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September 22, 2016, 04:16 PM

Macauley, Morgan and Waide benches by Rotherham's finest

By Thornton Kay

Four seasons of farm workers on the Baths Foundry bench [photo SPA

One of a pair of Morgan Macauley and Waide benches sold at 9,000 the pair [photo SPA
Godfrey Sykes frieze for Sheffield Mechanics Institute [photo Hallam Uni

South Yorkshire, UK - At the opening of the first exhibition of its kind at Rotherham Mechanics Hall in Febuary 1877, it was announced that Rotherham school of art was first of 653 classes in Britain by the examiners of South Kensington Museum. This emulated the nearby Sheffield school of art one of whose artists, Godfrey Sykes, was a Sheffield orphan, and the sculptor and designer of metalwork, Alfred Stevens, who produced stove grates in the city.

The Sheffield and Rotherham region of south Yorkshire had a history of ironworking due to the quality of the local iron ore and availability of good coal. Both towns had a number of successful foundries some of which produced ornamental work including Rotherham's James Yates from the 1840s, whose work appeared in the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the Baths Foundry which was built on the site of Rotherham's old public baths in 1846 and was in operation to 1903.

In 1870 the Bath Foundry's owners, Messrs Morgan Macaulay and Waide, registered design number 238947 for a cast iron bench with cartouches of the four seasons as farm labourers, in the manner of Godfrey Sykes (1824-66), a pupil and master at the Sheffield school of art, whose seminal work was the south facade of the Henry Cole building at the Victoria and Albert museum in which workers are featured and where he died. In 1875 John Ruskin set up a worker's art museum in nearby Walkley. The bench seems to have combined the classic South Kensington style with one of the themes of the Preraphaelites - the honest worker.

The 1870s was an era of worker's rights and dissenting, and in 1871 the Baths Foundry was one of the earliest adopters of the 'nine hours movement' (or 54 hours a week) which restricted the number of work hours, following years of disputes and strikes in the engineering trades in north-east England.

One of the Baths Foundry partners, James Clifford Morgan, was a colourful commercial traveller who rose to become mayor of Rotherham. He was famously roughed up by police and arrested when he insisted on trying to shake hands with the Duchess of Teck and the young Princess Mary who had stopped briefly at Rotherham station on their way to stay with Earl Fitzwilliam at nearby Wentworth Woodhouse.

This week a pair of white-painted cast iron Four Seasons garden seats made at the Baths Foundry by Messrs Morgan Macaulay and Waide (aka Wade), registered design 238947 in 1870, sold at Summers Place Auctions for a hammer price of 9,000 the pair - the highest garden seat lot at the live auction. A medieval skull - the earliest of a number at the sale - sold for 2,400.

Summers Place Auctions

Story Type:  Auction Report

ID: 96913

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