Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Albert Toft
(1869-1949)
Born in Birmingham, the brother of the painter, J Alphonsus Toft, he trained in Wedgewood's pottery and studied sculpture at the South Kensington Schools, under Edouard Lanteri.

Toft set up at the Trafalgar Studios in Manresa Road, London, with his brother. After becoming a successful sculptor, one of his addresses was given as The Savage Club, 1 Carlton House Terrace.

A sculptor of war memorials and public monuments, he executed the Boer War Memorials at Ipswich (1905) and Birmingham (1906), and the statues of Robert Owen, New Lanark (1900) and Queen Victoria at Nottingham (1906).

His only commission for public work in Glasgow was for the bronze bust, figures and relief panels for the Sir William Pearce Cenotaph (1890).

Now lost, the cenotaph stood inside the main gates of Craigton Cemetery in Govan (Pearce is buried in Gillingham, Kent, his grave marked with a Renaisssance style monument in Scottish granite weighing thirteen tonnes).

Designed by Glasgow architect John Keppie, with McGilvray & Ferris executing its granite work; the cenotaph incorporated a copy of the marble bust of Pearce commissioned by his family from Toft in 1889, and which was exhibited at the RGIFA in 1891.

Together with this were four relief panels illustrating Shipbuilding. These included depictions of ships built at Pearce's Fairfield yard, such as HMS Marathon, as well as a number of portraits of local dignitaries and Pearce and his workforce. Also included was a panel with the Pearce family crest in low relief.

Surmounting the cenotaph's dome was a bronze ship in full sail, with four nude boys standing above the corners of the monument representing, Labour, Design, Engineering and Navigation, of which Labour was reproduced in bronzed plaster and exhibited at the RGIFA , as Young Vulcan (with his hammer and anvil), in 1893 (Cat. no. 867, sale price, 31).

The Pearce Cenotaph was demolished in the 1970s, after becoming a target for vandals who helped themselves to Toft's bronzes.

Sources:

  • Honeyman & Keppie Job Books (1881-94), 1 July, 1890, p. 134
  • Govan Press, Sir William Pearce, Bart., Memorial Craigton Cemetery, Govan, 20 June, 1891, p. 5(ill.)
  • Govan Press, [copy of Pearce bust], 16 November, 1889, p. 5
  • Gray
  • Billcliffe
  • Williamson et al.
  • Information from Craigton Cemetery attendant

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