Person Male Born 19/5/1815 Died 30/8/1885
Sculptor. born Cheshire. Came to London in 1835 where he was apprenticed to John Francis and worked alongside another of Francis's apprentices, his daughter Mary, whom he married on 29 February 1840. Four of their children became artists or sculptors, including Hamo and Teresa, a painter who had three children including Siegfried Sassoon. Thomas's eldest son, John Isaac became a naval architect. It was Mary's work which sustained the family financially. The only surviving public sculptures by Thomas himself in London of which we are aware are the Commerce group on the Albert Memorial and the Boudicca statue, but even that was actually a joint production by the Thornycroft family.
He was an amateur engineer and late in life assisted his son John to design steam launches (we wonder if that "assisted" should be in quotes). The Thornycroft marriage appears to have been happy, but one has to admire Mary: a Victorian wife who brought up six children, carried on a successful career as a sculptor, and taught her skills to the royal princesses including Princess Louise. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography recounts this significant story from their granddaughter: "Thomas Thornycroft had been known to cut the heads off Mary's clay models, ostensibly to position them better, but provoking exasperated cries of ‘Only tell me! Thorny, only tell me!’ from his wife as she tried to protect her works". Our hearts go out to her.