Blue plaques to honour Leeds architectural sculptors who left their mark on some of city's most iconic buildings

One of the many joys of walking around the centre of Leeds is stopping to look up at the city's Victorian buildings and marvelling at at sculptural detail that adorns them.

Monday, 8th July 2019, 1:10 pm
PICS: Leeds Civic Trust

Many of these intricate designs were undertaken by the Mawer Group of sculptors whose work provided decorative stonework for many important secular, religious andcivic buildings around the city including Leeds Town Hall.

They included pioneer sculptor Catherine Mawer (1803-1877), who was not only a sculptor in her own right, but managed the family stone yard on Great George Street following the death of her husband Robert.

A stone self-portrait of Catherine Mawer.

Now two blue plaques are now to unveiled recognising the contribution Catherine and her colleagues made to the architectural landscape in the city and beyond.

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The special plaques will be unveiled at the Henry Moore Institute on July 11 by artists Jill McKnight and Pippa Hale as part of the inaugural Yorkshire Sculpture International festival. The plaques will then placed on two prominent city centre buildings.

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Martin Hamilton, director of Leeds Civic Trust, said: “We admire the grandeur of our Victorian buildings but forget to consider the detail that makes them so special. These plaques recognise the work of a group of highly-skilled sculptors who dominated this industry in the 19th century Leeds but who are largely unknown to the general public.”

Detail of the stone capitals carved by Catherine Mawer on Leeds Town Hall.

He added: “These unveiling take place during the Yorkshire Sculpture International - a new festival that celebrates the region’s strong reputation for sculpture. The Mawer Group were highly talented commercial sculptors who enlivened some of the most prominent buildings and structures in the North of England.

"They may not be as well known as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, but their impact on the built environment is just as significant.”

Sculptor, Pippa Hale, said: "Leeds has a long and proud sculptural history and the work of Catherine Mawer deserves greater recognition.

30 Park Place, which includes a sculpture by William Ingle.

"She not only produced some of the finest Victorian sculpture but also managed the family stoneworks business in the 1800s: two truly remarkable achievements at a time when middle class women were tied to the home and their domestic duties rather pursuing professional creative lives."

The plaques have been sponsored by The Chambers and Linda O’Carroll - who first suggested that Catherine Mawer should be recognised in this way.