Sculptor and designer born in London. He began his art studies in the 1950s, firstly at the Southern College of Art, Portsmouth, and subsequently the Royal College of Art, where he won the Abbey Award, a fourth-year scholarship which enabled him to complete his studies at the British School at Rome. Following his return from Italy, he was taken on as design consultant in the LCC architects department, creating sculptural finishes for the many new developments then under construction across London. In the early 1960s he established his own company, the William Mitchell Design Consultants Group, to produce sculptures in wood, marble, brick, glass-reinforced-plastic and concrete. Many of his sculptures have been grade II listed by Historic England; examples include Corn King and Spring Queen sculptures, 1964, former Cement & Concrete Association building, Wexham, Buckinghamshire (listed 1998); three totem sculptures, 1966, Allerton Building, University of Salford (listed 2012); a mural, 1966, on the former Three Tuns pub, Coventry (listed 2009); and Story of Wool, 1968, a mural over the porch of the International Wool Secretariat building, Ben Rhydding, Ilkley, Yorkshire (listed 2015). Mitchell also executed architectural sculpture, 1967, for the Roman Catholic Cathedral, Liverpool, and a Stations of the Cross, 1973, for Clifton Cathedral, Bristol. For many years, he was artistic design adviser to Mohammed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods, 1985–2010. Following the death in a car crash in 1997 of Fayed’s son, Emad (‘Dodi’), and Diana, Princess of Wales, Fayed commissioned Mitchell to create a sculpture, Innocent Victims, alluding to his unfounded belief that the British royal family had ordered the couple’s murder. Erected between the escalators in Harrods’ Egyptian Room (for which Mitchell had also provided all the ornamentation), it was removed following the takeover by Qatari Holdings in 2018.
Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 475–76; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Liverpool, Liverpool, 1997, pp. 79, 80; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, pp. 403–04; F. Lloyd et al, Public Sculpture of Outer South and West London, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 6, 16–17, 25–26; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Birmingham (ed. J. Beach), Liverpool, 1998, pp. 17, 73; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 126–27, 161; J. Seddon et al, Public Sculpture of Sussex, Liverpool, 2014, pp. 80, 179–80; D. White and E. Norman, Public Sculpture of Sheffield and South Yorkshire, Liverpool, 2015, pp. 109–10; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 159–60, 182–83, 415–16; relevant Historic England list entries.
Terry Cavanagh November 2022
William Mitchell holding the Precast Award for 2014, which had just been presented to him by the Concrete Society (photo: Elaine Toogood)