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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

John Wesley Seale (1825–1885)

Architectural sculptor born in Bradford, Wiltshire, the son of John Seale, a mason and builder, and father of Gilbert Seale (1862–1933), his successor as head of the family business, which was established in Lambeth, south London, at some date during the 1850s. J.W. Seale’s earliest known work was for the architects J. Young & Sons, carving the capitals and other decorative details on the Wellington Williams warehouse, 12 Little Britain, City of London (1858–59). Also in the City, the firm executed the decorative carving on Fred Jameson’s Registered Land Company offices, Cannon Street (1866); and both the external and internal sculpture on Horace Jones’s Old Library at the Guildhall: figures of British queens (Elizabeth I, Anne and Victoria) in niches on the Basinghall Street frontage and heads of great men in the arts and sciences in the spandrels of the arches in the main reading room (c.1873). Beyond the City, the firm carried out several contracts for the architects Newman & Billing: a carved pulpit for St George’s Church, Wrotham, Kent (1862); carved heads for the spandrels over the first-floor windows of Keats’ House, St Thomas Street, Southwark (1863); another pulpit – including medallions of Christ and the Evangelists – for Christ Church, Deptford (1864; lost); and all the carving in St James’s Church, Kidbrooke, south-east London (1868). The firm also built and executed all the carving on Robert Keirle’s Maharajah Fountain, Hyde Park (1867; demolished 1964) and carved relief medallions of the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Descent of the Holy Ghost for the font in J.J. Belcher’s Catholic Apostolic Church (now Greek Orthodox Cathedral), Camberwell, south-east London (1877). J.W. Seale’s younger brother, George Whitfield Seale, was also a sculptor and, although based nearby, in Brixton, ran his own independent business.

Bibliography: The Builder: (i) 25 January 1862, p. 60 (with engr. of pulpit at Wrotham, Kent); (ii) 30 July 1864, p. 564 (with engr. of pulpit at Christ Church, Deptford); (iii) 21 November 1868, p. 860 (with engr. of a carved capital in St James’s Church, Kidbrooke); (iv) 21 July 1877, p. 739; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 487–88; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, pp. xiii, 197; Illustrated London News, 7 March 1868, p. 233 (with engr. of the Maharajah Fountain); Mapping Sculpture; S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, London 1: The City of London (Buildings of England), London, (1997), 1999, pp. 305, 442, 535; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 188–89.

Terry Cavanagh December 2023