Mahomet Thomas Phillips Part 2

Robert Waddington and Heather Hughes

“There is so much of his work in churches, chapels and schools all over the world that one could say of him what was said of Wren – ‘Those who seek his monument, look around’”. [1]

Training to be a sculptor

Following on from Post 1, this post takes up the story of Mahomet Thomas Phillips’s life in the UK. According to the 1891 census, he was living in Camp Street, Broughton, Salford with his father and cousins, Paul and Ernest Harrison. Richard Cobden Phillips was listed as the head of the household and his profession was given as photographer. He died in 1912. [ii] Mahomet’s sister Nené is listed in the 1901 census as a student in Southport, in the Ormskirk registration district. She was a boarder at Portland Street. Her name is transcribed as Ada Nina Phillips. She married in 1907 and settled at New Earswick, York, a model village founded by chocolate manufacturer and philanthropist Joseph Rowntree.

Mahomet attended the Manchester School of Arts, studying textile design under the eminent decorative artist, Walter Crane. Crane taught him for three years, and advised to him to continue his creative career in sculpture. [iii]  Mahomet’s uncle, John Searle Raglan Phillips, later the editor of the Yorkshire Post, introduced him to George Walter Milburn, a well-known sculptor in York. [iv] Between 1896 and 1909, Mahomet studied under Milburn and at the York School of Art. [v]  A fellow pupil was W.P. Horridge, who would become head of the carving department at E. Bowman & Sons in Stamford and would later bring Mahomet to Bowman. [vi]

While at York, Mahomet demonstrated a sporting prowess. He was a three times rowing champion, played football for the Ebor Wanderers and excelled at boxing, wrestling and ju jitsu.[vii]  He shared this interest in combat sports with his cousin Ernest Harrison, who was a black belt in Kodokan judo and one of the first westerners to write about Japanese martial arts, publishing a number of guides on judo and karate. [viii]

Family group
Phillips family and friends, early 1920s. Courtesy Phillips family

During this time, Mahomet also met his wife, Mary Ann Morley. [ix] She was born in Heworth, York, in 1875 to Thomas and Jane Morley. Her father was a boot maker. Mahomet and Mary married in 1899 and had three children; Nene Doris (b.1900), Lancelot Barros (1902) and Francisco Morley (1904). [x] Around 1910-11, the family moved to 11 York Villas, Dowsett Road, Tottenham, London. They are listed there in the 1911 census. He studied at the Polytechnic and London County Council School of Art and became a member of the Polytechnic sketching club. A figure that he had hurriedly modelled was entered in a national competition without his knowledge and won a bronze medal. He also won the Gilbert Garrett modelling prize. [xi]

Career

By 1916, the family had moved to Peterborough. [xii]  Mahomet worked on a number of projects independently and for companies such as J. Thompson & Sons of Peterborough. One of these was the Edith Cavell memorial tablet in Peterborough Cathedral, dedicated in 1916. [xiii] This was of course during the First World War and in 1916, Mahomet was conscripted. The upper age limit for conscription was 41; as he was nearing this age, he appealed – but lost. [xiv]  He served in the Royal Field Artillery as a signaller and attained the rank of corporal; his medal card is held at The National Archives. [xv]

War Memorial
Sleaford War Memorial. Heather Hughes

Following the war, Mahomet returned to sculpting on projects with a number of companies. For Maxey & Sons, he sculpted the figures on the war memorial in the Market Square in Sleaford, unveiled in 1922 (during this commission, he had an accident to his wrist and the work was delayed). [xvi] The following year he was working on grotesques for the parapet of St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, including a falcon on the north side and a unicorn on the south side.[xvii] Other work from the early 1920s includes the Hereford War Memorial (1922) and a reredos for the Anglican Cathedral of St John the Baptist, St John’s, Newfoundland (1923).  His surviving day book lists the hours he and his son, Lancelot Barros Phillips, worked week by week.

Grotesque sculpture
Grotesque for St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Courtesy Phillips family

Mahomet would work up to 70 hours a week.  His son would work up to 44 hours a week. The only breaks taken were for religious holidays, such as Christmas Day. The work on the reredos for St John’s Newfoundland alone took Mahomet 1,543 hours over 34 weeks, plus 1,236 hours by Lancelot. [xviii]

He had also started to work for Bowman & Sons in Stamford.  [xix] Bowman was a highly respected and prolific company specialising in church architecture and fittings, as well as civil and private projects. Mahomet worked with leading architects and designers, including Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Sir Charles Nicholson and Wilfred Bond. [xx] An early work for Bowman was the Grantham War Memorial, in the churchyard of St Wulfram’s,  unveiled in November 1920. [xxi] He became head of sculpting at Bowman and continued to work at the company until his death. During the Second World War, he served in the Civil Defence First Aid and the Home Guard. [xxii]

Mahomet Thomas Phillips in his studio. Courtesy Phillips family

Although the long hours of work left him little recreational time, Mahomet enjoyed playing music. He made a complete quartet of a violin, viola, cello and double bass and taught himself to play them.  He performed in orchestral concerts and Gilbert & Sullivan operettas in Stamford. Several leading violinists of the time played on his violin, including Sybil Eaton of Tolethorpe Hall, near Stamford. [xxiii]

Death

The family were living at 1 Rock Terrace in Stamford [xxiv] when Mahomet died on 7 June 1943. At his funeral service, the rector of St. George’s in Stamford, Rev Rees-Jones said that his three greatest characteristics were his great ability, his extreme humility and his keen love of little children. [xxv] He and Mary Ann, who died on 17 November 1954, are buried together in Stamford cemetery. Their headstone is an unfinished limestone block, seemingly waiting for a sculptor to work on it. Only the side bearing the inscription has been worked smooth. The headstone is surmounted by a disc-shaped sundial.

Verified works of Mahomet Thomas Phillips in the UK (alphabetical order of town/city).

Note: this list has been compiled by a team of researchers on the Reimagining Lincolnshire project, led by Robert Waddington. We have done our best to be as accurate as we can and expect this list to grow.

Place Building/space Object Date Ref
Airdale Figure of crucified Christ late 1930s – early 40s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Balby St John The Evangelist Church:  

Rood figures

1938 Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit
Figure of Bishop Edward King 1930s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit
North Yorkshire Bolton Hall Lord Bolton’s Coat of Arms Illustrated London News article, Phillips Family Archive
Bradford Cathedral Figure of St Peter on Bishop Boyd Carpenter memorial late 1930s – early 40s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Bradford Leigh Wiltshire Figures for reredos 1930s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Cardiff Reredos c.1922-24 Day book, Phillips family archive
Croydon Font cover c.1922-24 Day book, Phillips family archive
Dunholme St Chad’s Church Rood screen figures Pevsner: Lincolnshire, 1989 edition and Dunholme Church Guide “Welcome to St Chad’s Dunholme: A History of the Church Building”
Eastbourne St Phillip’s Church Figure of Christ 1930s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit
Epsom St Martin of Tours Church Reredos 1930s, Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Gedling, Notts All Hallows Church Reredos panels c.1922-24 Day book,  Phillips family archive).
Grantham St Wulfram’s churchyard War Memorial 1920 Imperial War Museum War Memorial database
Hampstead St John’s Church Headstone of Temple Lushington Moore c.1922 Day book, Phillips family archive
Harrogate War Memorial sailor panel c.1922-24 Day book, Phillips family archive
Hereford St Peter’s Square War Memorial: figures 1922 Day book, Phillips family archive
Leeds Headingly Shaw Road, Home of John Searle Raglan Phillips Sun dial Phillips Family Archive
Leicester St Martin’s Church Figure of St Martin c.1922-24 Day book, Phillips family archive
London Munster Square Mary Magdalene Church Reredos 1930s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Huddersfield Mold Green Christ Church Reredos figures and panels above altar 1942 RIBA Bowmans deposit at V&A; Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit
Nottingham St George’s Church Figure 1938 Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit
Nottingham Nottingham Priory Three figures including bishops late 1930s – early 40s. Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Peterborough Cathedral Edith Cavell Memorial tablet 1916 Phillips family archive; Imperial War Museum War Memorial database
Peterborough Cathedral Plaster models of Cathedral Peterborough Standard, 9 September 1938, p. 9
Peterborough All Saints Church Rood Late 1930s –  early 40s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Peterborough Orton Hall Cornice 1922-1924 Day book, Phillips family archive
Peterborough St John’s Church Chancel reredos and rood Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Salisbury Cathedral Madonna and child (part of a screen) Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Country Life Journal 12 December 1936, p.26
Sleaford St Denys church Font cover 1923 Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Mercury 12 October 1923.
Sleaford Market Square War Memorial 1920 Phillips family archive, Art UK website.
Southend on Sea St Mary’s Church Prittlewell Figure of Madonna and child late 1930s – early 40s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Southwark Cathedral Font cover Phillips family archive
Stamford St George’s Church Figures Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Stamford Living June 2017
Stamford St George’s Church WWII War Memorial tablet incorporating George & the Dragon carving by the late Mahomet Phillips 1949 Stamford Mercury 8 April 1949, p.4, Stamford Mercury 29 April 1949.
Stamford St Martin’s church Screen including figures of St Martin and the beggar 1930s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Phillips family archive
Stamford St Martin’s Church Pulpit including figures of Four Bishops 1930s Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit
Stamford St Mary’s Church Figures Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit; Country Life Journal 12 December 1936 p.26.
Thirsk Thrickleby Park (now demolished) Unspecified work Country Life Journal 12 December 1936 p.26
Todmorden Christ Church graveyard Angel for grave of Thomas Cowley Stephen Art UK website database

 

Windsor Castle, St George’s Chapel Parapet grotesques 1923 Day book, Phillips family archive
Windsor Imperial Service College Rood c.1924 Day book, Phillips family archive
Windsor Imperial Service College Dr Keeton tablet c.1924 Day book, Phillips family archive

Verified works of Mahomet Thomas Phillips abroad

Newfoundland Anglican Cathedral of St John The Baptist Figures for reredos 1923 Day book, Phillips family archive
Istanbul English church War Memorial English church Lincolnshire Archives Bowmans Deposit

 

 

[1] Laurence Tebbutt, appreciation of Mahomet Thomas Phillips in the Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archives.

[ii] https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBC%2F1891%2F0022137064; https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FLANCS%2FMANC%2FCREM%2F006153 (accessed 21 March 2022)

[iii] Obituary of Mahomet Thomas Phillips, Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Mercury, 11 June 1943; Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archives.

[iv] Obituary of Mahomet Thomas Phillips, Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Mercury, 11 June 1943; Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archives.

[v] Yorkshire Gazette, 29 August 1896, p. 6; Yorkshire Herald  26 August 1899, p.3; Driffield Times 14 October 1905; https://en.everybodywiki.com/Mahomet_Thomas_Phillips (accessed 16 March 2022)

[vi]  Obituary of Mahomet Thomas Phillips, Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Mercury, 11 June 1943; Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archives.

[vii]  Obituary of Mahomet Thomas Phillips, Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Mercury, 11 June 1943; Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archives.

[viii] JCS the great enablers: E.H. Harrison at. https://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsharrison_apr121953.htm (accessed 17 October 2022)

[ix] Mahomet Thomas Phillips at  https://en.everybodywiki.com/Mahomet_Thomas_Phillips (accessed 17 October 2022)

[x] Mahomet Thomas Phillips at https://en.everybodywiki.com/Mahomet_Thomas_Phillips (accessed 17 October 2022) and freebmd.org database of civil registration

[xi] Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archives.

[xii] Peterborough Express 21 June 1916, p.3

[xiii] The Edith Cavell memorial tablet is listed on the Imperial War Museum Register of Memorials at https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/46481; the stonemason is noted as Mr. T. Phillips, Huntly Grove, Peterborough.

[xiv] Peterborough Express 21 June 1916, p.3.

[xv] TNA/W0372/15/226815.

[xvi] The Sleaford Gazette and South Lincolnshire Advertiser 24 September 1921; drawing in the Phillips family archive;  https://artuk.org/discover/artists/messrs-w-h-maxey-son.

[xvii] Day Book and photographs, Phillips family archive

[xviii] Day book, Phillips family archive

[xix] Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archives.

[xx] Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archive and Mahomet Thomas Phillips at https://en.everybodywiki.com/Mahomet_Thomas_Phillips (accessed 17 October 2022)

[xxi] Imperial War Museum Register of Memorials at https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/20574 (accessed 17 October 2022)

[xxii] Obituary of Mahomet Thomas Phillips, Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Mercury, 11 June 1943.

[xxiii] Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archives

[xxiv]  Daffurn, J. Stamford Tenants: A History of Rock Terrace and its Occupants (Eptex, 2020), pp. 109-112.

[xxv] Obituary of Mahomet Thomas Phillips, Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Mercury, 11 June 1943; Bowman Deposit, Lincolnshire County Archives.

 

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