Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Sir William Goscombe John

Born in Cardiff, the son of a stone carver and sculptor, with whom he initially trained.

He later studied at Cardiff School of Art and, from 1882-9, at Lambeth School of Art and the RA Schools, where he was a student-assistant to architectural sculptor and tutor William Nicholl.

Winning a Gold Medal and a travelling scholarship, 1889, he completed his studies in Paris under Anton Mercie, 1890-91.

He executed a number of public statues and memorials throughout the UK.

These include the monuments to composer Sir Arthur Sullivan in St. Paul's Cathedral (1902) and Embankment Gardens, London (1903), and the King's Liverpool Regiment, Liverpool (1905).

Also for Liverpool, he executed an equestrian statue of King Edward VII (1916); the Engine Room Heroes Memorial (1916) and the statues of King George V and Queen Mary at the entrance to the Mersey Tunnel (1939).

For Glasgow he produced the statue of James Reid, of Auchterarder, the locomotive builder, which was erected in Springburn Park (1902-3). This includes figurative bronze reliefs, the subjects being references to Reid's philanthropic works and career.

The bronze sketch for the Reid statue is in the collection of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries (reg. no. S.289).

Another Glasgow work The Elf, a marble copy of his bronze RA Diploma piece of 1898, is in the collection of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries and is on display in the Kibble Palace in Glasgow's Botanic Gardens (reg. no. S.77).

Exhibited at the RA in 1899, an etching of the figure was included on the base of the sculptor's Self Portrait (1942).

His architectural sculpture includes work on Cardiff Castle, for architect William Burges; Carvings on Electra House, London (1902-3); and the statues of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at the main entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum (1899- 1909).

After the Boer War he executed the Royal Army Medical Corps Memorial, Aldershot, and the Coldstream Guards Memorial, St. Paul's Cathedral, both in 1905.

A member of the Art Workers Guild, Goscombe John was elected ARA , 1899, RA , 1909. Knighted in 1911, the year in which he modelled the medal commemorating the investiture of the Prince of Wales, he was awarded the RBS Gold Medal in 1942.

Goscombe John's The Elf was cleaned and provided with a new pedestal in 2005-7, as part of the refurbishment of the Kibble Palace, but his statue of James Reid in Springburn Park is badly in need of restoration.


Works in our Database:
1: Botanic Gardens (North Kelvinside),
Kibble Palace
The Elf (1899)
Sculptor: WG John
2: Springburn Park (Springburn),
Springburn Park
Monument to James Reid of Auchterarder (1903)
Sculptor: WG John
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