A. John Poole: Sculptor, letter-cutter and restorer whose love of architecture informed his monumental works

Anthony John Poole was one of the most distinguished and versatile British architectural sculptors, letter-cutters and restorers during the last half-century. His base was the Midlands, which has many of his sculptures, but his fine and often monumental works are to be found much further afield. Britain produced many excellent figurative sculptors during the 20th century whose achievement is now slowly being evaluated. The work of such skilled practitioners as Bainbridge Copnall, Frank Dobson, George Fullard, Richard Garbe, A. H. Gerrard, Dora Gordine, Maurice Lambert and Leon Underwood has for too long been overshadowed by a national near-obsession with a few names such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

Several exhibitions in recent years and Liverpool University Press's series of volumes in the "Public Sculpture of Britain" series have done much to heighten awareness of overlooked sculptural delights in our towns and cities, and their makers. Poole and his work are typical, one of the last sculptor-craftsmen upholding the values of traditional practice and technique.

Poole – who worked as A. John Poole – was born in Birmingham in 1926. His father, George, a professional soldier and later a tool setter, and his mother, Jessie, were keen on self-improvement. They encouraged John and his older brother, David, to develop their talents. John's primary school headmaster appreciated his artistic precocity and encouraged him early to sit the entrance examination for the local Moseley Road Junior School of Art, which he joined just after his 12th birthday.

Poole continued his fine art studies, specialising in sculpture, at Birmingham School of Art from 1940-43. There he gained a grounding in the principles of brief responsive design solutions that would prove invaluable when, as a professional, he tackled jobs not only in traditional materials, such as stone and wood, but others such as ciment fondu, resin and stainless steel.

Graduating early, aged 17, Poole refined his letter-cutting skills in the Birmingham design studio that William Bloye had established about 20 years earlier. Bloye, Birmingham School of Art's head of sculpture until his retirement in 1956, had in the early 1920s studied for short periods with Eric Gill. Gill's practice left a lasting impression on his own and Poole's work. Bloye and Poole became close friends.

In December 1944 Poole's training was cut short when he was called up for basic training with the Coldstream Guards, followed by officer training with the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (4th Battalion). As a lieutenant he served in France and in Germany as a liaison officer during the Nuremberg trials. He was subsequently recruited as an officer in the Parachute Regiment 7th (Light Infantry) Battalion, serving in Egypt and Palestine.

In 1946, he married Daphne Buscall, who had been a contemporary at Moseley Road and Birmingham School of Art. After studying ceramics and teaching it, she re-trained in silver and goldsmithing and became a fine jeweller.

While in Palestine, Poole mulled over whether he should study architecture or sculpture on demobilisation. He decided that sculpture would offer greater artistic freedom, but a love of buildings would be reflected in work that was often architectural and on a monumental scale.

In 1948, Poole resumed studies at Birmingham School of Art; he left in 1949 with a National Design Diploma High Merit Award for letter-cutting and stonework. He set up a studio in Bournville, at first mainly doing freelance jobs for Bloye or for stonemason yards such as Wilkinson and Griffiths and W. H. Fraley. Trudging round the cemeteries of Birmingham, carving the names of war dead on family memorials, was back-breaking work, but Poole said that it completed his apprenticeship in the art of letter-cutting. He would also broaden his knowledge with sculptural restoration.

Between 1952 and 1961, when he moved his studio to Bishampton, Worcestershire, Poole supplemented his income by teaching sculpture part-time at Mid-Warwickshire College of Art and Walsall School of Art. One result of the valuable contacts he was making with artists and architects came in 1959 with his first notable commission, The Sower. Placed at the New Central Library in Cannock, Staffordshire, this free-standing, heroic, 7ft figure carved in Belgian granite represented Man "sowing the seeds of knowledge".

Humanity was a strong theme in Poole's sculpture and he carried out much ecclesiastical work. He had a long-standing association with the Church of St Francis of Assisi, Bournville, and the Cadbury family, particularly Sir Adrian Cadbury.

During the 50 years after The Sower, Poole completed some 150 significant works, excluding memorials and commemorative plaques. Thirty of his major commissions were in and around Birmingham, including The Rotunda Relief at Lloyds Bank (1963). It was in jeopardy when the future of the rotunda building itself was in doubt, but was saved as part of the facelift of the Bull Ring and is now Grade II-listed by English Heritage.

Other significant works by Poole include in Liverpool, the St John's Precinct mural (1965); in Leicester, the Crown Court Royal Coat of Arms (1969); the sculptured doors at Brown and Shipley in Birmingham (1975); Lucifer Bringer of Light, exhibited at New College, Oxford (1988); Icarus Falling, a private commission (1997); and Home Front Memorial, Coventry Cathedral (2000). Poole worked up till his death, including his John Donne, another private commission (2009).

Over the years, he gained increasing recognition, being elected an associate of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1960, then fellow in 1969. He was warden of the Guild of Memorial Craftsmen, chairman of the Society of Church Craftsmen and honorary fellow of The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

He was twice winner of The Otto Beit Medal for excellence in sculpture, in 1969 for the 17ft welded steel The Risen Christ for St Dunstan's Church, King's Heath, Birmingham, and in 1974 for the high altar and ambo at St Helen's Cathedral, Brentwood, Essex. He gained the Diploma of Merit from Universita delle Arti, Salsomaggiori, Italy, in 1981. In 1985 he was first-prize winner in the Saudi National Guard bronze sculpture competition and in 1991 he was awarded joint first prize in the Liverpool Cathedral Great West Door competition.

David Buckman



Anthony John Poole, sculptor and teacher: born Birmingham, 17 December 1926; married 1946 Daphne Buscall (died 2005, two sons both deceased, two daughters); died Bishampton, Worcestershire 2 September 2009.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?