Papers of the Thornycroft Family

Scope and Content

The papers relating to Thomas and Mary Thornycroft consist of over 200 letters, [collection reference: 1986.4 (TT) and (MT), 2 boxes]. Many of the letters (that include notes on the work of Thomas Thornycroft) are from W.B. Dickenson, a surgeon from Macclesfield, who was Thomas's main patron. There are eight drawings by various members of the family, thirteen legal and financial papers and other documents including Thomas Thornycroft's apprenticeship indenture. There is also a daguerreotype of John Francis with his ideal sculpture 'II Penseroso' and a contemporary print of this image.

The papers of Hamo Thornycroft are important for their extensive scope and the fact that they document the everyday activities of one of the foremost practitioners of the New Sculpture movement, [collection references: 1982.44 (Th) and 1987.14.24 (TII), 39 boxes]. They provide detailed documentation of all his major works including 'The Mower', 1884, the architectural sculptures for The Institute of Chartered Accountants, London, 1889-1903, 'King Alfred', Winchester, 1901, and others. They include an important collection of correspondence of over 3000 items which record commissions and his place in the art world centred around the 'Leighton circle' in Holland Park, London. Among them are letters from Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema, Henry Hugh Armstead, Sir George Frampton, Sir Alfred Gilbert, Sir Edmund Gosse, Lord Frederick Leighton, G. F. Watts and Alfred Waterhouse. Hamo Thornycroft's everyday activities can be charted through his thirty-six engagement diaries, 1886-1925, and his more detailed commentaries and thoughts in his fourteen journals and one notebook, 1862-1925. There are thirty-two sketchbooks, 1861-1921, and over 300 drawings which range from preliminary sketches and life drawings to presentation drawings and architectural plans for his work. In some of the sketchbooks he also keeps his accounts of wages paid to models and studio assistants. There are over 300 photographs of his work, his studio and personal photographs of the family. There are thirteen speeches and lectures and twenty-eight poems and prayers. The papers also contain his accounts, legal and financial documents, and over 400 items of printed ephemera including press cuttings and articles about the Thornycrofts, as well as other miscellaneous material.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Thornycroft family papers document three generations of nineteenth and early twentieth-century sculptors: John Francis (1780-1861), a portrait sculptor who exhibited extensively at the Royal Academy; his daughter, Mary (1809-1895), who was taught by her father and produced many commissions for Queen Victoria; her husband, Thomas Thornycroft (1815-1885), one of her father's pupils, who specialised in public commemorative sculpture and completed many statues of Prince Albert; and their youngest son, Sir William Hamo Thornycroft (1850-1925) whose papers form the main part of the archive.


The papers are card indexed and classified as follows:

Hamo Thornycroft papers, 1982.44 (Th) and 1987.14.24 (TII)

  • A Accounts
  • C Correspondence (arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent, then by date)
  • D Engagement diaries (reference followed by folio number on index cards)
  • D Loose drawings
  • E Printed ephemera
  • J Journals
  • L Legal documents
  • LLJ Loose leaf journals
  • M Maps and plans
  • N Notebook
  • P Photographs
  • Q Poems and prayers
  • S Sketchbooks
  • SD Studio diary
  • X Notes and memoranda
  • Y Speeches and lectures
  • Z Lists

Thomas and Mary Thornycroft papers, 1986.4 (TT) and (MT):

  • C Correspondence
  • E Ephemera
  • EM Magazine materials
  • F Financial
  • J Journal ('Waterlily' log book)
  • L Legal
  • M Miscellaneous
  • P Photographs

[please contact the HMI Archivist for further details]

Access Information

Accessible to all registered researchers. The Archive is open by appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available for consultation in the HMI archive searchroom

Archivist's Note

Archive Hub description was created by Janette Martin

Related Material

The Leeds' Sculpture Collection includes many works by William Hamo Thornycroft