In my last few blogs I’ve been looking at the life and work of Lawrence George Summers who was Watson Fothergill’s assistant and an architect in his own right, albeit a somewhat less flamboyant one.
The last installment left off in New Basford, from where I walked back to Sherwood Rise. I passed Fothergill’s Norris Homes and further down Berridge Road at the corner with Cedar Road I found a large three storey block which originally comprised Five Dwellng Houses and a Shop (LGS16). Summers didn’t sign the drawings but there is evidence that he worked on them in 1902. The client was Mr George Hayes.
Over on the other side of Mansfield Road, into Mapperley Park can be found what is likely to be the latest building to be signed off by LG Summers. The house built for Mrs Eleanor Ellenberger (Watson Fothergill’s 4th daughter) on Thorncliffe Road (LGS29).
The date stones are marked 1930. Given that plans were submitted in 1929 after Fothergill’s death in 1928, it can perhaps be assumed that the house was built with his inheritance.
Of all the houses built by Summers that I’ve found so far, this last one seems to show the least of Fothergill’s influence, but by the 1920s fashions in architecture had moved on considerable from the Gothic and Vernacular styles that were interpretted in the work coming out of the George Street Office in the late 19th century.
In 1894 Eleanor Fothergill Watson Fothergill (as her maiden name became when her father had his moment at the deed poll) married the German-born (but naturalised British) violin teacher Georg Hieronymus Ellenberger (1862-1918). They lived in Nottingham at Lindum house (at the corner of Burns Street near All Saints Church from at least 1899) and towards then end of his life they lived in Ecceleshall, Sheffield.
Georg(e) Ellenberger was a pupil of the violinist Joseph Joachim (a collaborator of Joannes Brahms) and was himself violin teacher to the young Hucknall-born Eric Coates around 1898. Coates would take the train from Hucknall to Nottingham for his lessons twice a week. Coates became a composer, and is probably best known for the Dam Busters March.
After Georg(e)’s death, Eleanor appears to have returned to Nottingham. She died in 1946. It was her son, Brigadier George Fothergill Ellenberger who transcribed some of Fothergill’s family history notes (this typed document is held at the local studies library in Angel Row.)
In the last blog I found out some more about LG Summers’ family background. This time I’m going to take a look at some of his buildings.
Starting from Sherwood, I went for a wander to find some of the buildings designed by Lawrence George Summers which are still standing in Nottingham. Around the corner from the larger blocks of Fothergill houses on Mansfield Road is a small house on Bingham Road which has characteristics easily mistaken for Fothergill, a decorative turret and a vernacular gable with brick nogging in distinctive red bricks with black timber.
But this little dwelling at 16 Bingham Road (LGS25) is the work of Summers. Applying for planning in August 1921, the builder was W Hayes of Mapperley and the client was Mr Thomas M Basnett. It seems that this was on the land that was owned by Fothergill, part of the larger parcel where the Villas of 1906 were built.
A further foray into Carrington and eventually I find the next house on my list, on Herbert Road (LGS12). Little seems to be known about this, other than plans were approved in 1897 and the client was Mr J B Hughes.
The next house on the trail was on Central Avenue (LGS22), not far away. This was built for Gilbert L Summers, LG’s nephew, in 1914. Summers marked his name on the application with “ARIBA”. After Fothergill retired LG signs off with his qualification. In the 1911 census Gilbert was living at 44 Central Avenue with his widowed father Frederick (LG’s brother), his sister Evelyn and his niece (LG’s sister Lola’s daughter) Clara Richardson lived-in as their housekeeper. (It was common practice that an unmarried female member of the extended family would live-in to provide domestic help to unmarried or widowed male relatives.)
Gilbert Lawrence Summers is listed in the 1911 census as a Sewing Machine Mechanic. Perhaps he was working in the family lace firm in New Basford. By 1939, when a register was taken, Gilbert appears to be living in Wiverton Road (around the corner from other Summers buildings in Berridge Road) with his wife Lily.
Many of Lawrence Summers’s buildings (at least the ones he signs off himself) were for members of his extended family in the New Basford area.
Over on Duke Street, a little further up the street from the site of the house where LG was born, are “Two Cottages” (LGS15). Built in 1899, these three storey houses stand out in a street that is now mostly light industrial buildings and modern additions.
At the time, Summers was signing himself as “Architect of Corporation Oaks”. In 1881 various members of the Summers family were living on Duke Street. The numbering of the houses has changed and perhaps the old family home was demolished. His sister Lola, Mrs Richardson, and her family were living at 2 Duke Street, and his father George Summers with second wife Louisa, plus Lawrence’s younger brothers Frederick and Alexander were next door at number 4. In the 1891 census LG is living with his brother Frederick and his family at number 4, while their father, George, is at number 2 with Louisa and their 9 year old son William. Did they subsequently move up Duke Street to the new cottages that LG designed with himself as the client? In 1910, Summers applied to extend the Duke Street houses into shops (LGS21), again he himself was the client, which suggested that members of the Summers family were indeed living in the cottages. As far as I can tell these are now the adjacent property which has been turned back into dwellings. The shape of the shop fronts remain, albeit much altered.
Lawrence’s youngest brother Alexander was still living in New Basford in 1901 and is listed on the census as a Pork Butcher and Shopkeeper, so perhaps the shop was his?
Following the road, past what are now mostly motor garages in older industrial buildings, some dated 1840s and some 1870s, an indication that this area was already industrial at the time the Summers family lived here when Lawrence was a child. His father’s lace business was almost certainly here.
Down at the bottom on Northgate, it is just possible to recognise the small two storey factory (LGS3), that Summers designed for James Allen in 1882.
At this time Summers is signing himself as “Architect, 11 South Parade Nottingham” (South Parade makes up the side of the Market Square that runs up the opposite side to Long Row). Summers was admitted to RIBA in 1881 but isn’t using letters after his name at this point. It is assumed he was in the Clinton Street office with Fothergill from around 1879, having also been articled as a pupil to Issac Charles Gilbert from 1869. (His studies at the Mechanics Institute and Nottingham School of Art were running concurrently).
Look out for the next installment of my blog as I carry on into Mapperley Park on the trial of LG Summers…
I hope to organise a walk featuring some of Fothergill and Summers buildings in and around Sherwood, Sherwood Rise and Mapperley Park later this year – sign up to my mailing list for the latest news or “like” the Facebook page.
Some detective work looking for the rather elusive “architect’s assistant”.
I’ve been using some online archives to see if there is anything else out there about Lawrence G. Summers and after some digging I think I’ve come up with a few clues.
Starting with Ancestry.com (which is available to use for free in Nottinghamshire Libraries and is an invaluable starting point if you enjoy a bit of basic historical sleuthing), I found Summers in the census and tried to make a few dates add up. The problem with online research is that often transcription of handwriting (the speedy pen of the census taker, the scratchy hand of the baptismal registrar) is full of errors. I eventually tracked Summers down in the 1861 census – at age 6, living with his parents, brother and sister at 80 Duke Street, New Basford. (Later in his career Summers will be responsible for several building projects in Duke Street, more on these in the next blog.)
By 1871, the Summers family address has become 83 Duke Street, 16 year old Lawrence is already noted as an “architects clerk” and he has gained another younger brother. I’ve not had much luck with the 1881 census and finding L.G. in 1891 was a little harder as his name has been transcribed as “Laurence”, but he turns up living with his younger brother Frederick and his family, still on Duke Street. L.G. is 35 by now and is still noted as an architects clerk. His brother (and his father, who lives next door) are both listed as “Lace Warpers”. In a trade listing from 1899 Summers seems at last to have moved out and he is listed as “Architect’s Assistant” living at 8 Corporation Oaks (while brother Fred is now of “Summers and Son” and is still at Duke Street).
All this tallies with what Darren Turner has compiled in his book. But what of Summers the man? Who was his wife? And why does he show up as living alone as a single man aged 56 in the Gresham Hotel on Carrington Street in the 1911 census? (This one was a challenge as the whole page has been very poorly transcribed with New Basford transposed to “New Brentford” and architect read as “servant”, making it look like Summers worked in the hotel.)
To find out about a life, you often have to read about a person’s death, and so it is with Summers, the most that was ever written about him was after his funeral. When Summers died in September 1940, his death made the front pages of the local papers. The notices list the mourners (articles can be found on The British Newspaper Archive – also free to use inside Nottinghamshire Libraries) and from here I was able to narrow down the search. Summers’ wife is only ever refered to as “the widow” which seems to have been standard practice at the time. But luckily the familial relationships of the other people present were noted, so we can discover that Summers’ brother in law was a Mr Lewis Byng. More plugging away at Ancestry eventually stumps up the jackpot. Mrs Summers, nee Louise Martha Byng was married to Lawrence George Summers in 1927, when she was 56 and he was 73. This was a year after the death of her father, Joseph Tussaud Byng a banker with 12 children, and just a short time before the death of Watson Fothergill.
Lawrence and Louise appear again in the 1939 register now living together at 59 Edwards Lane. Lawrence died the following year, in November 1940 and Louise lived on until 1955, until the age of 84.
Looking at the Ancestry entries for the Byng family, one name stood out as it had also come up in searches of the Newspaper Archive with reference to the theatre… one of Louise Byng’s younger (half-) brothers was Douglas Coy Byng and as it turns out he was on the stage… in fact he was a celebrated Pantomime Dame, singer, cabaret star and female impersonator famed for his double entrendres! Here he is talking about the panto dame tradition in 1982:
And here is a performance of a comic song!
Summers’ Brother in Law Douglas Byng had a long and illustrious show biz career, both he and L.G. Summers were at J.T. Byng’s funeral so perhaps they met?
A visit to London and I pulled in quite a few Victorian landmarks including Thomas Carlyle’s House, using the last couple of days on my Art Fund Card (highly recommended if you visit a lot of museums).
Benjamin Creswick, as you will remember if you’ve been on the Watson Fothergill Walk or if you read my earlier blog, sculpted the terracottas on two of Watson Fothergill’s Nottingham Buildings. His masterpiece however is the fantastic frieze that resides on the front of the Worshipful Company of Cutler’s Hall near St Paul’s Cathedral. I took a detour after an excellent walking tour of the Square Mile of the City of London with London Walks to have a look, and it did not disappoint.
One of the most interesting discoveries I’ve made while researching the buildings of Watson Fothergill is the identity of the sculptor of the terra cotta panels on two of his Nottingham city centre buildings.
It turns out that the panels on the Parliament Street side of Furley & Co. grocers (now Lloyds Bank) and Fothergill’s Office on George Street were both created by Benjamin Creswick (1853-1946).
Creswick was born in Sheffield in 1853, the son of a spectacle frame maker. He was apprenticed to the knife-grinding trade. At the time this was difficult and dangerous work, often leading to lung disease from the inhalation of stone dust or the risk of serious injury (even death) from the breaking or disintegration of the stone grinding wheel.
After showing early signs of lung disease, Creswick visited a doctor. The doctor asked if Creswick had any other skills by which he might earn his living and Creswick produced from his pocket a small bust of Dante modelled in terra cotta. So impressed was the doctor that he ordered a bust of himself from Creswick.
Creswick had been attending sculpture classes at Sheffield School of Art. He also visited the Walkley Museum, the art gallery set up in Sheffield by John Ruskin. The eminent art critic had set out to feed the minds of the working men of Sheffield and the city is still the home of The Guild of St George and a large portion of Ruskin’s collection.
The Walkey’s curators, Henry and Emily Swan, persuaded Creswick to exhibit his work in 1876. Ruskin was encouraging and the Swans lent Creswick a photograph of the art critic and from this is was able to model a small portrait bust. Impressed by this, Ruskin invited Creswick to his home at Brantwood in Cumbria to model a portrait bust from life.
Ruskin continued to help Creswick, connecting him with employers in Bewdley and supporting his family by paying for lodgings and a studio at Coniston. Ruskin helped to teach Creswick and sought patrons and commissions for him. His aim was to make buildings “sparkle with interest,” and he went on to create sculpture for several buildings, including a bust of Thomas Carlyle which is still attached to the philosopher and historian’s house in Cheyne Row, London. He also created portrait busts of Homer and Dante for Leeds City Library.
One of Creswick’s major commissions was for the frieze on the Cutlers’ Hall, in London (1887). Possibly his best known work, it depicts the various stages of the cutlery manufacturing process, with particular attention to the harsh working conditions which the artist himself had experienced working at the grindstones. Other notable Creswick sculptures (just about) survive in Birmingham on the Bloomsbury Library and the Handsworth Library.
Little is known about his association with Watson Fothergill. I contacted Annie Creswick Dawson, the sculptor’s great granddaughter who has been researching Creswick’s story for many years. She has travelled the world searching archives and libraries to find out about the artist’s life and to locate all of his surviving works – these include carvings, terra cotta sculptures, bronzes, friezes, wall decoration and metalworks.
Annie confirmed that the Nottingham terra cottas are indeed Benjamin Creswick’s work, but that they had been mistakenly cited in a study as being located in Northampton, so it had taken a while for her to find them. Consequently they are not mentioned in her book on Benjamin’s Creswick’s life and work and we can only surmise how Creswick came to work on Fothergill’s buildings. Did Fothergill have any connections with John Ruskin and the Arts and Crafts movement?
From 1895-7 (the period when Furley & Co shop and Fothergill’s Office were being built) Creswick was working in Birmingham and was Professor of Sculpture at the Art College. Did Fothergill come across Creswick’s work through artistic connections? Perhaps we shall never find out, but if anyone has any information please get in touch with Dr Stuart Eagles, a companion of The Guild of St George, who has taken over the Benjamin Creswick website from Annie.
Many thanks to Annie Creswick Dawson for her help and thanks to The Guild of St George for the copy of her book (with Paul Dawson), “Benjamin Creswick”.