This site celebrates the life and work of sculptor John
Cassidy (1860 - 1939).
This page is for news, comments from readers and other odds
and ends that don't need their own page.
Bust of Sir Charles Hallé, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.
News and comment: updated 20 June 2020
Colston in the news
Rarely has a work by Cassidy generated so much national
publicity as the Bristol state of Edward Colston in Bristol,
which was pulled down by 'Black Lives Matter' protesters in
June 2020 and pushed into the water of the nearby
dock. Cassidy himself was rarely mentioned in the
ensuing media storm, as is so often the case with public
sculptures. Colston was arguably a legitimate target,
as he was closely involved in the appalling slave trade, but
in subsequent days the danger has spread to other public
works around the UK portraying people who were judged guilty
of any form of racism, including Churchill,
Baden-Powell, and William Gladstone, as well as Cecil Rhodes
whose statue in Oxford has been a source of unrest for some
time, and even the likes of Nelson and Drake. Several
statues of Robert Peel (younger or elder?) in the Manchester
area are among the accused.
This brings into focus the question of what public statues
portraying real people are for. The usual procedure is
that someone thinks a dead person needs to be kept in the
public's mind, raises some money, usually with the
help of some others, commissions a work, and persuades a
land-owner - often a local council - to provide a
location. In Victorian days and before, the subject would be
some thought to have done 'good works' or maybe won a
battle; however in many cases the passing pedestrian
has no idea at all who the person might be or what they have
The idea fell out of favour in the twentieth century, but
recently we have seen many new works appearing, including
belated tributes to suffragists, and increasingly,
entertainers in their home towns. The problems
start when, in addition to the reason for the honour,
the other activities and opinions of the memorialised are
explored. (Was Ben Brierley a racist, for
example? Whether he was or not, his statue was
pulled down by vandals in 1980.) What about politicians who may have voted
against female suffrage? Cotton factory owners who
condoned slavery and paid their own workers a pittance?
The list goes on ... you can even choose your target from an
online list - but what is our opinion? Don't know. Maybe we
should be careful who gets a statue in the future.
'Adrift' to return
As recorded in our feature on
Cassidy's masterwork 'Adrift', the sculpture was
removed from its location in St Peters Square, Manchester
and placed in storage to make way for the building site
which is the refurbishment of the Central Library and Town
Hall Extension. Since then, plans have been developed
for the reconfiguration of the square itself to improve its
appearance and also allow for an enlargement of the
Metrolink tram station. Planning permission for these changes
has now been given, and work has begun. We are please to say
that permission was granted on condition that 'Adrift' should
be returned to the square in a position approved by the City
Art Gallery. The map extract above shows the proposed
location, which is outside the square itself, to the side of
the library among some trees.
The proposed site in March 2013 is occupied by ugly
temporary buildings related to the work on the Library.
We'll need to wait for these to be removed (sometime in
2014?) to get an idea of how the sculpture will 'work' in
the area. It has to be remembered that the work was never
intended by its artist, or James Gresham who commissioned
it, to be an outside landscape feature, but better to be
outside that not seen at all.
Cassidy in Print: Our essay about John Cassidy and
his Manchester patrons has now been published in the Bulletin of the John Rylands
University Library of Manchester, as part of a
theme issue on Manchester Architecture. The full list of
contents of the issue 'Architecture and Environment:
Manchester in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries' is:
Hebbert, Michael: Introduction
[by the guest editor]
Hodgson, John: 'Carven stone
and blazoned pane': The Design and Construction of the
John Rylands Library
Barter, Marion and Hartwell,
Clare: The Archirecture and Architects of the Lancashire
Independent College, Manchester
Connelly, Angela: 'A pool of
Bethesda': Manchester's First Wesleyan Methodist Central
Morris, David: 'Here by
experiment': Edgar Wood in Middleton (2012)
Jolley, Victoria: An
Unsuspected Skyline Rival: Lee House, Great Bridgewater
Street, Manchester (1928-31) (2012)
Cunliffe, Steve and Wyke,
Terry: Memorializing its Hero: Liberal Manchester's Statue
of Oliver Cromwell (2012)
Charles: John Cassidy, Manchester Sculptor and his
Patrons: Their Contribution to Manchester Life and
Perkins, Chris and Dodge,
Martin: Mapping the Imagined Future: The Roles of Visual
Representation in the 1945 City of Manchester Plan (2012)
Crompton, Andrew: Manchester
Black and Blue (2012)
For more about the Bulletin
see our list
Sheila Crehan of the Slane History and Archaeology
Society writes: 'Our activity for Heritage Week was a
John Cassidy walk on 23 August. People assembled at St.
Erc's cemetery carpark at 7 pm. We were supported this year
by a large group from Rathfeigh Historical Society whose
members deserve great credit as it was a very wet evening.
It rained incessantly during the walk. Shelter was taken
along the way under trees and hedges and beside large
vans and walls.
'Some walkers succeeded in reaching the gate which opens to
the laneway that leads to the dilapidated remains of
Cassidy's birthplace. The very inclement weather forced
others to return to their cars.'
'Afterwards we ended up in the local Conyngham Arms hotel
where a lively discussion on Cassidy took place and where
images of some of the sculptor's work were passed around.
Refreshments were served and despite the rain we all felt
happy with our effort.'
'Ship Canal Digger' lost to view
News from Manchester
City Galleries: 'From Monday 9 January 2012, the
Manchester Gallery will be closed while we renew the
display. It will reopen at the beginning of May with an
installation of international contemporary art inspired by
This refers to the room on the ground floor of the Mosley
Street gallery devoted to art works relating to Manchester.
This has in recent times been the only place in the Gallery
where a Cassidy work - 'The Ship Canal Digger' could be
seen, which thus joins 'Adrift' in (hopefully)
'Adrift' taken away
Above: the site of Cassidy's major work 'Adrift' in St
Peters Square, Manchester, as seen on 13 April 2011, now
amid builders' detritus connected with the 'improvements'
going on in the Town Hall and Library. 'Adrift' has been
removed and placed in safe storage as if was feared it would
be damaged. We are assured that it will be replaced when the
work is complete - maybe in 2013.
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Thanks to funding from members of the Slane Historical
Society, John Cassidy's grave in Manchester Southern
Cemetery was cleaned and 'reset' during the summer of 2010,
Cassidy's 150th birthday year. Compare this view with the
pictures from 2009 below
to see the remarkable difference. The work was done by the
skilled craftsmen of local firm James Hilton, and fine job
was done too.
The original James Hilton
was a comtemporary of Cassidy: he founded his firm in 1867,
initially in the City Centre and later, as now, opposite the
cemetery. Born in Lockwood, near Huddersfield, Yorkshire, he
came to Manchester in about 1862, marrying Ruth Edwards
(born in Denbighshire, Wales) there in 1863. The 1871 Census
shows James Hilton, Sculptor, aged 33, living with his wife
Ruth, his children Jane and Albert, and a lodger named John
Taylor, an apprentice, at 28 Francis Street,
Chorlton-on-Medlock. By 1881 the family are at 57 Molyneux
Street, C-on-M, and James, now described as a mabrle mason,
has prospered enough to employ a servant, Fanny Taylor. The
1891 census has Ruth and Jane living at 16 Clarendon Road,
C-on-M and looking after two boarders. In 1901, aged
63, he was living with only a housekeeper at 53
Molyneux Street, and describing himself as a sculptor, while
Ruth was living at 266 Stockport Road, Levenshulme with
Jane, her husband James Somerville Crawford and their
daughter Ruth. His son Albert Edward took up a different
trade, becoming a signwriter, and by 1911, living at 11
Lancaster Road, Fallowfield with wife Mary and daughter
Dorothy, he describes himself as a 'sign expert.'
James Hilton died in about 1908 but the firm he founded
continues under his name to the present day.
Slane village to have a heritage centre
From the Meath Chronicle, 1
Meath County Council was
the proud recipient of a piece of the heritage of Slane
when the Marquess Conyngham, Henry Mountcharles, gifted
the Cavan Row Cottages in the village to the council. The
official handover took place in the council chamber in the
presence of the cathaoirleach, Cllr Ann Dillon-Gallagher,
the county manager, Tom Dowling, and members of the Slane
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Lord Mountcharles said
he would like to see the cottages become a focal point of
the village. "Slane is one of the most significant 18th
century villages in the country and it needs a boost in
terms of getting a heartbeat in its centre," he said.
Meath County Council says it intends to refurbish the
cottages and develop them into a heritage and tourism
As part of Heritage Week in Ireland there was a
guided walk around the Village of Slane organised by the
to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of
John Cassidy, visiting the site of his birthplace and
the village where he grew up.
A recently-discovered work
This commemorative plaque for Martin Hawke, 1861-1928,
signed on the back 'John Cassidy RBS 1929' was recently
brought to our attention by the current owner.
The Carborundum company was formed in the USA in 1891 to
manufacture industrial abrasives. The company history
Edward Acheson (1856-1931)
born in Washington Pennsylvania, had been performing
experiments using electricity in order to create
artificial diamonds. Instead of diamonds, Acheson
discovered a new type of crystal created as a by-product
of his experiments. He quickly determined that the
crystals were able to cut not only glass, but diamonds as
well. The crystals also possessed excellent refractory
properties. Acheson decided to commercialize the new
product, adopting the name Carborundum because he
mistakenly believed that the crystals were a combination
of carbon and aluminium oxide, also known as corundum. The
crystals were later revealed to be silicon carbide, and
recognized as the world's first man-made mineral. Acheson
set up his company in 1891 and began producing grinding
wheels using the new substance.
Carborundum opened its British subsidiary in 1913, with
Martin Hawke as Managing Director, and established a factory
in the Trafford Park industrial estate in Manchester.
Martin Hawke was actually born in 1862, in Cornwall, the son
of an ore dresser in the tin mining industry. He married
Bessie Hill, from Plymouth, and the couple emigrated to the
United States in 1886 where he found a job with the
Carborundum company and rose to a managerial position,
becoming an American citizen. His sons Irving Joseph Hawke
and Clarence Ewart Hawke also worked for the company. He
returned to England to set up the Trafford Park factory, and
made his home at 'Maynwood', Leicester Road, Hale, Cheshire,
a wealthy suburb of Manchester. His name appears many times
on the passenger lists of transatlantic liners, although he
must not be confused with another Martin, later Lord, Hawke
who was a famous cricketer of the day.
After several mergers and changes of ownership, the company
changed its name in 1997 to Carbo PLC, and in 2004 the
Manchester factory was closed down, and later demolished,
production being transferred to Germany.
'The Glorious Dead'
The Glorious Dead,
a new, and very exhaustive book on the figurative sculptures
on British war memorials, written by Geoff Archer, was
published in November 2009 by Frontier
Publishing of Norfolk. Mr Archer is himself an artist
as well as a historian: his website gives
examples of his paintings. The book has developed from an
interest in his local memorial, leading to travel over the
UK visiting others.
Cassidy's large memorials are listed and illustrated, as
well as those of many other sculptors of the time who
created figures for memorials, mostly in the 1920s. The book
has 416 pages, and 260 black-and-white pictures, nearly all
taken by the author himself. The book costs £30.
A 70th anniversary tribute
Notes and pictures by Charlie Hulme
Aware that the 70th anniversary of Cassidy's death was
approaching, on 15 July I made a visit the man's grave, in
Manchester Southern Cemetery, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, three
miles south of the City Centre. The picture shows the main
entrance on Barlow Moor Road.
Opened in 1879, the burial grounds and associated chapels
cover a wide area - 168 acres (68 Hectares) according to one
source - divided into sections according to religion:
Cassidy lies in the Roman Catholic section (see out Last Days feature for details)
where understandably there is a preponderance of Irish
surnames, with some Polish ones, especially from more recent
years. The upkeep of the place is a credit to Manchester
City Council: it is a pleasure to walk through its wooded
glades. Cassidy's simple headstone is shown above.
Unfortunately, in recently years the authorities have
ordered some of the stones to be laid down on the ground in
case they fall on someone, but John's stone has happily not
suffered in this way.
A walk to one of the flower shops in the nearby streets
produced some flowers to brighten up the scene for the
anniversary, and also something extra to hold them, as the
cast-iron urn on the right is sadly rusted through. When I
visited at 3pm, the sun was shining full on the stone.
A circular area in the centre of the Cemetery has the
memorials of some of the more 'notable' occupants: the
impressive celtic cross above is for Sir John W. Alcock,
pioneer transatlantic flyer and subject of a Cassidy
memorial in the Town Hall - see our feature Down
in Albert Square.
Fountain conservation completed
Manchester City council are doing a fine job conserving
Cassidy's work in the City centre. Following the restoration
of King Edward (below) and the re-appearance of 'Adrift' (see
special page) work began in April 2009 on the Jubilee
Fountain in Albert Square:
... and here it is completed in May 2009. (The aircraft is
part of a Royal Air Force recruiting event.) Our special
thanks are due to Mr Strittmatter, Programme Manager for
Public Arts and War Memorials, for his enthusiastic support
for John Cassidy's work.
'Adrift' in the news
We are no the only ones who have been photographing 'Adrift'
- here are some fine
views on Flickr by Joseph McCarraghy.
An item about the revival of the work appeared
in the Manchester Evening News on 2 April, thanks to
Tony Frankland, a volunteer at the Museum of Science
and Industry, who has been 'quietly campaigning' for
'Adrift' to be re-instated and wrote to the M.E.N's postbag
in February. Note, however, that the unveiling of the
plaque on the sculpture will not take place in April as
suggested by the article: it will be a little later this
Neither are we aware of the 'John Cassidy Appreciation
Society' mentioned in the item. If anyone knows of such a
body, please let us know.
Another, very interesting and accurate, article (by Jonathan
Schofield) can be found on the Property
Confidential website. Quote:
Is it any good do you think?
Yes, it shows Cassidy was a competent sculptor who could
handle emotion. He’s not a Rodin (his contemporary) but he
can still sculpt powerfully. The mother and baby are
handled very well, the body and features of the mother
tight with devotion, misery and worry for her child,
despite her own tenuous hold on life. I’m not sure that
the new siting is any good at all, the work is surrounded
by street furniture and too close to the road and the
buses. It could do with more room to breathe but then it
is occupying the site of another sculpture. Perhaps it
should be facing the Midland as well, rather than the 84
from Chorlton and the trams to Altrincham.
Well, yes, it does rather look as though the father is
trying to flag down a passing bus...
Spruce-up for King Edward
|This picture, taken
by John Lynch on 27 February 2008, shows Cassidy's King Edward VII
in Whitworth Park, Manchester shrouded in
scaffolding and plastic sheets.
Planned conservation work includes cleaning,
repatination, and, we are very pleased to hear,
replacement of the King's lost sceptre and the cross
from his orb. Expected date of completion is the end
of April 2008.
Edward VII page has been updated with new
pictures, quotes and background information.
Cassidy and Hallé 150
The exhibition commemorating 150 years of the Hallé
Orchestra, in the Local Studies Library of Manchester
Central Library, St Peters Square in 2008 included, as
well as various Hallé memorabilia and displays on the
history of the orchestra, the small Cassidy bronze by
(approx. 70cm high) statue of the founder, Sir Joseph Hallé,
which is normally kept in the Principal's Office of the
Royal Northern College of Music.
This was, according to the caption, presented to the College
of Music by Mrs Walter Beer. Mrs Walter Beer was formerly
Lucy Huckett, who with her sister Fanny had lived at
Longford Hall with Mrs Rylands as 'adopted nieces.' Water
Beer was a Manchester cotton merchant.
There is a bust of Hallé, also by Cassidy, on permanent
display in the foyer of the nearby Bridgwater concert hall,
the home of the Hallé Orchestra.