Liverpool, 2012, pp. 51, 95–96, 183–84; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Birmingham (ed. J. Beach), Liverpool, 1998, pp. 156-57; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 87–88, 277, 281; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 133–34.
Terry Cavanagh February 2023