Skip to main content

Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Robinson & Cottam (active 1852–1865)

Art bronze foundry whose origins date to 1837 when Charles Robinson became a partner in the engineering and founding firm, Bramah & Co of Eaton Lane, Pimlico, which thereafter operated as Bramah and Robinson. By 1841, the firm was listed as Charles Robinson (late Bramah and Robinson), Pimlico Road; by 1843, Robinson & Son, and subsequently Robinson & Co. Such was the firm’s domination of the bronze casting market by the early 1850s that they could advertise simply as The Statue Foundry and Bronze Works, Lower Belgrave Place, Pimlico (see, e.g., The Athenaeum, 25 March 1854, p. 358). Although the firm had begun submitting tenders to cast art bronzes by the late 1840s, it was only in 1852, following Charles Robinson’s retirement and the establishment of his son, Frederic’s, partnership with Edward Cottam, that the firm entered art bronze casting in a major way. The breakthrough for the foundry was the development of a process for casting figures in one piece, only the head sometimes being cast separately. Following Robinson & Cottam’s first success with this method – William Behnes’s Sir Robert Peel for Leeds – the Times (11 May 1852) declared that ‘Mr. F. Robinson, of Pimlico … by this work, has introduced a new era into a department of art’. Robinson & Cottam’s successful introduction of the more predictable and less hazardous sand-casting process for large bronze statues made them the leading art bronze foundry in 1850s Britain; their clients included many of the most successful sculptors of the day, in addition to Behnes, Edward Hodges Baily, William Calder Marshall, George Gammon Adams, John Evan Thomas, William Theed II, Matthew Noble, Patrick MacDowell and John Graham Lough. Robinson & Cottam’s statue casting operations came to an abrupt halt in the mid-1860s, following the termination of their lease at Lower Belgrave Place during the Marquis of Westminster’s transformation of that particular portion of Pimlico into, as the Times, 24 August 1865, described it, ‘an aristocratic colony’. The firm relocated to Battersea in 1865 and although at least one of its final castings from that date bears the Battersea address – Matthew Noble’s Sir James McGrigor for the Royal Hospital, Chelsea (now Royal Military College, Sandhurst) – it is more probable that it was cast on the Pimlico site.

Bibliography: Art Journal: (i) 1 January 1852, p. 21, (ii) 1 March 1852, pp. 98–99, (iii) 1 September 1852, p. 291; Athenaeum, 3 July 1852, p. 729; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. xxxi, xxxii–xxxiii, 388, 391, 426, 474; Illustrated London News, 6 March 1852, p. 189; Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper, 1 February 1852, p. 9; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Glasgow, Liverpool, 2002, p. 132; NPG British Bronze Sculpture FoundersThe Observer, 13 February 1869, p. 1; The Times: (i) 11 May 1852, p. 8, (ii) 24 August 1865, p. 8; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 6, 282, 283–84, 287, 297, 390.

Terry Cavanagh August 2023