|This site celebrates
the life and work of sculptor John
Cassidy (1860 - 1939).
A Visit to Stourbridge
Rail travellers to Stourbridge must change at Stourbridge Junction to
the short branch line to Stourbridge Town which (in 2011) is the only
line operated by a 'Parry People Mover' vehicle, as seen above.
Outside the station stands a modern sculpture. 'The Glass Blower' by
John McKenna, which commemorates the town's traditional industry of
Stourbridge High Street, seen from the old Town Hall steps.
The town has buildings from a wide range of periods, including Georgian.
This view, from Mr Peacock's book, shows the War Memorial in is
original location. The building behind is the Free Library and
Institute, built in 1905-6, partially funded, as were so many library
buildings at the time, by Andrew Carnegie.
The same view in 2010, looking across the relief road with its
pedestrian crossings. The building was renovated for office use in
2009;the town's library and town hall moved some years earlier to a
in 'The Crown Centre'.
We'd like to tell you more about Ernest W. Pickford, who designed the
memorial, but information on him is proving a little elusive.
The newspaper report on the unveiling tells us that he 'was born in
Manchester and received his art training at the
Manchester School of Art, under the tuition of the late Mr. Richard
Glazier, A.R.I.B.A. Mr Pickford was a silver medallist of the
and made a speciality of architectural designing and metal work. In
February 1915(?), he came into
this neighbourhood, and was employed as designer at Messrs Hill and
Smith Ltd, of Brierley Hill, but left them for an engagement with
Bromsgrove Guild, the well known firm of art metal workers.'
Ernest Willie Pickford was born in 1880 in Manchester, the son of
William Pickford, a 'fruiterer and confectioner', and his wife Emily,
both natives of London who in 1881 are recorded at 33 Oxford Street,
Chorlton-on-Medlock, one of a number of small shops on the site on
later appeared the Manchester headquarters of the BBC.
In the 1901 census, Ernest (aged 21), still living with his widowed
mother in Stretford, is listed as a 'Calico
Printer's Designer' which would have been a common occupation for
someone who studied at the Manchester School of Art. The census of
spring 1911 has him living with his 'stepbrother' Sydney John Taylor at
23 Albemarle Street, Moss Side, Manchester and described as simply a
'Designer'. He married Helen Mary
Shaw, a Derbyshire-born
dressmaker, in Chorlton, Lancashire, in summer 1911.
Some time after leaving Hill & Smith, where he was perhaps
engaged in arnaments work during the war, and joining the Bromsgrove
Guild of Applied Arts, Pickford returned to Manchester to work
as the Guild's northern representative. It is recorded that the Guild
had an office in Spring Gardens, Manchester, by 1914, but we have not
confirmed that Pickford was there at that time.
Directory of 1923 lists Pickford at 76 Victoria
Street, Manchester as 'Representing the Bromsgrove Guild.' The
identical entries continue until 1939.
From the 1920s he lived with his wife and family at 19 Hazelwood Road,
Stockport (seen above in 2011: it is a short walk from where this page
is being created). This house and its neighbours were built circa
1908 on land bought from the widow of Alfred Cressy who had farmed the
land in the area.
After the outbreak of war in 1939, he left the
Bromsgrove Guild and went to work at Mirrlees, Bickerton and Day's
factory in Hazel Grove, near his home, whose output of large diesel and
gas engines and generator sets was at that time totally directed to the
defence of the
country. He died on 21 December 1944.
His obituary in the local newspaper tells us he was 'not a man with
outside interests, his recreation was in reading and his artistic work.
He was a member of the Stockport Guild for Arts and Crafts for several
years, and also exhibited at Birmingham and Liverpool.'
The Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts was
of Bromsgrove Art School,
in 1898. It became a limited company in 1921, and continued in business
until 1966; its most famous creations
perhaps the gates of Buckingham Palace in London, but it also carried
a number of commissions in the north of England, no doubt under the
guidance of Pickford. In its early days the Guild included workers in
various materials, but later it was known principally for archirectural
The Guild made the lamps for the extension of Mersey Square in
in 1936, seen above in a Guild advertisment of the time.
Other work with which Pickford may have been involved includes include
war memorials (c. 1920) in the
Manchester headquarters of the Refuge Assurance Company and the Calico
Printers Association, silver altar ornaments for St Ann's Church in the
city centre (1928) and notably two bronze figures representing 'water'
'electricity' in the entrance hall of Stretford Town Hall (1934). In
Liverpool, the guild made the famous 'Liver Birds' as well as the
bronzework of the Cunard war memorial on the Pier Head.
Special thanks to:
Wendy Robertson for her fine photographs.
The staff of Stourbridge and Stockport Libraries.
The War Memorial, Stourbridge (1923)
Picture by Wendy Robertson
The war memorial in the old Worcestershire market town of Stourbridge,
1974 has been part of the Borough of Dudley in West Midlands County,
was unveiled in 1923. Comparable with the example in Skipton, it is one
of the most elaborate of Cassidy's war memorials. For a description, we
can do no better than that published with the report of its unveiling
by the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire - an 'impressive and historic
ceremony' - in the County Express
newspaper of 3 March 1923:
Built upon a concrete foundation,
the monument has a granite base 8ft. 3 ins. by 6 ft. 9 ins. with a
plinth of Darley Dale stone. At the front and rear of the lower portion
of the plinth are two descriptive panels in bronze, one depicting
infantry tanks, a despatch rider, etc., and the the other illustrating
sailors manning a heavy gun on board a warship, both being suggestive
of scenes of battle in which local members of the forces were engaged.
Harmonising with these panels are two bronze inscription plates which
are affixed to the sides of the plinth. Inscribed on one of the plates
in low relief is the following: "These men fought and died on many
lands and seas - France, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Greece, Turkey,
Mesopotamia, Palestine and the North Sea." The other plate bears the
inscription: "This Memorial was erected by public subscription to
commemorate the heroism of the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Coventry, February
25th, 1923." Immediately above the bronze panels are bronze trophies
surmounted by the main shaft, also of Darley Dale stone, on which
are the bronze name plates. Over these are two bronze laurel wreaths,
surrounding crests of the Worcestershire Regiment, and two bronze
lions' heads, one each side of the shaft.
Resting on a moulded cap (just below which the key pattern is carved)
at the head of the monument, is a fine bronze figure, representing
Victorious Peace, stooping, and holding out a bronze wreath in
her left hand, while the right hand supports the furled flag.
The designer of the memorial is Mr Ernest W. Pickford...
responsible for the design and all the drawings for the monument ...
also the designer for the Memorial in the cemetery.
Mr. John Cassidy, Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors,
modelled the statue and designed and modelled the descriptive and
decorative bronze panels ... The rich metalwork of the Stourbridge
Memorial was cast at Messrs. Martin's, Cheltenham, and by the
Picture by Wendy Robertson
The Stourbridge Borough War Memorial Committee was established in 1919.
for memorials included a club-house for ex-servicemen, some form of
or an extension to the Corbett Hospital. Money for the project was
raised by public subscription and the Committee succeeded in raising
over £8,000. A
cenotaph was built in the centre of Stourbridge Cemetery and a War
Memorial Club with
sports ground were purchased at Amblecote, but it was also decided to
create a large Memorial in the town centre.
As at other towns, Committee face the problem of how to assemble the
list of names of men born in Stourbridge to commemorate; families were
encouraged to send names for inclusion as there was no central source
of such information. Some names of men of the borough which
appear on other local memorials in churches and elsewhere are missing,
and there are names there whose stories researchers have been unable to
trace. 377 names from World War I are listed on the bronze plaques,
by 135 from the Second World War which appear on additional plaques.
The memorial is unique among Cassidy works in having a book devoted to
it: The Stourbridge War Memorial:
Remembering the Men of Stourbridge edited by local historian Roy
Peacock for the Stourbridge Historical Society and published in 2005.
This book was followed by two more from the same source, tracing the
stories of the men listed on the monument: Remembering the Men of Stourbridge: The
Great War 1914-18 and Remembering
There is also a website for the memorial, listing all the names, at www.stourbridge.co.uk.
The memorial, which was erected by George Brown and Sons of Hagley
Road, Stourbridge, monumental masons, originally stood at the south end
of the High Street, at the junction with Hagley Road, New Road and
Church Street. The old postcard reproduced above shows the scene in
1967, looking towards the town centre in the opposite direction from
the pictures on the left. The
traffic at this junction became increasingly heavy, and in 1968 the
memorial was moved to its present position in Mary Stevens Park to make
way for the 'inner ring road' and faciltitate the holding of Rembrance
The Mary Stevens Park, on the edge of
town, is an appropriate location for the memorial in that it is formed
from the grounds of Studley Court, a mansion, originally the home of
one of the town's glass-masters, which was used as a Red
Cross hospital during World War I. After the war it became a boarding
run by Belgian nuns, until local industrialist Ernest Stevens bought
the estate in 1929, and gave it to the town; the park is named for his
wife Mary who died in 1925.
The statue of 'Victorious Peace' set high above ground is not
seen to best advantage by passers-by. The above view shows some of the
details, and Cassidy's signature carved in the stone base which also
carries the date 1922. She seems to be wearing a hair-net; this has
perhaps been added by the Council as a pigeon deterrent. The work
certainly has been kept in excellent condition.
The relief panels, typical of Cassidy war memorials, with their
Picture by Wendy Robertson
The contemporary account seems to suggest that the
panels and the statue were by Cassidy, the other metal adornments, such
as the 'trophy' shown above, being designed
Two views of the memorial in its context, Spring 2010.
Wars never end
On 27 February 2011 a
ceremony was held to dedicate a new plaque on the memorial, followed by
service at St Mary’s church, Oldswinford, to honour Private Shaun
Taylor, killed in action while serving in the first Gulf War in 1991,
aged 20. He was a member of the Staffordshire Regiment which formed
part of the 7th Armoured Brigade, the 'Desert Rats' during the
operation to remove Iraqi forces which had invaded neighbouring Kuwait.
Back in 1916, my own grandfather, Private Albert Hulme of the
Manchester Regiment found himself fighting in that same area, then
known as Mesopotamia, He never appeared on any war memorial,
although the war certainly shortened his life and he died before I was
Glazier, who in
succeeded Cassidy's mentor
R.H.A. Willis as headmaster of the Manchester School of Art, was
architect - he wrote a classic
textbook, A Manual of Historic
Ornament first published in 1899 - but at the time of his death,
while still in post, in 1918, he was said to be preparing a book on
of Pickford, made fences, gates and similar items at their iron works,
are still in business in 2011 making such items as motorway signs and
Links and refefences
George Thomas Noszlopy and Fiona Waterhouse. Public sculpture of Staffordshire and the
Black Country. Liverpool University
Press, 2005. p. 153 (Available on Google Books)
Guild', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in
Britain and Ireland 1851-1951,
University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011
Obituary of Ernest Pickford.
Stockport Advertiser, 29
December 1944, page 4.
Quintin Watt (Ed.) The Bromsgrove
Guild: an Illustrated History.
Bromsgrove: The Bromsgrove Society, 1999.
Text, editing and
uncredited pictures by Charlie
Hulme, June 2011.