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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

James Arthur Woodford (1893–1976)

Sculptor born in Nottingham, the son of a lace-maker. His attendance at Nottingham School of Art was interrupted by active service during the First World War with the 11th Sherwood Foresters, 1915–18; following demobilisation he returned to Nottingham, completing his course in 1920. With financial assistance from an ex-serviceman’s grant, he entered the Royal College of Art in September 1920 and in 1922 was awarded the Prix de Rome in Sculpture, which funded three years’ study at the British School at Rome. He was a regular contributor to the annual Royal Academy exhibitions, 1926–70, exhibiting a wide range of works, including figure groups, portraits, wood carvings, statuettes, and models and studies for commissions, as well as a number of paintings and drawings. He was a member of the Art Workers’ Guild from 1927 to 1946 (apart from a four-year gap between his resignation in 1932 and his rejoining in 1936). He was elected an Associate member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1935 and a Fellow in 1938, and served on the Society’s council, 1940, 1944–46 and 1948–49. In 1937 he was elected an Associate Royal Academician, in 1945 a full RA (Diploma work, The Musician), and in 1968 a Senior RA. According to his obituary in The Times, the commission which attracted ‘international recognition of his outstanding talent as an heraldic sculptor’ was his set of ten plaster Queen’s Beasts, which were sited outside Westminster Abbey in 1953, either side of the entrance to be used by the royal procession during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; and it was for this commission that he was appointed an OBE. In 1956, Sir Henry Ross commissioned a set of the Queen’s Beasts in Portland stone; these are now located at Kew Gardens, outside the Palm House (see, e.g., Lion of England). Woodford’s other commissions include bronze doors for Minoprio & Spencely’s 1930–32 extension to the Liverpool Royal School for the Blind, bronze doors and stone pylon figures for Grey Wornum’s RIBA headquarters building, Portland Place, London (1932–34), and bronze doors and flag-post bases for James & Pierce’s Norwich City Hall (1936–38). His also are the Robin Hood Memorial, Nottingham (1951–52); a royal coat of arms and two large allegoriesAgriculture and Sea and Fisheries – for C.E. Mee’s extension to the Ministry of Agriculture building, 3 Whitehall Place, London (1951–52); the British Medical Association War Memorial, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London (1951–54); large Portland stone panels of the Four Elements – Fire, Earth, Air and Water – for Terence Heysham’s Lloyds building, Lime Street, City of London (1954–57; building demolished and panels reinstalled at street level on the same site, as part of the ‘Scalpel’ building development, 2018); and the Memorial to Henry Blogg, GC, BEM, East Cliff, Cromer, Norfolk (1962).

Bibliography: D. Buckman, Artists in Britain since 1945 (2 vols: A–L, M–Z), Bristol, 2006; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 90, 471–72; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Liverpool, Liverpool, 1997, pp. 21–22; R. Cocke, Public Sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk, Liverpool, 2013, pp. xi, xiv, xix, 21–22, 24, 25–26, 61, 87; F. Lloyd et al, Public Sculpture of Outer South and West London, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 10-11, 161–62, 251–52; Mapping Sculpture; Royal Academy of Arts: ‘James Woodford RA (1893–1976)’; J. Seddon et al, Public Sculpture of Sussex, Liverpool, 2014, pp. ix, 14–15; The Times: (i) 1 June 1953, p. 6 [‘Honours List Recognition of Coronation Work’], (ii) 13 November 1976, p. 14 [obit.]; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 224–25; Who Was Who, 2007.

Terry Cavanagh, June 2024