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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

John Thomas (1813–1862)

Born at Chalford, Gloucs., he was apprenticed to a local stonemason, and then moved to Birmingham to work with his brother, who was practising as an architect there. In Birmingham his talent was spotted by the architect Charles Barry, who employed him to execute ornamental sculpture on Birmingham Grammar School. Thomas was thus launched on his career as the most prolific and successful architectural sculptor of the high Victorian period. His output included all the figures of British kings and queens on the new Houses of Parliament, executed during the 1840s, much statuary for the railway stations at Euston and Paddington, the two colossal lions at the entrance to the Britannia Bridge, Menai Straits (1848), and sculpture on the Free Trade Hall, Manchester (1853–56). Thomas also produced many imaginary and ideal works, shown at the Royal Academy between 1842 and 1861. His commemorative monuments include a statue of Queen Victoria, erected at Maidstone as part of the Randall Fountain in 1862, Thomas Attwood (1859) and Joseph Sturge (1862) in Birmingham, and Sir Hugh Myddelton for Islington Green, London (1862). Thomas was an architect as well as a sculptor. His buildings range in style from the neo-Jacobean of Somerleyton Hall and village, built for Sir Morton Peto (1844–57) to the purer Italianate of the Water Garden at the head of the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens. His work was appreciated by Prince Albert, who employed him both at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

Bibliography (updated 2023): T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. xv, xvi, 350, 358, 386–88, 393; R. Cocke, Public Sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk, Liverpool, 2013, pp. 229–30; R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660–1851, London, 1968; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Edinburgh (2 vols), Liverpool, 2018, vol. 2, pp. 474–75; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Glasgow, Liverpool, 2002, pp. 177–78, 273–74, 302–03; D. Merritt and F. Greenacre, with K. Eustace, Public Sculpture of Bristol, Liverpool, 2011, pp. xxxv, 16–18, 29–30, 106–07, 193–95; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Birmingham (ed. J. Beach), Liverpool, 1998, pp. 70, 72–73; B. Read, Victorian Sculpture, New Haven and London, 1982; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, p. 303; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, p. 173; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 108–10.

Philip Ward-Jackson 2003

Thomas, John

John Thomas, unsigned engraving from the Illustrated London News, 30 August 1862, p. 11 (photo: public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)