A Large Family

I left sculptor Robert SMITH on Thursday with five children. I have added six more. You can find them on the Shared Tree.

On census night in 1881 Selina Hannah was in Arthur Road, Horsham, with seven of them. She had to manage on her own while her husband carved stone somewhere. Robert was alone in Beverley in 1901 but I haven’t located Selina that year. Neither would be visited by the enumerator in 1911.

 At least three of the Smith children died in infancy. Their mother was used to such departures. She had eight siblings and may have outlived them all. (One died before she was born.) The parents were not represented on the Shared Tree but now you can follow this link to William FARMER.  

Aaron, brother of Moses, dressed well and was hardly ever depicted without his “breastplate” studded with twelve jewels. A censer dangles from one hand and he holds his Rod in the other. At my father’s knee, I learned something about Aaron’s physiognomy. “God said unto Moses…” – I’m sorry, I can’t tell you the rest, but it still makes me laugh.

I continue to be amazed by Robert’s skill – but did he abandon his wife and children?

Water 36 · Glen Gardens

The boats have gone into hibernation

He Married a Sculptor’s Daughter

Robert SMITH (yesterday’s post) was “of a retiring disposition” according to his obituary in the Beverley and East Riding Recorder (29 May 1909). But he was not shy. He was nineteen-years-old when he married Selina Hannah FARMER on 17 June 1867. She was seventeen. The census enumerator found them in 1871 living at No. 81 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth, “Sculptors Premises held by Farmer Prinsley”. They had three children – Ada Selina, 3, Ernest William, 2, and newborn Arthur George.

A few years earlier, Selina’s father, Sculptor William Farmer had entered into partnership with one of his former apprentices, William BRINDLEY. They would work successfully together on London landmark buildings such as the Natural History Museum, Albert Memorial and Holborn Viaduct. Find information about the company here. Some apprentices and employees are listed but Robert Smith isn’t one of them.

Arthur died the following year but in 1881, at 13 King Edward Street, Southwark, there are five Smith children, including Alice Edith, mentioned yesterday. Each child has a FamilySearch ID generated by a christening source. The parents have six IDs each – the sixth linked to their marriage. I can make a start on building Robert’s pedigree on the Shared Tree and hope to find some grandchildren. Here is another of his stone offspring – I don’t think he needs an introduction.

Water 35 · Glen Gardens

The True Worth of Robert Smith

I took the opportunity of an unscheduled trip to Beverley yesterday to photograph more of the stone figures gracing the west front of the Minster. I posted an image of two of them three years ago (Stone 5).

Here is yesterday’s picture of the girl with the distaff.

And this is her husband.

Our great great however many times grandparents.

They were carved about 120 years ago by Robert SMITH. In the sixtieth year of Victoria’s reign, The Rev. Canon Henry Edward NOLLOTH observed that “there was a hard and unsatisfying look in the scores of richly canopied but empty niches” outside the great church. He put forward a plan.

The project was well taken up, and besides the donations of residents, statues were given by the Archbishop of York, the Archdeacon of the East Riding, the Guild of St. John of Beverley, the Historical Society of Beverley (Massachusetts), &c.; while, among local donors, may be mentioned the Freemasons of Beverley, the women of Beverley, and the vicar’s Men’s Bible Class. The committee were fortunate enough to secure the services of Mr. Robert Smith, a sculptor of great experience under several of our most eminent architects; and in the opinion of good judges, the figures have the impress of true Gothic feeling, and will compare favourably with any similar work.

Beverley and its Minster, H. E. Nolloth, pp18 & 19

You can find photographs of 99 identified individuals here with their “symbols” noted. Robert carved the majority of them but he may not have completed the task. His death in 1909 was unexpected, after a short illness.

He was, by one account, a retiring sort of man and I had great difficulty tracking him. Only the 1901 census pins him down with certainty in time and space. He is in Eastgate, Beverley, aged 53, boarding with Mary COLLIER, 48. Both are married but both spouses are elsewhere on census night. (Mary has four children.) The transcription unhelpfully gives London as Robert’s birthplace but the page image shows “Gray’s Inn Road” has been added. There are several London Roberts born in 1847/8 but, it seems, only one in Clapham, a sub-district of St Pancras Registration District. In 1851 wood sawyer John Smith heads a household in Sidney Street, St Pancras, with wife Susan, three sons and two daughters. Only sister Ann is younger than Robert. I can’t be sure that this is Robert’s birth family, and I do not have a clear idea of his journeying in the fifty years between these two censuses. Probate provides a clue to the woman he married.

Alice Edith is the daughter he had with Selina Hannah FARMER. There is a death registration for Selina H. Smith in Eastry, Kent in 1910. She was 61 years old, and therefore a year younger that Robert.

For a man who had carved seventy life size figures for one of the most beautiful churches in England, Robert’s “effects” don’t appear to have been worth much; in today’s money – about £11,400. But a price cannot be put on the pleasure he has given the countless thousands of people fortunate to have seen his work.

Here are two of my favourites.

This is Zebulon. One of Filey’s most successful fishermen, William Jenkinson WATKINSON (Billy Butter), had a steam drifter called Zebulun.

Yesterday I wondered what on earth (or in heaven) this ancient was holding. It is Ezekiel with his wheel within wheels. I want to know more.

Neither Robert nor Canon Nolloth appear to be appropriately represented on the FamilySearch Shared Tree.

Mammal 9 · Bonzo

The second reincarnation of Bonzo – “the largest seal in England”