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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

J. Whitehead & Sons

According to its advertisements in the early 1920s, the London-based firm had been founded in 1821. It is not until the second half of the nineteenth century, however, that examples of its sculptural output can be securely identified. The firm was by this period under the directorship of John Whitehead I (c.1845–1904), who gave his occupation as an undertaker, but who was also a stone and marble merchant and manager of a monumental sculpture business. A marble statue commissioned from the firm and unveiled in 1883 representing Alexander MacDonald – the first of a series of four miners’ leaders for niches on the Miners’ Hall, Durham – is signed ‘J. Whitehead. Westminster. London’. (This and the three succeeding statues have since been relocated to pedestals outside the Durham Miners’ Association Offices at Redhills Lane, Durham.) By the end of the century and with the growth to maturity of John’s two sons, Joseph James Whitehead (1868–1951) and John Walter Whitehead II (1876–?), the firm had become J. Whitehead & Sons Ltd. Joseph became director either in 1902 or, following his father’s death, in 1904. Their initials being the same, there seems to have been no need to change the company name (as is evidenced by the Architectural Review, January 1925, p. lviii, which, in listing the contractors for the Star and Garter Home, Richmond, states that Mr Joseph Whitehead of J. Whitehead & Sons, London, was responsible for the stone carvings). Erroneous references in recent literature to ‘Joseph Whitehead & Sons’ seem to have arisen from a confusion between contracted work undertaken by the firm and those commissions carried out by Joseph independently in his capacity as a portrait and figure sculptor. In 1904, J. Whitehead & Sons moved from their Westminster Address (Vincent Square) into the Imperial Works, Harleyford Road, Kennington Oval. By 1909, the firm was the official contractor for the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association. In the early 1930s Joseph Whitehead retired, to be succeeded by his son, Cecil John Whitehead (1902–1983). Whitehead’s were in business until at least 1985 when they executed the pedestals for Ian Walters’ Memorial to the International Brigade, Jubilee Gardens, and the colossal bust of Nelson Mandela, 1985, outside the Royal Festival Hall, both London. Their numerous public commissions include the Surf Boat Memorial, 1900, Margate Cemetery, Kent; Chelsea Pensioners War Memorial, 1901, Brompton Cemetery, Kensington; Beauchamp Lifeboat Memorial, 1903, Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk; Ada Lewis Memorial Fountain, 1908, Maidenhead Riverside, Berks; Titanic Engineers’ Memorial, 1914, Southampton (for which F.V. Blundstone provided the bronze sculptures); and the Hyde War Memorial, 1921, Werneth Low, Greater Manchester.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 49–50, 115–16; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, pp. xii, 74, 77, 82, 84; A. Lamb, ‘John Rae’s Sculptor – Some Notes on Joseph Whitehead’, Aglooka Advisor (The John Rae Society), No. 11 (Winter 2020), pp. 12–14; F. Lloyd et al, Public Sculpture of Outer and South West London, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 265–66; Mapping Sculpture: John Whitehead Senior, Joseph James Whitehead, John Walter Whitehead Junior; D. Merritt and F. Greenacre, with K. Eustace, Public Sculpture of Bristol, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 18–19; E. Morris and E. Roberts, Public Sculpture of Cheshire and Merseyside, Liverpool, 2012, pp. 96–97, 218, 219; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Warwickshire, Coventry & Solihull, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 154–56, 174; J. Seddon et al, Public Sculpture of Sussex, Liverpool, 2014, pp. 6–7, 35–36, 69–70; P. Usherwood et al, Public Sculpture of North-East England, Liverpool, 2000, pp. 252–53; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 343, 344; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 83, 130; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 371–72.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022