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Philip Lindsey Clark’s Sculptures in Widegate St

March 23, 2012
by the gentle author

Next time you pass through Widegate St, walking from Bishopsgate towards Artillery Passage on your way to Spitalfields, lift up your eyes to see the four splendid sculptures of bakers by Philip Lindsey Clark (1889 – 1977) upon the former premises of Nordheim Model Bakery at numbers twelve and thirteen. Pause to take in the subtle proportions of this appealing yet modest building of 1926 by George Val Myers in which the sculpture is integrated so successfully, just as at Broadcasting House which Val Myers designed five years later, placing Eric’s Gill’s figures upon the front.

In fact, Philip Lindsey Clark was a friend of Eric Gill – his work shares the same concern with illuminating the transcendental in existence, and from 1930 onwards his sculpture was exclusively of religious subjects. Born in Brixton, son of Scots architectural sculptor Robert Lindsey Clark, he trained in his father’s studio in Cheltenham and then returned to London to study at the City & Guilds School in Kennington. Enlisted in 1914, he was severely wounded in action and received a Distinguished Service Order for conspicuous gallantry. Then, after completing his training at the Royal Academy Schools, he designed a number of war memorials including those in Southwark and in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow.

The form of these ceramic reliefs of bakers – with their white glaze and sparing use of blue as a background – recalls religious sculpture, especially stations of the cross, and there is something deeply engaging about such handsome austerely modelled figures with their self-absorbed presence, preoccupied by their work. The dignity of labour and the poetic narrative of transformation in the baking of bread is made tangible by these finely judged sculptures. My own favourite is the figure of the baker with his tray of loaves upon his shoulder in triumph, a satisfaction which anyone who makes anything will recognise, borne of the work, skill and application that is entailed in creation.

These reliefs were fired by Carters of Poole, the company that became Poole Pottery, notable for their luminous white glazes, elegant sculptural forms and spare decoration using clear natural colours. They created many of the tiles for the London Underground and their relief tiles from the 1930s can still be seen on Bethnal Green Station.

Philip Lindsey Clark’s sculptures are those of a man who grew up in the artists’ studio, yet witnessed the carnage of First World War at first hand, carrying on fighting for two days even with a piece of shrapnel buried in his head, and then turned his talents to memorialise those of his generation that were gone. After that, it is no wonder that he saw the sublime in the commonplace activity of bakers. Eventually Lindsey Clark entered a Carmelite order, leaving London and retiring to the West Country where he lived until the age of eighty-eight.

So take a moment next time you pass through Widegate St – named after the wide gate leading to the ‘spital fields that once was there – and contemplate the sculptures by Philip Lindsey Clark, embodying his vision of the holiness of bakers.

George Val Myer’s former Nordheim Model Bakery with sculptures by Philip Lindsey Clark.

You may also like to read about

A Night in the Bakery at St John

Dorothy Annan’s Murals in Farringdon St

Margaret Rope’s East End Saints

A Door in Cornhill

10 Responses leave one →
  1. March 23, 2012

    Wow! These are wonderful. More than worth a detour, and I’ll add them to the list….

  2. PPMarra permalink
    March 23, 2012

    Oh to be able to take a little walk to see these…they are beautiful.

  3. Katie J. permalink
    March 24, 2012

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful holy sculptures.

  4. Judy permalink
    March 25, 2012

    These sculptures are perfect – just wonderful. How I would love to see them!
    Thank you!

  5. March 28, 2012

    they’re wonderful – i have a question:
    i notice that the sculptor died in 1977 – how long have these sculptures been on the building? they look quite new or at least very well cared for

  6. pen ort permalink
    July 2, 2012

    These are the best photos I have seen of the bakers.
    My Grandfather ran this shop in 1920s for Nordheim.

    My dad grew up there and his younger brother was born in Flat 12 at number 12. Sadly their mother also died there very young.

    I am so glad to have found this web site.
    My dads tales of the City and going to school at Sir John Cass are not vivid in my mind, but I search for pictures of Widegate Street (they also had a shop in the Lane) often.

    Thank you for this.

    Pen

  7. Sean Lindsey-Clark permalink
    August 25, 2012

    Thankyou so much for posting these images.
    I’ve never seen or heard of these wonderful figures before.
    I’ll be taking my kids to see them soon so they can appreciate how clever their great great grandfather was.

    Sean L-C

  8. November 30, 2013

    I have always so loved these and used to pass them on my way to work… lovely also to now have the SL write-up. Astonishing in this day and age that they still remain in situ.

  9. Rosemary Hoffman permalink
    April 15, 2014

    should have been aware of these- I lived next door at no 14 (the Kings Stores) in the late 50′s and could smell the bread when I got up in the morning as my room faced the side of the building !

  10. DAVE BARNETT permalink
    June 19, 2014

    AS A SMALL BOY (SOME 50 YEARS AGO) I USED TO VISIT THIS BAKERY WHILE MY FATHER DELIVERED FLOUR VIA A STAIRS OFF OF THE ALLEY TO THE SIDE OF THE SHOP, THIS STAIR LED TO THE FIRST FLOOR LANDING AND ON TURNING LEFT WOULD LEAD TO THE FLOUR STORE. I THINK THIS STORE HAD A LARGE PART OF THE FLOOR REMOVED SO THE FLOUR COULD BE LOWERED INTO THE BAKING AREA WHICH WAS BELOW STREET LEVEL . ALSO I BELIEVE IT WAS SANDROCK AND NORDHEIM AT THIS TIME . I REMEMBER THIS BAKERY WITH FONDNESS DUE TO THE UNFORGETABLE CARVINGS , SO LIFELIKE TO CHILD .BUT THEN I WAS NOT THE ONE CARRYING SACKS OF FLOUR UP THOSE STAIRS

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