Skip to main content

Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Edward Pearce (c.1635–1695)

He was the son of Edward Pearce the Elder, a history and landscape painter and designer of ornament, who was a member of the Painter-Stainers’ Company. The younger Pearce was admitted to the freedom of the Company by patrimony in 1656. He was to be Master of the Company in 1693–94. Nothing is known of his training. Pearce is remarkable for the diversity of his skills – as sculptor, carver, mason-contractor and designer. Most of these were put to good use by Sir Christopher Wren in the building of the City after the Great Fire. He was one of the mason-contractors in the work on St Paul’s. He contributed fittings to at least four City churches. In 1680 he carved the wooden model for the dragon weathervane for St Mary-le-Bow, which is still on the tower, whilst the pulpit for St Andrew Holborn, and vestry wainscot for St Lawrence Jewry have entirely gone. Pearce carved the City Dragons on The Monument, and probably also the festoons at the foot of the column. Pearce’s other undertakings in the City included £662 worth of work on Guildhall (1671–73) and a doorway for Fishmongers’ Hall, the armorial panel from which is preserved at the back of the present building. Other architects with whom Pearce worked were Roger Pratt, William Winde, and William Talman. A fine extant example of his distinctive wood-carving style is the great staircase at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (1676). An idiosyncratic example of Pearce’s design work is the pillar for Seven Dials, in London (1694), which was removed in 1773, and now stands in Weybridge, Surrey. The original drawing for this is in the Prints and Drawings Department of the British Museum. Pearce excelled as a portrait sculptor. He carved the animated wooden figure of the medieval Lord Mayor, Sir William Walworth, clutching his dagger, in Fishmongers’ Hall, London (1684) and statues of three monarchs for the Royal Exchange. Some of his surviving busts, in particular that of Sir Christopher Wren (marble, 1673, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), show him entirely conversant with continental baroque idiom. Four church monuments are known to be by Pearce, and it is probable that he was responsible for many more.

Bibliography (updated 2024): G. Beard and C.A. Knott, ‘Edward Pearce’ s Work at Sudbury’, Apollo, April 2000, pp. 43–48; H. Colvin, The Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600–1840, London, 1995; K. Eustace, ‘Pearce, Edward’, ODNB, (2004), 2011; E. Morris and E. Roberts, Public Sculpture of Cheshire and Merseyside, Liverpool, 2012, pp. xiv, 69–70; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Warwickshire, Coventry & Solihull, Liverpool, 2003, p. 229; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009, pp. 961–65; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. xix, 260–69, 326, 355 M. Whinney, Sculpture in Britain 1530–1830, rev. J. Physick, London, 1988, pp. 102–09.

Philip Ward-Jackson, 2003

Pearce, Edward

Isaac Fuller, Edward Pearce, oil on canvas, c.1670,
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund, B1988.23 (photo: CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)