British 19th C, except portraits, Sculpture, South East England: Artists and Subjects 24 Which artist/workshop is responsible for the reredos figures in Winchester College Chapel?

Topic: Artist

The reredos of Winchester College was completed in 1877 - the 12 figures are catalogued separately on Art UK According to notes by Herbert Chitty (Bursar of the College in the early 20th century), the figures were carved by 'Eardley of Winchester'. This attribution is also made in Pevsner's Hampshire, and elsewhere. However, we cannot find any record of a sculptor with this name (e.g. on the 'Mapping Sculpture' database at the University of Glasgow).

The College Archives do not help with the attribution - the figures were commissioned by the masters of the school, and so there are no relevant bursarial records, governing body minutes etc.

We think that someone must have made a mistake in trying to remember the name of the sculptor (or Chitty misheard). I have wondered about similar sounding names of other workshops producing this sort of material at the same time (e.g. John/Thomas/William Earley of Dublin; Thomas Earp of Lambeth; Farmer and Brindley of Westminster).

Farmer and Brindley sound the most likely perhaps - they were based in Westminster, they worked at New College, Winchester Cathedral and (in the 1890s) at Winchester College. The main sculptor was William Brindley - which does sound a bit like 'Eardley'. But we are not sure that the style of his figures is a very close match. [Group leader: Katharine Eustace]

Winchester College, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Kieran Owens,

The attached extract, from the Hampshire Advertiser, Wednesday 7th November 1877, cites "the atelier of Eardley of Westminster Road, London" as the sculptors of the reredos, thus possibly connecting together the above-suggested attribution to Framer and Brindley, who were based at 63, Westminster Bridge Road, in Lambeth, South London:

Winchester College,

I made an unhelpful error in my original comment - I should have said that the figures have been attributed to Eardley 'of Westminster', not Winchester. Sorry about that.

Kieran, thank you for that useful reference which we had not spotted.

We'd be very grateful for any further thoughts about the attribution.

Jacob Simon,

Kieran's helpful post of an extract from the Hampshire Advertiser, 7 November 1877, cites "the atelier of Eardley of Westminster Road, London" as the sculptors of the reredos. Kieran suggests a possible connection with Farmer and Brindley, who were based at 63, Westminster Bridge Road.

The 1877 London street and business directory contains no Eardley as a sculptor. Nor is there an obvious Eardley in census records.

I fear that it will be difficult to improve on the current designation of this work or to take this discussion much further.

Kieran Owens,

The reference, albeit possibly mistaken, to "Eardley of Westminster" is also carried at the bottom of page 91 in the 1898 edition of Richard John King's "A Handbook for Travellers in Hampshire":

Jacob Simon,

It is a year since I suggested that it would be difficult to improve on the current designation of this work or to take this discussion much further.

Time for one of the group leaders to recommend closing the discussion?

Speaking solely from an editorial viewpoint, 'Eardley' looks like a 'ghost' created by an 1877 typesetting error working from a misread reporter's manuscript with the reporter also mistaking 'Westminster Road' for 'Westminster Bridge Road'. There isn't a Westminster Road in Westminster: the only one in London is in Ealing.

As Wiki points out, William Brindley (1832-1919) 'began as an employed stone carver for Farmer [1825-79], and they became partners in the 1860s', and that Sir George Gilbert Scott called him 'the best carver I ever met...'

Given there is no other trace of an 'Eardley', is it not perhaps safer here to attribute the work to Brindley and explain why in 'more information' rather than leaving an apparently fictional carver to create false trails in on-line 'maker' searches, as well as concealing Brindley as the more likely one in this case?

Winchester College,

I'm happy with what Pieter suggests - given the information that we have Brindley seems very likely to be the sculptor. I suppose the only question remaining is whether we give these figures to him unequivocally or put it down as 'Attributed to...'.

Pieter, I agree with your thoughts on this. The Collection did have reservations about whether the figures were a good match to William Brindley's style but the workshop of Farmer and Brindley does seem to be the most likely and credible attribution in this instance. The present attribution is clearly incorrect. I think we are at the stage where review and recommendation by the Group Leader would be appropriate.

Louis Musgrove,

I wonder if the actual Carver might be Harry Bates-???- worth looking into.

Jacob Simon,

"Please support your comments with evidence", runs the Art Detective guidance below.

So, what is the evidence for the seemingly unlikely Harry Bates suggestion?

Kieran Owens,

Marcie, "Sir W. Earl" is actually Sir William Erle.

To me this looks much more like the product of a commericial firm of ecclesiastical furnishers than of a single artist. There does not seem to be any direct connection with the work of the New Sculpture movemen of which Bates was part. There is a faintly plausible suggestion that the famous firm of Farmer & Brindley, whose name and address may have been mistranscribed by our sources (and with whom Bates worked earlier in his career!), were responsible.

The answer will I think will lie in documentary and archival sources rather than opinions on style. Winchester's archives seem not to have been helpful and Farmer and Brindley's are lost. See

Jacob Simon,

My sense is that we should use a label for this sculpture which respects the documentation we have, namely that found in a contemporary newspaper report, which describes it as coming from 'the atelier of Eardley of Westminster Road, London'. Our speculation that it may have been produced by Farmer and Brindley should go in the subsidiiary descriptive text rather than in the artist field.

Marcie Doran,

That name is fine, Jacob, in my opinion. I just wanted to let you know that two articles from 1877 show different spellings of the name of that firm: "Messrs. Eardley and Co., of Westminster" and "Eardley and Co., of Westminster". My search on Ancestry for siblings with the surname "Eardley" was unsuccessful.

I have also attached, just for the record, Arthur Turner's obituary from 1936 that shows the name of two other firms that were active in that line of work in the area in the late 1800s. For example, one of Mr. Turner's projects was at Winchester Cathedral.

Winchester College,

Thank you all for your contributions. The reason I raised this query was that there did not seem to be any independent evidence for the existence of a firm of sculptors named 'Eardley'. All of the references found so far (from contemporary newspaper accounts to the latest edition of Pevsner) relate to the reredos at Winchester. This seems very odd to us and I worry (as Pieter said some time ago) that by keeping Eardley in the artist field, we are suggesting that such a firm/sculptor really existed when it apparently did not.

If there is not general support for 'Attributed to Farmer & Brindley' - and I can see why not - I wonder if it would be better just to have 'British School' in the artist field (or even 'British School (formerly attributed to Eardley of Westminster') and briefly explain the problem in the notes.

Kieran Owens,

From an extensive search of the BNA, just four newspaper reports cited the name of Eardley & Company as having been the carvers of these figures. They were published as follows:

• Hampshire Advertiser, Wednesday 7th November 1877
• Salisbury & Winchester Journal, Saturday 10th November 1877
• Southern Times and Dorset County Herald, Saturday 17 November 1877
• Building News, Friday 23rd November 1877

Nowhere else in the BNA for decades before and after November 1877 is there any mention of a company of this name. It must be seriously considered that the company's name was transcribed incorrectly into the first of these reports and was copied without checks in the others.

Osmund Bullock,

I strongly agree with Winchester College, Pieter and Kieran. To keep the name 'Eardley' prominently in the artist field risks giving credence to, and indeed promulgating further what all the evidence - or rather, the lack of it - points to having been an error. It is bad enough that Pevsner didn't dig a bit deeper. You can argue that the further notes will make things clear; but it is a sad truism that the human tendency to look for quick and easy answers has received a dangerous boost from the internet, and many people searching online - including some who should know better - will see the 'headline' statement and look no further.

I think that either of Winchester's suggestions of what to put instead would be better (I have no preference as to which), along with an explanation in the notes of the other possibilities.

For what it's worth, I too did a genealogical search for any likely Eardleys, and drew a blank.

Jacob Simon,

All this is about niceties. I think that I would go for "British School (called Eardley of Westminster Road)". The use of the word "called" is accurate.

I'm less concerned with what apparently erroneous press repetitions say about probably not-existent makers than having useful search-terms linking things together. If the search terms are only in the 'Title' and 'Artist' fields then putting 'British School (called Eardley of Westminster Road)' in the latter would only throw up this item in any online search. If one entered 'British School (possibly William Brindley)' that would throw up three other items on Art UK alone, let alone any other web entries on him or Farmer 7 Brindley as a firm, and the matter of the 'Eardley' sources and likely confusion could be covered under 'More information'.

Anyway, its really for Kate Eustace to say as group leader in the matter.

Katharine Eustace, Sculpture,

This is a Jude the Obscure sort of enquiry. I should start by saying I have never seen the reredos in the Chapel at Winchester College, which, when there is so little documentation to go on, makes any assessment problematic. However, my first impression on looking at photographs of the screen in its entirety, is that there are two hands at work here, and that we might be looking for two Judes. This suggestion seems to be supported by the little we do know about its history: The screen, dated to c. 1470, was, according to Pevsner and Lloyd (the copy to hand is the now out of date: Hampshire and the Isle of White, Buildings of England series, Penguin Books Ltd 1967), ‘scrupulously restored’ by William Butterfield (1814-1900) in 1874-5, and for some reason the central section was altered in 1920 by William Caröe (1857-1938), architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

There has been quite a lot of discussion concerning the possibility of the work on what we might call the Butterfield sections being by a large mason’s company such as the firm of Farmer & Brindley, Westminster Bridge Road (a road which incidentally runs between Southwark and Lambeth, London’s two traditional areas of stone masonry). This is entirely possible, indeed likely, but such a flourishing company would have employed many stone masons and carvers who remain anonymous. Besides William Brindley himself (1832-1919), considered by George Gilbert Scott to be ‘the best carver I have met with’ (quoted in Ben Read, Victorian Sculpture, YUP,1982), Philip Ward Jackson cites a few individual names who worked for the firm in Public Sculpture of the City of London (PMSA &LUP; 2003). Had Harry Bates worked at Winchester while apprenticed to Farmer & Brindley, he would have been in his early twenties, a journeyman mason who would not yet exhibit his own independent voice. Unfortunately, the company’s records were destroyed when it was taken over, after almost eighty years in business, in 1929. The work, of its kind of a high order, on the photographic evidence would appear to be more strictly a replacement rather than restoration.

I see that the Getty Research Institute in Malibu holds a corpus of documents relating to Butterfield’s practice. Perhaps, serendipitously, there might be something to help us there?

The central raised section by Caröe is in a different idiom: the Crucifix and two supporting figures, which are possibly contemporary portraits, are in quite a different style from the other earlier figures. While this group is not by him, we might remember that Eric Gill, who had been apprenticed in Caröe’s highly successful practice from 1900 to 1903, called Caröe ‘the big gun’ among ecclesiastical architects. Caröe & Partners are still in business, and their archive might throw further light on the matter, and even find us an obscure Jude.

I am unable to undertake primary research of this sort at the moment, but perhaps one of our own brilliant detectives might do so? Or Winchester College, what a brilliant project for a young researcher.

While that summary is a clear outline for possible future research, the immediate issue is whether to retain the apparently fictional 'Eardley & Co.' at all in the 'artist' field here, not least since doing so gives ongoing credence to such a firm ever having existed.

The College website says 'British School under William Butterfield' for the whole group of 12, including the present example, and with a single date of 1877. The one positive thing that even a fictional 'Eardley & Co.' indicates is that Butterfield, as architect, employed a firm of carvers not a sole executant. Whether all 12 were done by a single hand or more within the firm, and who, is one of the questions for any future enquiry.

As regards what should more immediately go in the Art UK 'artist' field, the discussion has - in effect - presented the College with three options:

1. Continue to give credence to the existence of 'Eardley & Co.' by retaining it at all there, however qualified.

2. Change it to something like 'attributed to', 'probably' or 'possibly' Farmer & Brindley - since that is the name confusion which appears to be source of the apparent 'Eardley' press errors. No other alternative has been produced.

3. Use 'British School', with or without 'under William Butterfield' as on the College website.

Personally I would favour 'probably' or 'possibly' Farmer & Brindley, since - in artist-search terms - that would link it with the 18 other F&B items listed on Art UK,most if not all involving many differing hands.

Whichever is chosen, an explanation covering the likely 'Eardley & Co ' confusion with F&B as the more probable firm involved should go into the 'more information' field. And, of course, the entries for all other 11 in the set would also need to be adjusted the same way: they too at present have the same 'Eardley of Westminster (associate of)' attribution.

And a further option 4, which I overlooked, might be:

'British School (possibly Farmer & Brindley)' which would also link to the general F&B corpus on Art UK.

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

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