Thomas Duckett Snr., became nationally renowned as a portrait sculptor and was probably best known in Preston for his statue of Robert Peel which stands on the east side of Winckley Square; welcoming people who approach from Cross Street. In his lifetime he achieved great success but also experienced great sadness and the loss of those near to him.
He began his career as a marble worker and sculptor at the Franceys’ workshop in Liverpool; a leading firm of monumental masons. He went on to manage the sculpture department at the most renowned marble works in the country before establishing his own studio in Preston.
Thomas’ early years
Thomas was the eldest of eight children born to Richard and Mary Duckett (née Seed). He was born in Claughton-on-Brock, near Lancaster, on 4th December 1803. This branch of the Duckett family lived in the Claughton area for many years. ‘Duckett’s Farmhouse’ is a listed building on Duckett’s Lane in Claughton-on-Brock. We don’t know if Thomas was born in the farmhouse but shortly after his birth the family moved to Preston where his seven siblings were born. His father Richard was a successful auctioneer. He had auction rooms in Orchard Street and later moved to Fishergate. They lived at 32, Friargate and then Chapel Street. When Richard died in 1861 his estate was £1,500 (equivalent of £180,000 today). Richard’s second son Richard Jnr. took over the auctioneer business.
Thomas was apprenticed to the trade of plasterer to a Mr Smith in Cannon Street, Preston making interior ornaments, but he did not complete his indenture; his articles were bought out by his father. However, plaster was a material he did work with. One of his pieces created in plaster is held at the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library. It is a bust of Father Joseph Dunn 1746-1827, known as ‘Daddy Dunn’, leader of the Roman Catholic community in Preston.
Daddy Dunn was instrumental in building St Wilfrid’s Church, Chapel Street, in 1793; initiating Sunday schools in Friargate in 1787 and a day school in Fox Street in 1814; restoring and reopening St Mary’s in 1815 and laying out a Catholic cemetery in 1823. On a secular level he was heavily involved in the Literary and Philosophical Society, the Savings Bank and the Gas Company; bringing gaslighting to Preston in 1816.
Thomas left Preston to seek work, firstly as a wood carver for Gillow & Co. in Lancaster and then as a marble worker and sculptor for Samuel and Thomas Franceys who ran the leading firm of monumental masons in Liverpool between 1809 and 1819.
John Gibson, William Spence and Thomas Duckett all began their careers in the Franceys’ workshops. All three sculptors went on to achieve considerable success. When Samuel Franceys left the business in 1819 Spence took his place and the firm became Franceys and Spence. (Ref. A biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851)
Thomas’ experience as a marble worker was to lead him to Francis Webster and Sons of Kendal, distinguished architects and one of the most renowned marble works in the country. Thomas managed the sculpture department.
There are many Webster designs in Kendal including three of Kendal’s most prominent churches which were built to designs by George Webster. Holy Trinity and St George Roman Catholic Church was built between 1835 and 1837 and features a statue of St George slaying the dragon over the doorway which was designed and created by Thomas Duckett. There are two additional pieces of work by Thomas Duckett inside the church – Ecce homo (Behold the Man) on the left and St George on the right as you enter.
Family life and return to Preston
Thomas married Jane Ellwood on 1st July 1832 in Barton, Westmoreland (now Cumbria). Their son Richard was born in Kendal 11 months later; 19th May 1833. Sadly, Jane died in 1833 at the age of 33 soon after Richard was born. We have not discovered how she died.
In the early 1830s there was a worldwide cholera epidemic which spread throughout the country. There were 171 cases in 138 houses in Kendal resulting in 69 deaths. There was no hospital nearby so people had to be treated in their own homes. 12 cases were recorded of mothers labouring under the disease whilst suckling their children; interestingly infants remained entirely exempt from the illness. Dr Proudfoot on the Epidemic of Cholera in Kendal (Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal April 1833)
Thomas (age 31) married Winifred Ellwood (age 35) on 16th November 1835 in Kendal where they lived at Park and Castle Lands, Castle Crescent.
Two of their four children, Mary b.1837 and Thomas Jnr b.1839 were born in Kendal. William and Winifred Jnr. were born after the family returned to Preston. The children were home educated in their early years and all developed artistic skills.
Thomas returned to Preston in the early 1840s with his wife Winifred and three children; Richard, Mary and Thomas. They took a dwelling house and premises in Cannon Street, prior to establishing a studio at 45, Avenham Road. It was from there he became known as a ‘portrait sculptor of the most respectable rank.’
Why Preston Remembers Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) was a Conservative who served twice as Prime Minister (1834–35 & 1841–46) and twice as Home Secretary (1822–27 & 1828–30). His great political legacy, the abolition of the Corn Laws, made him extremely popular amongst the working classes who had suffered as a result of the Corn Laws. His support for the Emancipation of Roman Catholics when he served as Home Secretary meant he was particularly appreciated in Preston for two of his political acts.
An unfortunate accident cut Sir Robert’s life short at the age of 62 when he was thrown from his horse whilst riding on Constitution Hill in London on June 29, 1850. He died after a good deal of suffering on July 2. His funeral became the centre of huge national mourning and in the outpouring of grief the inhabitants of several towns, including Preston, willingly subscribed to the erection of suitable monuments.
Preston was not alone in erecting a statue to Sir Robert Peel, others being proudly unveiled in his birthplace Bury, Parliament Square, London, Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Montrose, Tamworth, Bradford, Birmingham, Cheshire and fittingly in Hendon Police College marking the fact that in 1829 Sir Robert established the Metropolitan Police Force at Scotland Yard with the early constables nicknamed ‘Peelers’ or ‘Bobbies’.
Robert Peel: Famous quotation:
“The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
Robert Peel: Preston statue commissioned
The task of executing a statue of the departed statesman was entrusted to Thomas Duckett. He commenced the work in December 1850. The material selected for the statue was a durable species of limestone obtained from a quarry on the Borwick estate in Lancashire. Thomas took great delight in creating the magnificent monument. The cost was £625, which today would be upwards of £84,000 (Bank of England inflation calculator).
The unveiling ceremony took place on March 31st Whit Monday morning 1852 and was carried out by Alderman Thomas Monk, the Mayor of Preston. A vast multitude gathered in Winckley Square and Cross Street to witness the event and all were suitably impressed by the monument and its likeness to Sir Robert.
The photograph was taken by Robert Pateson not long after the unveiling. Notice how the statue is behind railings. This is because the statue was erected in the private garden of James German who sold to the Corporation a 7ft 6in square piece of his garden for the statue. He was paid £21 (£3,500 today). So the statue remained in his garden, fenced off from the public.
The Peel statue remains as a reminder of the immense skills of Thomas Duckett.
When you visit the statue if you look carefully you will see that a name has been chiselled out of the base. In our section on Scandalous Stories, on this website, read why the name of Mayor Thomas Monk, who unveiled the monument, was removed.
Examples of Thomas’ Work
When embarking on a project Thomas’ first step was to create a maquette, (a scale model or rough draft) which is used to visualise and test forms and ideas without incurring the expense and effort of producing a full-scale piece. For commissioned works, especially monumental public sculptures, a maquette may be used to show the client how the finished work will relate to its proposed site. Interestingly John Gibson his contemporary at Franceys, Liverpool was commissioned to create the statue of Sir Robert in Westminster Abbey.
Commissions were competitive. Thomas was a competitor, receiving honourable mention, in a prize competition for a statue of Robert Peel at Bolton, and for a statue of the Duke of Wellington at Leeds for which he submitted maquettes.
During his years in Preston Thomas created marble busts of several prominent local people including Thomas Batty Addison, Mayor Thomas German, John Addison, Miles Myres, Alderman William Taylor, John Horrocks, Revd. Robert Harris and Alderman Thomas Miller.
Thomas also worked with wax. At the Harris is a relief portrait medallion of Mr Richard Palmer, carved in wax, on velvet background. Framed in a gilded circular wooden glazed frame with brass hanger attached.
One of Thomas’ architectural sculptures c.1848 in Preston includes the large Royal Coat of Arms above the gateway of Fulwood Barracks. (Also home to Lancashire Infantry Museum,)
Fulwood Barracks: Rock and Co. London 1855: Preston Digital Archive
Not long after the unveiling of the statue of Robert Peel, Thomas designed and produced in plaster a colossal seated statue of Richard Arkwright with the aim of raising funds for a marble or bronze statue. The funds never materialised as Arkwright was disliked by many people in Preston; the plaster statue was eventually destroyed.
Thomas also took commissions from beyond Preston. Thomas’ many church monuments in Lancashire include one for Jeremiah Horrocks (aka Lancashire’s Galileo) at Much Hoole.
The opening of the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory coincided with the solar eclipse on that day and thousands of locals went to Moor Park to observe it. The telescope, which still resides there, is an 8-inch refractor built in 1860. The observatory provided space for public lectures on astronomy and became popular in the region; attracting visitors from around the country. The University of Central Lancashire department is named the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy.
The bust of Aulus Vitellius in the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal is believed to be the work of Thomas Duckett created in his Avenham Road studio. The bust is sculpted from marble and granite depicting the Emperor wearing a military robe.
Aulus Vitellius was a Roman Emperor who reigned for eight months in 69AD. Vitellius is described by the writer Seutonius as:
‘unusually tall with an alcoholic flush. A huge paunch and a somewhat crippled thigh from being run into by a four-horse chariot.’
The subject of Diana’s nymph was particularly popular amongst wealthy patrons in the nineteenth century reflecting the period’s desire for themes drawn from classical mythology. It also provided a ‘respectable’ opportunity to display the nude form, particularly the female nude.
The marble ‘Nymph disturbed at the Bath’ exhibited at Towneley Hall Art Gallery, Burnley has been on loan from the Starkie Family of Huntroyde since 1933. The family named the artist as ‘Thomas Duckett’.
There has been some dispute about the identity of the sculptor. We are confident it is Thomas Snr.
The Preston Chronicle reported on 25th February 1854 that the sculpture was transferred from Thomas Duckett Senior’s studio to Le Gendre Nicholas Starkie, Huntroyde ‘earlier this week’. It also acknowledges the sculptor’s skills go beyond portrait busts. The Burnley Advertiser also ran the same report on 4th March 1854.
Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge
Thomas Snr. was heavily involved with the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge in Preston and for several years he was its Vice-President. The Institution was affiliated to the South Kensington Science and Art Department which was a British government body that functioned from 1853 to 1899, promoting education in art, science, technology and design in Britain and Ireland. Thomas’ children and grandchild, Lucy, attended the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge at different times.
For several years there had been a discussion at the Institution about establishing a ‘school of art’ open to the general public and at the same time Preston Corporation was keen that the ‘working classes’ gained a greater interest in the arts. The Preston Chronicle reported 25th November 1837:
‘In the first instance an incentive would be required to bring the operative classes from their more grovelling pursuits to participate in the benefits of this class of instruction and this might be provided in the shape of a large, interesting and miscellaneous exhibition, supplied by native artists…..
The access to this emporium of the products of the arts should be free, for it has been beautifully observed, that “Arts door should always swing easy on the hinge, and decorum be the only guard over its treasures;” and here might the humble artificer luxuriate, revelling in an exhibition which his judgement could scan and comprehend; his perception of a want of knowledge and would engender a desire to obtain it….’’’
The venue suggested was the Corn Exchange, the article included costings and suggested the cotton manufacturers of the town ‘foot the bill’, and for the first-year the services of teachers be offered for free.
It was some years later when on Saturday 23 August 1851 the Preston Chronicle announced that THE PRESTON SCHOOL OF DESIGN was to open for night classes between 8pm and 10pm on Mondays from 1st September. Thomas Duckett Snr. taught modelling classes along with other volunteers who offered their services free. 50 pupils signed up.
One of the last public works executed by Thomas Snr. was the beautiful marble altar at St. Augustine’s Church in Frenchwood, Preston. The altar has long gone but Peter Wilkinson (FoWS) kindly provided this photograph.
The death of Thomas Duckett Snr. 1878
Thomas Snr. was still occupying his Avenham Road studio on 13th February 1878 when he died aged 74, after an illness of considerable duration. His estate at the time of his death was valued at £4,000 equivalent to £467,000 today. (Probate January 1879)
His death was announced in the Preston Chronicle on 16th February 1878 with the headline, ‘DEATH OF A PRESTON CELEBRITY’. The article describes him as:
‘….zealous member of the Council of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge, of which he fulfilled the duties of Vice President in the years 1863-1865 and in 1873-1875, and to his practical counsel may be attributed the admirable lighting of the galleries at Avenham’.
He is buried in Preston Cemetery. On one side of his gravestone is a likeness of himself and on the reverse are the sculptured features of his second wife Winifred. The inscriptions reveal the death of his son Thomas Jnr. at the age of 29 in 1868, his wife Winifred in 1875 and the death of their beloved granddaughter, Lucy, aged 13, only days before his own passing.
Read the gravestone transcripts
The gravestone also commemorates the lives of their son Richard d.1910 and daughter Winifred d.1910, granddaughter Fanny Oliver d.1895 age 17 and his son in law – Fanny’s father Robert Oliver d.1896.
In his final resting place Thomas Duckett Snr. is surrounded by many impressive sculptures, a number of which are the result of his talented labours.
And what of the five children?
Thomas and Jane née Ellwood bore a son – Richard b. 1833.
Thomas and Winifred née Ellwood had four children: – Mary b.1837 Thomas Jnr. b.1839 Winifred Jnr. b.1842 and William b.1845.
It was uncommon in the 19th Century for daughters to be given the same educational opportunities as their male siblings and there was often an expectation that daughters would marry and that the youngest daughter would remain single and take care of her parents in their later years. This was how it turned out for Mary and Winifred Jnr.
All three sons went on to higher education and whilst there were far fewer opportunities for young women Winifred, in particular, would have benefitted greatly from attending The Royal Female School of Art, a professional institution for the training of women in fine art.
Richard Duckett 1833-1910
Richard was a great champion of the poor: He was the Reverend father at St Augustine’s Chapel in Preston until 1873, Vice President of the English College, Lisbon, Governor of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for 25 years. He was also a member of Catholic Charitable Society and after leaving Preston would return and attend some of their meetings. (Preston Chronicle 15th June 1878)
Richard, the only child of Thomas and Jane, was born in Kendal on 10 May 1833 and according to Our Lady and St Joseph’s website he was born into an old Catholic family which included two Reformation Martyrs amongst his forbears.
James and John Duckett Reformation Martyrs
The two martyrs were referred to: –
Born Skelsmergh in Westmoreland (date unknown) was beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15th December 1929. Blessed James Duckett was married and father of one son. He was arrested several times for printing and selling Catholic books before he was finally hanged for his crimes at Tyburn on 19th April 1602. (Tyburn, located near the site of the current Marble Arch, was the principal location for executions. Convicts, traitors and martyrs were all executed there).
Born at Underwinder, in the parish of Sedbergh, in Yorkshire, in 1603 he was also beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929. Blessed John Duckett was brought up a Protestant but was received into the Catholic Church at the age of about 30 when he entered the English College, Douai in 1633; he was ordained a priest in 1639. He arrived in England in 1643 and worked in the North labouring for about a year in Durham when he was seized on 2nd July 1644 whilst on his way to baptize two children. He was examined by a Parliamentary Committee of sequestrators and admitted he was a priest. Following his trial he was given the inevitable sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering which happened the next day at Tyburn on 7 September 1644.
Very Revd. George Canon Duckett
Richard followed in his uncle George’s footsteps and entered the Church. Canon George Duckett 1825-1898, the youngest brother of Thomas Snr., left Preston in in the mid-1840s to be educated at Oscott College Seminary where he was ordained 1851. He became a priest at St Peter and St Paul Church until his death in 1898. From 1854 he lived at Giffard House in Wolverhampton.
In 1851 Richard, age 18, was no longer living with his family at 45, Avenham Road. He went to Portugal where he entered the church and was ordained at the English College, Lisbon in 1856.
In 1859 Pope Pius IX conferred the Degree of Doctor of Divinity on Richard Duckett. He returned to Preston and was Revd. Father at St Augustine’s Church until 1873. The church building closed in 1984 and is now part of Cardinal Newman College.
The Preston Chronicle reported Richard’s final sermon at St Augustine’s Chapel on 4 October 1873. He said goodbye to his congregation prior to setting sail the following week to take up his role as Vice-president at the English College, Lisbon.
In 1876 Dr. Richard moved to the Chapel of St John the Baptist, Norwich.
Encouraged by Richard in 1878 Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk, decided to build a new church to commemorate his first marriage in 1877 to Lady Flora Hastings. He later wrote:
‘Shortly after my most happy marriage, I wished to build a church as a thank-offering to God.’
Plans began for the new church after the Duke’s gift of £200,000 in 1882 (£24 million today) and Revd. Dr. Richard Duckett was appointed Rector in 1883. It took several years to complete and in 1894 Richard moved to the new Rectory and blessed the nave and aisles of new Church of St John the Baptist.
The Church was completed in 1910 the same year that Canon Richard Duckett died.
In 1976 it was consecrated as a Cathedral Church. Just off the south aisle of the cathedral is the Duckett Library. It is named in honour of the Revd. Canon Dr. Richard Duckett, Rector of St John’s 1876-1910.
Mary Duckett 1837-1912
Mary, the first child of Thomas and Winifred, was born in Kendal in 1837. The family moved to Preston circa 1841 and lived near her Duckett grandparents.
In 1862 she married Robert Oliver in Preston, a bookkeeper in Liverpool. They had nine children. Initially they lived in Preston then moved to the Wirral peninsula, where Robert came from, and lived there for about 10 years.
By 1877 they had moved back to Preston and in 1881 the family was doing well. They were living at 20, Ribblesdale Place with eight of their children and one servant. But it would appear that their good fortune did not last. They moved to Oxford Street, Frenchwood and then between 1891 to 1896 moved to 92 Fishergate Hill where Robert died in 1896 at age 59 years leaving very little money to Mary.
OLIVER Robert of 92 Fishergate-hill Preston Lancashire corn merchant’s manager died 11 January 1896 Probate Lancaster 20th June Mary Oliver widow Effects £44 15s.
Following Robert’s death Mary and three of her children: Robert Ellwood, George Rothwell and Winifred, all in their 20s, moved back to 1 Wellington Terrace, Egremont on the Wirral. Robert Ellwood was head of household at the age of 29 and his occupation was ‘Seaman Seas’. George was a ‘Professional Musician’ and Winifred had no occupation.
The family remained at 1 Wellington Terrace and in 1906 Robert Ellwood married Mary Jane Dowson, the landlady of The Wellington Hotel, 4 Wellington Terrace. Mary Jane was 59 and a widow when she married Robert Ellwood 34. Mary Jane’s first husband Arthur Albert Dowson died in 1902 when he was the Beer House Keeper at the Wellington Hotel. Mary Jane had remained at the hotel as the landlady.
By 1911 Mary Oliver, age 74, was still living with her daughter Winifred age 35 at 1, Wellington Terrace. The Census was signed by her son Robert Ellwood who lived at 4 Wellington Terrace where he was listed as ‘worker’ in the public house and his wife Mary Jane the ‘Licence Victualler’ and head of that household.
Mary Oliver died 1st November 1912 leaving £401 7s. to her son Robert Ellwood Oliver. Despite being 25 years younger than his wife Robert died age 43, less than two years after his mother in March 1914.
Robert’s widow, Mary Jane, died in 1924 at age 77.Still the landlady of the Wellington Hotel she left £3,043 6s. 7p
Thomas Duckett Junior 1839-1867
Amongst those admiring the Robert Peel statue on the day of the unveiling was 12 year old Thomas Duckett Jnr., who was keen to follow in his father’s footsteps. Born in Kendal on 6th April 1839 Thomas Jnr. worked alongside his father in his studio and became a very skilled sculptor, artist and painter.
Recognising his talent his parents sent him to study at the Royal Academy, London in 1860. The Preston Chronicle reported on the 1st January 1860 that he was one of three out of 12 applicants to be admitted.
His skill was clearly recognised. In the same year the Council of the Art Union of London awarded Thomas Jnr. 30 guineas (£3,800 today) for his statuette entry into a competition to the group of ‘Alfred in the Camp of the Danes’ Lady’s Newspaper 1 Sept. 1860. He exhibited seven times at the Royal Academy of Arts and once at the British Institute (1866).
The purity and refinement of his models attracted the attention of leading sculptors including Thomas Thornycroft who he worked alongside in Thornycroft’s London studio. At the age of 22 Thomas Jnr. was commissioned to produce the sculpture ‘Night & Twilight’. An article appeared in the Preston Chronicle on 16th April 1862 praising his skills. You can read the article in full here.
‘Night and Twilight’ was exhibited by Henry Dowling at the Launceston Fine Art Exhibition in 1879 (Tasmania). The design had originally been conceived and modelled for a client in London in 1861 – possibly Henry’s brother, Robert Hawker Dowling, with whom the sculptor was friendly.
In 1863 at the age of 24 Thomas Jnr. married Lizzie (Eliza Ann Moore) age 36. Not long after their marriage the couple travelled to Rome where they lived for two years and where their daughter Mary Winifred Lucy was born in 1864. Soon after, at the invitation of Thomas Thornycroft, he returned to his old employment in London.
Unfortunately, Thomas’ health was in decline with the dreaded consumption / pulmonary tuberculosis taking a grip. In consequence he sought a more favourable climate and in March 1866 he boarded a cargo vessel bound for Australia, his pregnant wife Lizzie and daughter Lucy waving him farewell from the quayside.
Thomas Jnr. settled initially in Melbourne:
ENCOURAGING ART.-Mr. Duckett, a European sculptor, has just arrived in the colony. Immediately on landing, he proceeded to the cemetery, in company with Mr. McCulloch, to see the monument erected over the grave of Burke and Wills, of which he had heard so much. He was greatly astonished, and said there was nothing like it in all Europe; at which his companion was much flattered, inasmuch as he (Mr. McCulloch) had had, he said, a principal hand in the work, of which he felt very proud. He hoped Mr. Duckett would succeed in Victoria, treated him to half-a pint of two ales, and said he was thinking of having a medallion of himself done in shoemakers’ wax, and that if Mr. Duckett liked to do it cheap, he might tender for the job. Mr. Duckett was highly delighted with this Maecenas-like treatment, and made up his mind at once to settle in Melbourne.
Melbourne Punch reported in Preston Chronicle 6th October 1866.
Melbourne and Tasmania were amongst his earlier stops, but within the year he was in Sydney where the climate seemed more congenial to his condition.
In Sydney he was able to follow his professional pursuits and a bust of the then Governor of New South Wales, John Young, and several paintings for the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh enhanced his reputation. The young sculptor was soon inundated with commissions, but unfortunately, he found himself unable to execute them owing to the ravages of his complaint.
Ironically, amongst his last and most impressive designs were four colossal angels for Haslem Creek Cemetery. However, having designed them he was too ill to work on these so the task was left to his colleague Henry Apperly. The figures represented Death, Mercy and the Resurrection and were in position only a few short weeks before a hearse carrying his body entered the same cemetery.
Both Thomas Duckett Jnr. and Henry Apperly were credited with producing elaborate carvings of angels, cherubs, and gargoyles that were a feature of the railway station that was built to bring mourners to the graves from Sydney. So impressive was the stonework that in the 1950s, after the station had closed, it was rescued by the All Saints Church in Canberra, at a cost of £100, and transported there to become its church building. The cemetery is still there. Now known as Rookwood it is the largest in the southern hemisphere and still not full!
Thomas’ death on the last Sunday of April 1868 at the age of 29, came six months after he had received news from home of his wife’s premature death in Wolverhampton. With his failing health he was unable to travel back to England. He had no choice but to leave the welfare of his daughter Lucy aged 2 and Thomas aged 1, a son he had never met, in the hands of his parents and sister in Preston.
You can read a short biography of Thomas Duckett 1839-1868 at Design and Art Australia Online.
Winifred Duckett Jnr. 1843- 1910
Winifred was born in Preston in 1843 at 45, Avenham Road where she continued to live until her death in 1910.
Along with the other children she was home schooled in her younger years. Both Winifred and her younger brother William became pupil teachers at The Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge where their father was a trustee and Vice President. Both Winifred and William demonstrated artistic talents from a young age.
The Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge was founded in 1828 and opened in Cannon Street. The new building was opened in 1847. The School of Art was part of the Institution. It was also known as the Avenham Institution until it reformed in 1882 as the Harris Institute following a bequest from Edmund Harris of £40,000. In 1956 it was renamed the Harris College of Further Education. In 1973 it became part of Preston Polytechnic. In 1984 Preston Polytechnic was renamed Lancashire Polytechnic. In 1992 it became the University of Central Lancashire. (UCLan).
Clearly Winifred was a talented artist as, at the age of 15, she donated a small oil painting of Christ to the bazaar that was raising funds for the enlargement of St Ignatius’ Church. Preston Chronicle – Saturday 09 October 1858
In 1861 aged 18 Winifred achieved grade 4 in ‘Mechanical’ drawing.
William achieved Grade 4 in ‘Model’ and Grade 5 in ‘Perspective’. William received a prize of crayons.
PRESENTATION OF PRIZES AT THE PRESTON SCHOOL OF ART Preston Chronicle 11 September 1861
In 1863 the 35th annual meeting of The Institution reported on the annual inspection. The report was very favourable with particular mention to the School of Art and gave great credit to Mr Gilbert and his assistants – William and Winifred Duckett. ‘for the ability and attention with which they have discharged their duties’
Winifred was a skilled artist which enabled her to follow a career as an art teacher and therefore become a woman of independent means. In 1871 at the age of 28 she was living with both her parents and her niece and nephew: – Lucy 6 and Thomas 4. Her occupation is recorded as being an Art Teacher. In fact, she was a very accomplished art teacher and taught private classes from her father’s studio at 45, Avenham Road. We know this because the successes of her students were recorded in the Preston Chronicle. We can see too that Lucy was following in her father’s and grandfather’s footsteps.
SUCCESSFUL ART STUDENTS
At the examination of the art classes, held May last, in connection with the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, taught by Miss Duckett, Sculpture’s Studio, 45 Avenham-road, Preston and St. John’s School, Blackburn, the following took certificates:-
In Freehand Drawing- George C. Adams, Mary Allen, Welland Bracewell, Jane W.B. Carruthers, M. Winifred Lucy Duckett, Sarah Jane Fawcett, Ellen Jane Livesey, Joyce E.S Quick, Marlon R.Watt, and James Shaw.
…………………………………………………………. receiving Queens Prizes (in Freehand Drawing) M. Winifred Lucy Duckett and James Shaw.
Preston Chronicle Saturday 8th August 1877
Winifred’s mother died in March 1875. Winifred’s niece Lucy, age 13, died in January 1878 and Winifred’s father, Thomas Snr, died two weeks later. It would have been her job to care for them all through their illnesses. It was Winifred’s role then to raise Thomas, her 12-year-old nephew.
Following her father’s death in March 1878 Winifred was promoting her Art Classes at the Avenham Road Studio and also teaching at the Catholic Grammar School, Winckley Square. (Preston Chronicle 6 July 1878)
They continued to live in Avenham Road and in 1891 nephew Thomas was listed in the census as an auctioneer’s clerk. He was working for his great uncle Richard Jnr. who had taken over his father’s business. Thomas married in 1896 and lived with his family in the south of England initially as an auctioneer’s clerk and then as a reporter for the ‘Surrey Comet’ at Kingston.
Winifred continued to live at 45, Avenham Road and regularly advertised her private classes in The Preston Herald until her last entry on 29th December 1909. She died only a few weeks later on 2nd February 1910 at the age of 67; five months before the death of her half-brother Richard.
DUCKETT Winifred of 46 Avenham-road Preston Lancashire spinster died 2nd February 1910 at the Preston Workhouse Administration Lancaster 22 February to William Duckett inspector of drawings. Effects £770. Resworn £924 7s. 1d.
Unlike her three brothers Winifred was not sent away to a higher education establishment. Nevertheless, she was an accomplished artist, had a successful teaching career and became a woman living on her ‘own means’. She left today’s equivalent of £110 000 and in addition she raised her nephew, Thomas.
William Duckett 1845- 1917
William was born in Preston and like his siblings was home schooled in his younger years. Following the family trait, he was a talented and accomplished artist. At the age of 15 he was described as a ‘Carver’ on the 1861 census. Along with his sister Winifred he attended The Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge where he became a pupil teacher.
Pupil achievements were reported regularly in the local newspapers and William’s work was highly regarded by staff and the school inspectors.
The Preston Chronicle reported on 24 December 1863 that after four years working as a pupil teacher at the Preston School of Art he was about to leave for London to further his studies and skills at the London Department of Science and Art, South Kensington.
The newspaper continued to report on his progress in London. No doubt his father Thomas Snr. kept the press well informed. The Preston Chronicle 8th October 1864 reported that William passed his exams to become a school master ‘We understand that he is progressing most satisfactorily with his studies in London’
At the age of 20, in 1866, he had obtained two first class certificates – one in ‘Practical Plan and Descriptive Geometry and the second for Building Construction’. Preston Chronicle – Saturday 01 December 1866
He received two further certificates following the 1867 Annual Examinations at South Kensington – Advanced Architecture and Historic Ornament.
William was appointed as Headmaster at the Dover School of Art in April 1870, a new school. Preston Chronicle 23 April 1870
He took lodgings at Laureston Place, St James in Dover with a Mr John Judge, a solicitor and his wife Eliza. It was there that he met his future wife Caroline Morgan Judge. Caroline and William were married in 1872. William and Caroline had 11 children. The first three were born in Dover. William left the Dover School of Art in 1877 to take up a new position in Barrow. When he left there were 477 students on roll.
William became the Headmaster of the Barrow School of Science and Art which had operated privately since 1877. In the 1881 Census he adds ‘Professor’ to his title of ‘Headmaster’. Caroline’s father had died so her mother Eliza was living with them at 210, Alexandra Terrace in Barrow in Furness. Three more children were born between 1879 and 1882. They were a family of nine with one servant. By 1891 the family had moved to Kingston, Surrey. Caroline’s mother had died and her sister Emily aged 36 had moved in with them. There were 10 children but no servants. William’s occupation was ‘Occasional Examiner Art ‘. They remained at 15 Gibbon Road, Kingston upon Thames and by 1901 he was a Drawing Examiner for the Scotch Education Department. None of the children developed artistic skills. Three of the daughters in 1911 were Domestic Economy Instructors.
Both William and Caroline died in Kingston upon Thames in 1917.
By Patricia Harrison & Keith Johnson