One of the leading art bronze foundries in Britain throughout its sixty-five-year history. It was established in 1874 as Cox & Sons; in 1880 it became Drew & Company, and in 1882, when the former foundry manager, James John Moore (c.1826–1905), took over, Moore & Company; from 1897 until 1902 it was Hollinshead and Burton and finally, following the death of the former and until the foundry’s closure in 1939, it operated as A.B. Burton.
When Cox & Sons engaged the architect S.J. Nicholl to build a foundry and chasing shops at Summer Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey, it was with the intention of adding the production of statues to their already flourishing business as suppliers of ecclesiastical memorials, plaques, brass lecterns, etc. However, with the growing demand for public statuary, the casting of bronze statues quickly became the company’s principal business. Its new, custom-built premises were designed to facilitate sand-casting – necessary for larger statuary – on an industrial scale. Not until about 1890, did the foundry begin also using the recently reintroduced lost-wax process.
Cox & Sons’ engagement of James Moore, previously foreman for Elkington & Co and before that, a foundry assistant to the sculptor Thomas Thornycroft, was particularly shrewd, for it was undoubtedly his presence that gave Thornycroft the confidence to entrust to the foundry, within a year of its opening, his commission for a major equestrian statue, that of Lord Mayo, for Calcutta (Kolkata). That Thornycroft’s confidence was not misplaced is attested by the report of the unveiling in the Graphic (4 September 1875, p. 219) in which it was claimed that ‘the horse was cast at one jet, and so perfectly that most of the details are seen precisely as they left the mould’.
Throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth century, under Moore’s foremanship and eventual ownership, the foundry at Thames Ditton continued to produce high quality castings for many of the country’s leading sculptors. Cox & Sons also cast, inter alia, Matthew Noble’s Oliver Cromwell, Manchester (1875) and Thomas Woolner’s Captain Cook, Sydney, Australia (1878); Drew & Company, Thomas Brock’s Robert Raikes, Victoria Embankment Gardens, London (1880) and the same sculptor’s completion of J.H. Foley’s Monument to Daniel O’Connell, Dublin (1881); and Moore & Company, not only two castings for Woolner – Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore (1887) and James Fraser, Manchester (1888) – but multiple for his hated rival, J.E. Boehm – including Sir Francis Drake, Tavistock, Devon (1883; replica, Plymouth, 1884), William Tyndale, Victoria Embankment Gardens (1884), Queen Victoria, Windsor (1887) and the Duke of Wellington, Hyde Park Corner (1888).
Despite the loss of Moore following his retirement in 1897, it is arguable that the foundry’s greatest successes were yet to come. Arthur John Hollinshead (1860–1902) and Arthur Bryan Burton (1860–1933) had both worked for Cox & Sons and, in 1887, Burton had married Moore’s daughter, Florence. In the short five-year-period before Hollinshead’s death at 41, principal castings include Herbert Hampton’s Baron Aberdare, Cardiff (1899), Edward Onslow Ford’s Queen Victoria, Manchester (1901), Goscombe John’s Prince Christian Victor, Windsor (1903) and F.W. Pomeroy’s Queen Victoria, Chester (1903). Among the hundreds of castings carried out at Thames Ditton under A.B. Burton for destinations across the world, space permits the mention of only a handful of the more significant: G.F. Watts’s Physical Energy, Kensington Gardens, London (1904); Goscombe John’s King’s Liverpool Regiment Memorial, St John’s Gardens, Liverpool (1905), Viscount Wolseley, Horse Guards Parade, London (1917), and The Response, 1914, Newcastle upon Tyne (1923); Adrian Jones’s Duke of Cambridge, Whitehall (1906), Peace Quadriga, Constitution Arch, Hyde Park Corner (1912), and Cavalry of the Empire Memorial, Hyde Park (1924); George Frampton’s Peter Pan, Kensington Gardens (1912), and Sir Alfred Jones, Pier Head, Liverpool (1913); and Alfred Gilbert’s Memorial to Queen Alexandra, Marlborough Gate, London (1932). Following Burton’s death in 1933, the foundry was continued (without name change) by his son-in-law, Louis Tricker, until its closure in 1939. The foundry building was demolished in 1976, although the foundry’s gantry crane was removed for preservation by the Surrey Archaeological Society.
Sources: Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 8 July 1892, p. 4; Belfast News-letter, 17 May 1875, p. ; Building News, 21 August 1874, p. 224 (plus engr. of S.J. Nicholl’s new building for Cox & Sons); The Elmbridge Hundred – Arthur Bryan Burton; Elmbridge Museum – Thames Ditton Bronze Foundry; James, D., ‘The Statue Foundry at Thames Ditton’, Foundry Trade Journal, 7 September 1972, p. 280; NPG British Bronze Sculpture Founders: Thames Ditton Foundry (1874–1902), A.B. Burton (1902–1939); Pall Mall Gazette, 14 May 1891, p. 3 (‘An Interview with Mr. Moore’).
Terry Cavanagh July 2023