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Philip Lindsey Clark’s Sculptures In Widegate St

August 24, 2022
by the gentle author

Tickets are available for my walking tour this Thursday & Saturday 



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 with Eric’s Gill’s figures upon the front.

Clark’s work shares a similar ambition to illuminate 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

13 Responses leave one →
  1. Cherub permalink
    August 24, 2022

    If I had to pass these reliefs every day I would feel uplifted, they are beautiful.

  2. August 24, 2022

    These sculptures are simply wonderful , I will certainly look out for them on my next amble around Artillery Passage. Thank you GA for the story behind them.

  3. Sue permalink
    August 24, 2022

    Thank you for showing these. I’d heard of him as I lived near his family’s landscaping firm in Churt, Surrey and his photo was on the wall but had never seen his work. Love the solid simplicity of it.

  4. Andy Strowman permalink
    August 24, 2022

    Reminds me of Moscow and going down tge subway seeing chandeliers and praiseworthy statues of ordinary working class peoplem

  5. August 24, 2022

    Wonderfully powerful — the dignity of work, indeed. I’m so glad you included a photo of the
    installation, which gives us a sense of size and scale. A remarkable series, and another good
    reason to keep looking up.

    Onward and upward.

  6. Sally Minogue permalink
    August 24, 2022

    Beautiful sculptures and beautiful writing about them thank you.

  7. Helen Breen permalink
    August 24, 2022

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, these are beautiful pieces, enhanced by your fine description –“The dignity of labour and the poetic narrative of transformation in the baking of bread is made tangible by these finely judged sculptures.”

    Indeed, they do have religious overtones. Gracias.

  8. Adele Lester permalink
    August 24, 2022

    The first time I saw these, by chance, I was totally enchanted! Now I go out of my way, whenever I’m in London, to ‘visit’ them.

  9. Saba permalink
    August 24, 2022

    Beautiful shapes within shapes forming deceptively simple compositions. Successful sculpture casts equally gorgeous shadows. Bravo!

  10. Bill permalink
    August 24, 2022

    The juxtaposition of white figures against a blue ground is always charming, and dates back to the studio of Luca della Robbia, which had been situated in the city of (some) of my ancestors, ah, magnificent Florence.

    Mr. Clark’s work is lovely, vigorous, and quite to the point as an explanation of labor. Such butch fellows. So well portrayed.

    Thank you, dear Gentle Author, for sharing these works with us, your always appreciative audience.

    You mentioned Eric Gill and Broadcasting House. Dear Gentle Author, should you ever care to comment upon the sculpture decorating the very top of the exedra of that lovely building, Bush House, once espied by me on a rainy night more than twenty years ago, after long (actually, casual) attempts to find it, the figures standing upon a distyle screen, with modified acanthus capitals, produced in my natal town of Closter, NJ, USA, well, dear boy, you have my email.

  11. Marnie permalink
    August 24, 2022

    If washed down, these bakers would sparkle like Lladro.

  12. Austin Clegg permalink
    August 24, 2022

    “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”

    You are probably aware that PLC designed at least two sets of Stations, one in Shrewsbury Cathedral and another in the church of the Holy Apostles, Pimlico. He also made the sculpture of St George in Westminster cathedral, where of course Gill did the Stations.

    I remember his widow came for tea with my Parents when I was a child and we discussed another one of his sets of Stations.

    Thanks for reminding me of this fascinating and underrated sculptor and for these wonderful images.

  13. Susan permalink
    August 25, 2022

    These are so lovely! Thank you so much for sharing sights I (sadly) will probably never see in person, but can enjoy through your perceptive writings and photos.

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