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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Frank Tory, Frank Tory & Sons (per. c.1881–1950s)

In its day, the most successful firm of architectural sculptors and stonemasons in Sheffield, established by Frank Tory and carried on by his twin sons, Alfred Herbert Tory and William Frank Tory. The majority of their commissions were for buildings within Sheffield; the most notable outside the city were carved angels and a reredos for St Ignatius, Preston (1886) and general architectural carving for Leeds Civic Hall (1933) and Chesterfield Town Hall (1938). All commissions detailed below are in Sheffield.

Frank Tory (c.1848–1938) was born in Little Easton, Essex, but grew up in Sevenoaks, Kent, where his father worked as a gamekeeper, probably on the Knole estate. After school in Sevenoaks, he relocated to London, where he took an apprenticeship with the Lambeth-based architectural sculptor, John Wesley Seale, and in the evenings trained at the South London Technical Art School, twice gaining a National Silver Medal for modelling from the antique. By 1880 he was working for the architectural sculptors, McCulloch of Kennington Road, and it was they, Sylvia Dunkley has suggested (see Mapping Sculpture below), who sent him to Sheffield as head of a team to work on M.E. Hadfield & Son’s new Corn Exchange (completed 1881; demolished 1964). Hadfield & Son were sufficiently impressed with Tory’s work that they asked him to stay on in Sheffield and set up on his own. Tory’s work for Hadfield & Son includes Parade Chambers (1883–85), the offices of a firm of stationers, whose decorative relief carving centres on the garland-encircled heads of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer and the printer William Caxton, and Cairns Chambers (1896), the offices of a firm of solicitors, whose exterior decoration includes a stone figure, in a niche above the main entrance, of Hugh McCalmont Cairns, 1st Earl Cairns (1891–1895), a lawyer who twice held the post of Lord High Chancellor. And when M.E. Hadfield died in 1885, it was to Tory that his son, Charles Hadfield, entrusted the carving of the wall monument he had designed for his father for the Roman Catholic Church of St Marie (Cathedral Church since 1980). Tory’s work for other architects includes, for E.M. Gibbs & T.J. Flockton, an alabaster and marble reredos, plus all the corbels and capitals, for their Church of St John the Evangelist (1888); for H.W. Lockwood, a series of sandstone relief panels representing scenes from Genesis for his YMCA building (Carmel House; 1889–92); and for J.D. Sedding, the carving of the altar and the elaborate framework for his painted reredos (1886–92) in St Matthew’s Church.

Tory had married Harriott Kerry in 1872, the couple going on to have three daughters and three sons. The first two boys, Alfred Herbert and William Frank, were identical twins, born in 1881, while the last, George, was born in 1885. With all three boys entering the family business (although George was to die in 1904), Frank Tory renamed the firm Frank Tory & Sons.

Alfred Herbert Tory (1881–1971) and William Frank Tory (also known as Frank Junior) (1881–c.1968) both sat the examination for a free scholarship to the Sheffield School of Art, with Alfred topping the list of successful candidates. They attended the school in the evenings, 1895–1903, while serving their apprenticeships with their father, and in 1903 Alfred won a bronze medal in the National Competition for modelling a figure from the antique. One of the earliest of Tory & Sons commissions in which the brothers took the lead was for C. and C.M. Hadfield’s new presbytery (1903–04) for the Church of St Marie; here, Alfred carved a stone statue of the Virgin in a niche over the entrance and William, four small portrait heads over the ground-floor bay window, comprising three church dignitaries, plus the lead architect, Charles Hadfield. In c.1908, the architect E.M. Gibbs awarded the firm the commission for a series of 10 reliefs depicting metalworkers on the faience-covered façade of his White Building; the brothers, who each produced five reliefs, took the unusual step of signing each in monogram. Shortly afterwards, Gibbs commissioned from the firm a series of carved portrait heads to sit above the arcading of his octagonal library (‘The Rotunda’) in the University of Sheffield’s Firth Court (opened 1909); as with the carved heads on the presbytery, these too included a portrait of the building’s architect. To William is due the carving of the alabaster and marble wall monument to the composer Sir William Sterndale Bennett for the Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul (1920). The 1930s saw two significant commissions from the Sheffield City Architect, W.G. Davies: in 1934, for the Central Library and Graves Gallery, a relief representing Knowledge, plus medallions representing the various branches of knowledge, and in 1937, for the City Museum and Mappin Art Gallery (Weston Park Museum since 2006), stone friezes representing The Shrine of Knowledge (above the main entrance) and Sheffield Trades (on the eastern façade). One of the firm’s last pieces (carved by Alfred) is the Hanging Rood for St Matthew’s Church, Sheffield, begun in 1939 and installed and dedicated following the end of the Second World War in 1946.

Bibliography: Mapping Sculpture: (i) Frank Tory, (ii) Alfred Herbert Tory; D. White and E. Norman, Public Sculpture of Sheffield and South Yorkshire, Liverpool, 2015, pp. v, xiv, xix, 93, 110, 111, 117, 122–23, 140–41, 147, 148–49, 150–51, 155–56, 175–76, 179, 182, 210, 234–35, 300–01.

Terry Cavanagh, May 2024