© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Southend Museums Service
Many thanks to ‘Southend Timeline’, who have provided the extremely helpful information below:
'If you look at the chain, it still has one single row of name plates under the shields, this was doubled up in the 50's The second row got filled up again in the year 2000, some were taken off to make room for newer Mayors to be added, the ones that were taken off were placed in a display case, and are on display at Porters. The Chain on display here is also after the chain was redesigned in the 1930’s to add more shields, there used to be the letter S between the shields. In 1950 there were no name plates added to the chain at that time, but by 1983, they were 8 years into adding the second row of name plates, so that would go back to 1975. So it’s between those years.'
The suggestion is that this mayor was in office between 1950 and 1975 according to the chain. From the style of portrait, it seems likely to be the earlier end of the spectrum, 1950s or 1960s.
The list of Southend mayors since the date of incorporation.
These photographic portraits of Southend mayors of the 1920s and 1930s might come in useful another day.
Are there portraits, painted or photographic, of the mayors for those years?
Judging by the hairstyle of the sitter (the centre parting) I think a date of early to mid 1950s is most likely.
Personally I would hope they still have a reference library, with local history section and I would email request and photo to the chief/senior librarian. Failing that 1) write to local paper. He has a distinctive face and someone will remember him. Failing that write to the office of the current incumbent
Perfectly good suggestions - but why don't you do it, Roberta? That's how it works here: apart from Marion who runs things, all of us here are unpaid, many are wholly unqualified, and we do the research we do because we think it needs doing...and because it's a fascinating challenge! Why not join us?
List of mayors of Southend:
Narrows down the field.
Thanks, Maria, but the link to that list is in Marion's introduction at the top.
The mayors of Southend used to provide a forword for the yearly Carnival Programme, plus their photo. https://bit.ly/2Bb04K0
Following Grant's suggestions to focus on the mid 1950s, the attachment shows images of the mayors between 1950 and 1965.
Two are missing: Herbert Henry Smith (1956-57) and Frederick Harry Woods (1957-58). For these years, no carnival programmes are available.
In my opinion, none of those listed in the pdf looks like our sitter and I can't find images of the missing two in other sources (BNA, general google search).
And here is the attachment.
I contacted the mace bearer Adam Tregoning, with our image and after some consideration, he sent the attached photograph of Albert Victor Mussett, JP, mayor of Southend 1959-60.
The photographic image supplied by Adam Tregoning is very much appreciated. The image of Mayor Mussett shows a man also with a centre hair parting, presumably in the late 1950s, which confirms I think that the sitter for 'our' sculpture is from that period. However, I am not sure that there is a good likeness between to the two men as the bone structure appears to be quite different.
I notice that all the Holman works held by Southend were by gift from the artist's sister, Ivy Eliza Holman (1906-1995). Presumably Miss Holman left no notes in regard to this particular piece either by will or otherwise?
I have checked the records of the Royal Academy but this sculpture was not exhibited there. George Holman was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Society of British Sculptors and was elected a full member (FRBS) in 1955. As it is quite possible that he may have exhibited a commission of this kind at the RBS (as a Not For Sale item) I will check the RBS catalogues I have for that period but I do not have anything like a complete set. If others have those catalogues for say 1950 to 1975 it would be very helpful if checks could be made.
According to the ‘Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland’ website, it mentions that George Alfred Holman was active between the years of 1942 - 1948.
Although the 1939 register also records him as being a Sculptor and jeweller.
If this is taken at face value, then does that mean the timeline, due to the intervention of the war, only covers two or a maximum of three sitting Mayors (with a cusp).
1939/45 - William Miles
1945/49 - Stephen Frost Johnson JP
1949/50 - Sidney Henry James Bates
William Miles also has a portrait on ArtUK
Stephen Frost Johnson JP is a bespectacled gentleman and Sidney Henry James Bates is slightly out of the time period, but maybe worth a look.
Is there a similiarity to William Miles?
Thanks for the information above and the comments. I think it quite probable that this piece is a relatively early work but in my view not necessarily restricted to the years up to 1950. George Holman died in 1980 and he was working actively as a sculptor in the 1950s and 1960s and probably later than that.
This work gives every appearance of being a commission, either from the sitter or by the council, yet it remained in the possession of the artist, and then his sister, until it was given to Southend Museums. It begs the question was it rejected for whatever reason or was the artist a friend of the subject and asked him to sit for him? We shall probably never know!
I do not think our bust is of Mussett or Miles; they both look rather less hearty or more delicate. It may be that the bust was rejected by the council as being too quirky or informal for an official portrait.
Is it known in what year Ivy Eliza Holman gifted the bust to the Southend Museums Service?
The way to solve this one is for Southend Museums Service to publicise an image locally (local newspaper/media etc). Only local memory -family or otherwise - is likely to recall who this is, and perhaps its circumstances if controversial, which it might have been. Its a curious mix of technically good modelling, odd proportion and a rather offputting facial appearance: what was probably intended as a good-humoured smile has come out more like self-satisfied smirk. The weird bust of the footballer Cristiano Renaldo that briefly appeared in the airport on his native Madeira comes to mind as a more recent parallel.
Kieran - Ivy Holman also donated three medals and 12 drawings for medals and coins by her brother to the British Museum in 1993 (eg):
So it's likely the donation to the Beecroft would have been then or before that. The Beecroft has 21 pieces by Holman - mostly plasters, so Ivy might well have gifted these before 1993 (though after her brother's death in 1980) due to the number and size of them. But it looks like she wanted to preserve her brother's legacy before her own death in 1995.
Elin had narrowed down the search to three former Southend mayors (17/07/2020 15:48). The Alamy website has an image from September 16, 1937, of one of those three men, William Miles, that strongly resembles the mystery bust. Note the heavy jaw, the eyes, the hairline and the clothing. The image cannot be used in a composite. https://tinyurl.com/s8r52m8n
I have attached a composite based on the painting of William Miles that was in a link provided by Elin (https://tinyurl.com/yak6ju4b) to show that the chain of office shown on the bust closely resembles the one in the painting.
Marcie, thank you. To be honest I do not see any great resemblance between the sitter for the bust and Alderman William Miles. If one looks again at the portrait of Alderman Miles by Frank Salisbury, held at Porters Civic House & Mayor's Parlour at Southend, as attached to Elin's post of 17/07/2020, I think they are two quite different people.
Now that I have reviewed this discussion again, which was started in July 2020, I think it possible that the scope of the discussion was a little too narrow. I'll explain why I think this may be so.
The sculptor, George Alfred Holman, FRBS (1911-1980) was born in Edmonton, in north London, and he spent most of his working life in Southgate, Edmonton and Enfield. At some stage circa the late 1960s / early 1970s, he, his sister Ivy and their mother Eliza Susannah Holman (née Kilbourn) moved to Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. His father Charles Holman, who appears to a been a very typical Londoner of the period, had died in 1959 and subsequently the family 'retired' to the seaside. Mrs Eliza Holman died in 1975, George Holman died in 1980 and Ivy Holman died in 1995.
On her death, it appears that Ivy Holman bequeathed all of her brother's remaining sculptures to the Beecroft Art Gallery in Southend-on-Sea. There were 21 of them in the family ownership and all are of course recorded on Art UK. My review of these suggests - at least to me - that these are early to middle period works, all pre-dating the relocation to Leigh-on-Sea. The 21 include the 'Bust of an Unknown Mayor', the subject of this discussion. In my opinion this work most likely was undertaken from the artist's studio in north London.
We have had a great deal of difficulty in identifying a Mayor of Southend-on-Sea who resembles the sitter for our bust, despite reviewing available photographs of the mayors. I think it possible that instead the sitter may have been connected to the London Borough of Southgate or London Borough of Enfield. George Holman is known to have undertaken commissions for them including sculpture for Broomfield Park, which is close to Palmers Green Station in London N13.
If we look again at the mayoral chain worn by Alderman William Miles, a former Mayor of Southend-on-Sea, in the oil portrait by Frank O. Salisbury (link below), circa 1945, it appears to me to be quite different when compared the chain worn by our sitter.
I realise that my thoughts on this run contrary to the very helpful information provided by 'Southend Timeline' (see the introduction to the discussion). I would be more than happy if evidence can be brought forward to confirm the Southend-on-Sea connection but at present I am not convinced.
Grant, here is an image of a more recent mayor of Southend, where you can see that the coat of arms on the chain matches the one on the sculpture. None of the heraldry for those London boroughs matches the one on the Holman sculpture, so I think it is a mayor of Southend.
Andrew, thank you. That helps enormously. Do we have an approximate date when the coat of arms changed?
The bust looks 1950s in date to me. Perhaps the Holman family had a base in Leigh-on-Sea or Southend-on-Sea prior to removing permanently to Essex? A search on Ancestry didn't reveal a great deal of information.
We need to try to make a breakthrough here given the lapse of time since the inception of the discussion and the absence of any firm candidate for our sitter. As a reminder, the list of Mayors of Southend under review are:
1945-49 Stephen Frost Johnson, JP
1949-50 Sidney Henry James Bates
1950-51 Henry Wilfrid Cox
1951-52 Percy Baldwin Renshaw, ISO
1952-53 John Edwin Longman, JP
1953-54 Ernest Neville Selby, FAI, JP
1954-55 Henry Newman Bride
1955-56 Constance Leyland, OBE
1956-57 Herbert Henry Smith
1957-58 Frederick Harry Woods
1958-59 Bertrand Stockdale Clarke, PhC, MPS.
1959-60 Albert Victor Mussett
1960-61 Leonard William Johnson, JP.
1961-62 Norman Harris, BSc.
1962-63 Osborn Arthur Moss, FHA.
1963-64 Eric James Trevett
1964-65 Everard Ernest Morris
I have excluded Mayors pre 1945 and post 1965 from this list as the more I look at the images of this bust the more I think it dates to the immediate Post War years. We have already been able to consider photographs of most of the Mayors during that period, and have ruled them out based on physical appearance, but one who remains a candidate, as Elin suggested in her post of 17/07/20, is Sidney Henry James Bates, who was Mayor in 1949/50. Is anyone able to source an image of this gentleman please?
A brief review of male hairstyles of the 20th century reveals that the middle parting became popular in the 1920s, mainly due to prominent male actors in movies adopting that style. It was known apparently as the Malcolm McGregor style, after a well-known American actor of the period. It appears to have been in fashion in Britain from the late 1920s to the late 1940s/early 1950s.
I'm afraid that as well as Sidney H J Bates (49-50), we also lack images of Mayors Herbert Henry Smith (56-57) and Frederick Harry Woods (57-58). Elin Jones told us that Stephen Frost Johnson (45-49) was “a bespectacled gentleman”; and having seen what is probably the poor newspaper image of him she found, I agree he’s not right, specs or no specs. Nevertheless I’m attaching that as part of a collage of additional mayoral pictures from various sources, though most are of men we’ve seen already, and the quality is variable – but I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to see some alternative images.
The Carnival programmes website, from which Andrea painstakingly extracted most of the post-war images for her invaluable PDF two years ago (see 17/07/2020 10:05), does not, as she explained, hold those from 1956 & 57, and the only one they have from the 1940s (1947) does not include a mayoral photograph. Andrea didn’t include their image of the mayor in 1950 (Henry Wilfrid Cox 50-51), so he’s also attached (not that he’s our sitter). The website where the programmes could be found has changed, they are now at https://bit.ly/3zK1ln2 - from 1965 onwards mayors seem to have been banned from the catalogue for good. I’d hoped there might be some more of the earlier post-war ones in this film about the history of the carnival, and screen-grab them: https://bit.ly/3OliQOO. But I could only see one that might be from the right period, and the year is not stated – early 60s, I think, or perhaps late 50s, but it’s not our man anyway. Nevertheless that image is in the collage too, along with extra shots of William Miles (36-37 & 39-45), John Edwin Longman (52-53) and Henry Newman Bride (54-55).
One of the main reasons we cannot (so far) find the missing faces is that the BNA holds no Southend newspapers after 1915, and few from Essex generally. But I find it hard to believe that the mace bearer / mayoral office, who so kindly produced the higher-res photo of Albert Mussett in response to an enquiry from Southend Museums, do not have similar official photos of Messrs Bates, Smith and Woods (and indeed higher-res pics of the others in Andrea’s PDF). Has anyone actually asked them? If not, could the Collection please oblige, or would they prefer us to write?
Osmund, thank you very much for all the work you are doing to help move this discussion forward.
As a matter of passing interest, the only work exhibited by George Holman at the Royal Academy was 'Portrait of F.A.S., head, Portland stone' in 1946, submitted at a time when the artist was living in London N21. There is no apparent indication who FAS may be.
To follow up on Grant’s comments about the artist and Leigh-on-Sea, he was right to wonder if the Holmans had a base there prior to moving properly to Essex in the late 60s or early 70s.
Attached is a composite of Holman listings in Southend telephone directories from 1955 to 1981. Phone listings (or the lack of them) can, of course, be misleading: the person may have been there earlier but without a phone, or they could have been ex-directory. Anyway, what must be George’s mother (‘E S H Holman’) is listed at a Leigh-on-Sea address (10 Glenbervie Drive) from 1961 to 1967, and interestingly George then appears at a different address two miles away, from 1963 until 1980 when he died – and that latter address (250 Highlands Blvd) is given as his mother’s abode at her 1975 death in probate records, as well as his when he died in 1980. So it may be that for a while in the 1960s (and quite possibly before), George lived separately in Leigh, perhaps with a studio? After George’s death there is a single 1981 entry for an ‘I E Holman’ at a flat (Vernon Ct) about a mile from Highlands Blvd, and I suspect that’s his sister Ivy.
You can also see there were several other people named ‘Holman’ in Leigh during this period, and three look particularly interesting to me. (1) ‘S H Holman’ was there throughout, both before and after the listings for George and his mother, and at an address (54 Buxton Av) that is less than 5 mins walk from 250 Highlands Blvd. (2) From 1967-70 a ‘G Holman’ is listed at an address (199 Scrub La) which despite being technically in Hadleigh, is again just a few minutes’ walk from the house in Highlands Blvd – conceivably George’s studio? And (3), from 1963-80, a ‘Jack Holman’ is listed at addresses in Leigh that are pretty much halfway between Highlands Blvd & Glenerbie Drive, and a mile from each. Surely it cannot be just coincidence that he both appears and disappears at exactly the same time as George?
I have marked up the directories with red blobs for definite (or almost so) family members, and green for possibles; and I’m also attaching a marked-up map that shows the geographical relationship between the different addresses.
I think it quite probable that any or all of these people were relations, and that the family’s connection to Leigh may have been longstanding and deep. I don’t, though, have time to do any deeper genealogical delving into that, sorry.
In 1939, Edith Mary Holman (b. Lewes, Sussex, 1884–unknown), the cousin of former Mayor William Miles (b. Lewes, Sussex, 1875–1960), lived with Miles and his wife Clara at 22 Cliff Road, Leigh-on-Sea. Despite much effort, I haven't been able to link her to the artist George Holman.
Marcie, thank you for your further research into the background of Mayor William Miles and his cousin, Edith Mary Holman. The connection to a 'Holman' is of course interesting.
Reverting for a moment to the oil portrait of Mayor William Miles by Frank O Salisbury, it is given an approximate date by the Collection of circa 1945. Presumably the portrait was commissioned to mark the end of Mayor Miles's third term as mayor in 1945, he having served in that capacity throughout the war years 1939-45. To my eye, the gentleman in the painting appears to be a good few years older than the man who sat for the bust. If this is correct, the bust would have to predate the oil portrait considerably, which does seem to be unlikely. What could be the case, based on your research, is that Mayor Miles could have recommended George Holman to the council for the commissioning of a bust of another mayor. That assumes that Edith Mary Holman had a connection to George Holman's family. The possibility is worth consideration if firmer evidence is available in support of the link.
I have been following up Marcie's lead earlier today. As Marcie says making a link between Edith Mary Holman and our artist is indeed difficult. Part of the problem is that the record for (Mayor) William Miles has been updated incorrectly on a family tree, showing that he died in 1942 at The Brambles, 22 Cliff Road, Leigh-on-Sea on the same day as his wife Clara (7 April 1942) whereas it appears he actually died on 3rd January 1960.
As noted by Marcie, Edith Mary Holman was born in Lewes, Sussex, in 1884. A check reveals that her mother was a Frances Amelia Steere. William Miles was also born in Lewes, in 1875. His mother's maiden name was Mary Ann Steere, sister of Frances. Thus William Miles and Edith Mary Holman were indeed first cousins.
In the 1911 Census Edith Mary Holman is recorded as living with William Miles and his wife Clara at 10 Elderton Rd, Westcliff On Sea, Southend On Sea, and is described correctly as his cousin. In the 1939 Register she is listed as living with William and Clara at The Brambles (as above). Her occupation is given as 'companion'.
From that point it is currently hard to tell what happened to Edith Mary Holman.
Prima facie it appears to be quite a coincidence that Mayor William Miles had a relative with the surname Holman.
I'll try to see whether I can link the Holmans of Lewes with the Holmans of north London.
On the 8th of February 1893, Alderman Thomas Dowsett, Mayor of Southend on Sea, presented the mayoral chain and robes to the Corporation of Southend. I believe that this is the chain that can be seen in the painting of
‘Alderman Dowsett, First Mayor of Southend.(1892-1893).’
as well as on the ‘Bust of an Unknown Mayor’ in our discussion.
I have attached a detailed description of the chain and badge as reported in a contemporary newspaper article. Although, I think that the most interesting element from our point of view is the fact that the centre link (above the badge) was produced with a monogram of the first mayor and donor of the chain. The centre link has the monogram of ‘TD’ which stood for Thomas Dowsett. This element can be seen above the badge and resting on the tie of the sitter on the bust, which could ease some doubt over the chain representing any other Corporation.
Would it be possible to see how the surround of the centre-link looked like in the portrait of Alderman Dowsett please?
“In the centre of the badge are the arms of the borough. They comprise a large three-masted merchantman in full sail, a representation of the new pier of Southend, a conventional well (symbolical of the famous well at St. Mary's Priory, which gave the parish its name), and the tower of the ancient church of Prittlewell. A super-imposed shield in the centre bears the arms of the county. A flying ribbon below bears the motto, Forti nihil dificile." In the centre link from which the chain depends is the monogram of the first Mayor, Two maces pictures of that presented to the town by Major Rasch, M.P., support the centre link at the two sides.”
The Essex Herald - February 14th, 1893.
Decorative wirework in a petal-like formation surrounding the centre-link and monogram can be seen on the bust. If this is a truly an accurate depiction by the artist, then could it imply that the bust was made before 1950?
Attached are links to clips from British Pathè News. The first clip of H. W. Cox from 1950 clearly shows that the centre-link has lost the petal-like shapes, and gained a less fragile star-like surround of which can be seen in photographs up until the present day.
1950 - H. W. Cox, Mayor of Southend on Sea, Essex,Turning on the illuminations.
1959 - Albert Victor Mussett. Mayor of Southend on Sea, Essex, Welcoming a German delegation in 1959.
However, could it be that the artist’s depiction wasn’t quite so true-to-life? Or had an amount of artistic licence been used? There were also fewer fleurs-de-lys seen on the surround of the badge, than on other reproductions/photographs of the chain?
Although not a clear image, it looks as if the star-like surround may also be seen on an image of Councillor Edwards (Mayor) as seen in the carnival program of 1935, which would be far earlier than expected.
Elin, thank you, you make some very pertinent points which call for review and clarification.
When I first saw this discussion, I felt that the bust of the unidentified mayor was consistent with a date from the late 1930s up to the early 1950s. However, the course of the discussion has been influenced to quite a large degree by the dating of the mayoral chain to between 1950 and 1975. In my post of 17/06/2022 I 'nudged' the date of execution down to 1945 but perhaps we should consider any mayor in the period from say the early 1930s up until 1959. Personally, I don't consider that this bust could be from the 1960s or 1970s.
I have been researching George Alfred Holman's work further and it very much appears that his output was rather limited, unless he sold many pieces during his lifetime. Exhibition records are very limited and I cannot find anything at auction by him over the past forty years. It seems that his output mainly comprised the 21 pieces bequeathed by his sister to Southend Museums Service in the early 1990s and the pieces which passed to The British Museum as highlighted by Mark Wilson on 18/07/2020. What is striking about Miss Holman's gift is that there are no bronzes at all, a few pieces are in stone, and most of the work is in plaster. It also seems to be from the sculptor's early life, from work undertaken as a teenager in the mid to late 1920s, and then other pieces up until 1954 being the latest date one could verify. It begs a few questions, such as is there any sculpture post 1954, if yes what happened to it, and how did Mr Holman make a living as an artist if he very rarely sold anything? The final point may suggest either a private income, or as recorded he may have been a successful jeweller, or perhaps he taught art as his main profession?
We need some expert assistance please to address the points Elin has raised about the mayoral chain and badge. Thank you all.
Elin, here is that detail you wanted.
Grant - I have pasted this discussion on the Friends of Southend Facebook Group as an attempt to move this discussion along.
Presumably he was the same person as the medallist G.A. Holman who was working well into the 1970s. This looks very much his style.
The British Museum also dates the drawings for medals to 1970-1980.
Here is a link to his relief at Broomfield Park Southgate from 1953.
The signature is now barely legible and his authorship seems largely forgotten.
The kind owner of a private Miles family tree on Ancestry has sent me two photos to assist this discussion. She wrote:
"Please find attached the photo I have of my great-great uncle William Miles. I've also attached the one from the link in the discussion thread [https://bit.ly/2Brzk89] that I also believe to be him. I think there is a resemblance to the bust but would be interested to hear whether your contacts believe that this photo is sufficient to prove the identity of the sitter or not.
As mentioned [on the Ancestry message site], he had a small moustache that isn't on the bust. The bust seems to have been made showing him with a very strange expression - almost a smirk - which makes it hard to be sure. The chain he is wearing in the photo is different from the one on the bust. I guess we have no way of knowing whether the artist made his sculpture using a photo as a guide or whether he may have modelled a chain and medallion taken from somewhere else.
I have not been able to find a link between Edith and George Alfred Holman."
I have posted both photos as well as a composite made from her photo of her great-great uncle William Miles.
The “link in the discussion thread” was in Marion’s comment of 01/07/2020 14:01.
Here is an updated version of the pdf I shared before, with pictures of all mayors between 1950 and 1965. It now includes photos of H.H. Smith and Fred H. Woods*, as well as the image of Mr. Cox, which Osmund shared above.
I couldn't find a comparable picture of Sidney H J Bates. This website has a photo showing him in profile https://shutr.bz/3ynWoiX.
Mr. Woods can be ruled out and I am not convinced by the likeness between H.H. Smith and the bust. I think that Mr. Bates can not be ruled out yet, but this is the only image of him I found.
*Both are from the Carnival Programmes of those years. For some strange reason, they are not visible on their website, but findable when manually tweaking the website url.
The Friends of Southend Facebook group post attracted one suggestion: James Trevett 1963, but he seems a very different person from Andrea's PDF, so that seems another option exhausted.