Ecclesiastical and architectural sculptor born at Hartington, Derbyshire. In c.1856 his talent for sculpture was brought to the attention of the local landowner and MP, Alexander Beresford Hope, who paid for the young man to study in London, under J.R. Clayton, and in Paris, at Charles Gleyre’s atelier. Redfern exhibited regularly at the RA from 1859 onwards, mostly religious subjects with some portrait busts. His work for George Gilbert Scott, includes 60 figures for the west front of Salisbury Cathedral (1866–70); eight figures of the Virtues in gilded cast copper and four Lions in gilded bronze on the Albert Memorial (completed by 1872), the Apostles and Evangelists for the Octagon at Ely Cathedral (1868–76); the Evangelists plus SS Peter and Paul for the south porch of Gloucester Cathedral, plus figure groups for the reredos and figures for the sedilia (c.1870–75); and a Christ in Majesty for the chapter house at Westminster Abbey. Redfern also worked for Bodley and Garner, for example, executing figure carving for Holy Angels, Hoar Cross, Staffordshire (c.1873–76). Despite his steady employment by leading architects of the day and the considerable output of his studio, Redfern died in penury. Scott, one of his main employers, wrote: ‘I had thought him a successful man, but it turns out now that his spirits were broken by pecuniary distress, and that he had fallen into the hands of cruel usurers, who made his life a torment to him, and this so undermined his health that he fell a victim to some, otherwise slight, attack of indisposition.’
Sources: Hardy, E., ‘Redfern, James Frank (bap. 1837, d. 1876)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; Mapping Sculpture; Scott, G.G., Personal and Professional Recollections, London, 1879. p. 307; plus, relevant editions of Pevsner’s ‘Buildings of England’.
Terry Cavanagh November 2022