John Birnie Philip was born on 23 November 1824 in London, the third son of the five children of William Philip (1781-1865) and Elizabeth Philip née Rhind (b.1786). His father was a tailor and he was baptised on 2 January 1825 at the Wells Street Scotch Church, St Marylebone.
The 1841 census shows him as an apprentice carver living at Oxendon Street, Charing Cross, with his father and four siblings: William Philip (1816-1864), Richard Philip (1820-1899), Elizabeth Philip (1826-1898) and Elspeth Philip (1827-1897), together with one female servant.
At the age of 17 years he entered the newly established government school of design at Somerset House where he studied under John Rogers Herbert R.A. and when the latter resigned his mastership and opened a school at Maddox Street, he joined him to continue his work. The 1851 census lists him as a sculptor residing at 14 Oxendon Street, with his widowed father, both his unmarried sisters and the same female house servant that was on the 1841 census.
On 4 June 1853 he married Frances Black (1826-1917) at the Parish Church of St Martin in the Fields. The marriage register gives his address as Roehampton Street (now called John Islip Street in Pimlico) and his occupation as a sculptor, whilst his wife's address was recorded as St John the Evangelist, Westminster , where her father was a cleric. They had ten children: Constance Birnie Philip (1854-1929), Beatrice Philip (1857-1896), Edith Philip (1860-1861), Ethel Bernie Philip (1861-1920), Jane Bertha Philip (1864-1864), Philippa M. Philip (1866-1915), John Francis Philip (1870-1874), Frances Septima Philip (1870-1949), Ronald Murray Birnie Philip (1871-1940) and Rosalind Bernie Philip (1873-1958). Their second daughter, Beatrice Philip, would eventually marry the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).
The 1856 Post Office London Directory lists him as a sculptor at 2 Roehampton Place, Vauxhall Bridge Road, Pimlico and in the 1861 census he is shown as a sculptor master residing at 1 Roehampton Place with his wife, three daughters and a female house servant.
In the 1870 Post Office London Directory he is listed as a sculptor at West Pavilion, Hans Place, Chelsea, whilst in the 1871 census he is recorded as a sculptor living at Merton Villa, Trafalgar Square (now renamed as Chelsea Square), Chelsea, with his wife, five daughters, one son and a female servant.
He died from bronchitis, aged 50 years, on 2 March 1875 at home, Merton Villa, 280A King's Road, Chelsea and was buried on 8 March 1875 in Plot D in Brompton Cemetery, Fulham Rd, Kensington, London SW10 9UG. His will was proved by his widow at the Principal Registry in London on 17 April 1875 and his effects were listed as under £3,000.
Other work in London: stone carvings of water birds on Blackfriars Bridge; marble podium frieze of sculptors and architects on the Albert Memorial; 'St Michael casting down Satan' in the tympanum at St Michael Cornhill; fountain girl by Smithfield Market; allegorical figures for the front of the Home and Colonial Office, Whitehall. We thank Speel for much of this information.
Credit for this entry to: Andrew Behan.