On this day … 16 February 1878

Thomas Duckett, sculptor
Albumen Print of Thomas Duckett: Harris Museum

The Preston Guardian reported the death of the sculptor Thomas Duckett, whose most famous work is now probably the Peel statue in Winckley Square. Thomas was born in 1803, the son of Richard Duckett, a Preston auctioneer. He was apprenticed as a plasterer in Preston, before moving on to work as a wood carver and sculptor with firms around the North West, including Gillows, the famous firm of furniture manufacturers in Lancaster.

He returned to Preston in the 1840s with his second wife, Winifred, and set up a studio at 45, Avenham Road. It was there that he worked on his most important commission, the statue of Sir Robert Peel. He also produced numerous marble busts of prominent Prestonians, many of which were later displayed in the Harris Museum. Other work included architectural commissions, including the Royal Coat of Arms that adorns the entrance to Fulwood Barracks.

Sir Robert Peel statue, Winckley Square, Preston

In the photograph by Robert Pateson (above), the Peel statue is shown behind railings in Winckley Square. This was because it was in the private garden of James German, who had sold the council the small patch of land on which it stood.

Thomas continued to work in his Avenham studio right up until his death. He is buried in Preston Cemetery, in the company of many of the memorial sculptures he executed for his fellow Prestonians. He had five children, one with his first wife who died young, and four with his second wife. Richard, the son of the first marriage, entered the priesthood, serving at St Augustine’s, Frenchwood , before moving to Rome to become vice-president of the English College there.

Another son, Thomas junior, followed his father in becoming a highly successful sculptor. He suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis and in 1866 at the age of 27 sailed for Australia, hoping that a more favourable climate would alleviate his condition. His pregnant wife and a young daughter remained in England. He died there in 1868, leaving his young daughter and the son he had never seen in the care of his parents in Preston, his wife having died some months earlier.

For a much fuller account of the life and work of Thomas Duckett, along with many more illustrations, go to: https://www.winckleysquarepreston.org/heritage/thomas-duckett-senior/

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