Arthur Bryan Burton
|Name||Arthur Bryan Burton|
|Other names||A.B. Burton|
|Birth and death||1860 - 1933|
|Related place(s)||Thames Ditton bronze foundry, Thames Ditton|
Life in Elmbridge:
" Our Librarian, Miss Majumdar went to Barrackpore....while there she saw one [ statue ] of Edwin Samuel Montagu by Hilton Young which does bear the foundry mark of A. B. Burton." So wrote T. F. S. Scott, Regional Education Adviser at the British High Commission, Calcutta to Dr. Poole of Thames Ditton on 27 January 1973. Dr. Poole was an ardent researcher into the work of the Bronze Foundry, operational between 1874 and 1939 in Summer Road, Thames Ditton .
When Arthur Bryan Burton was born in 1860, his parents, Frederick, a carpenter and joiner and his wife Eliza probably would not have imagined that their eldest son's name would be recorded throughout the United Kingdom, the British Empire and beyond. In 1861, when he was 7 months old, A.B.Burton and his parents lived at 91, Brighton Road, Kingston. At least 6 more children were added to the family, which may explain why Arthur lived for much of his childhood and young adulthood with his paternal grandparents, Henry and Sarah Burton in Rushett Road, Long Ditton. He was still with them in 1881, aged 20, when his occupation was recorded in the Census as being a Chaser and Bronze Finisher.
He was apprenticed, aged 16, to the Bronze Foundry of Cox & Sons in Thames Ditton. This foundry was designed to cast statues and the young apprentice learned his craft from its skilled French manager. Burton then went on to open his own foundry in Southsea Road, Kingston before buying into the Thames Ditton Foundry in 1897.Between 1897 and Burton's death in 1933 the Bronze Foundry was very successful and did most of its best work. Great statues in London include the Foundry's masterpiece, ' Peace Quadriga ' designed by Captain Adrian Jones which was placed at Hyde Park Corner in 1912. Standing 9.75 metres high and weighing 38.6 tonnes it was the largest statue cast in the country in the pre-welding period. Other London statues include G. F. Watts', Physical Energy in Kensington Gardens,1908 and Sir Alfred Gilbert's Queen Alexandra Memorial, Marlborough House, 1932. Beyond London A.B.Burton's work included : the Memorial to Dr. Barnardo, Barkingside, by G.J.Frampton, 1908; the statue of Sir Henry Redvers Buller, by Adrian Jones in Exeter, 1905 ; the statue of David Lloyd George by W.Goscombe John, in Caernarvon, 1921; and the statue of Queen Victoria by F.W.Pomeroy in Chester, 1903.
The First World War brought about an interruption to statue production and instead Burton's Foundry manufactured aero engines and brass shell cases. The carnage of the war and the desperate need to commemorate the dead especially those with no graves at home resulted in a huge demand for memorials. Consequently, the Foundry produced some of its most accomplished and moving work. A.B.Burton donated the materials and his craftsmen their time and skill to produce the bronze plaque containing 84 names in 5 columns to commemorate the dead of St. Nicholas' Parish, Thames Ditton.The Foundry also produced memorials for Kingston and Wimbledon.
Among the most renowned memorials erected after the First World War are William Goscombe John's in Port Sunlight, Merseyside (1921), sponsored by Lever Bros. to honour 503 dead employees and Charles Sargeant Jagger's Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, London (1925). Both are noted for the realism and pathos of their bronze figures. Burton's Foundry cast 11 statues for Port Sunlight and 4 for the Royal Artillery Memorial. Charles Sargeant Jagger, MC placed four soldiers around a giant sculpture of a howitizer; one of the soldiers was dead and covered by a greatcoat. When he secured the commission, Jagger told the Daily Express that his, " experience in the trenches persuaded me of the necessity for frankness and truth...".He correctly trusted A.B.Burton's Foundry to realise his vision.
Burton's commissions extended to creating the Welsh National Memorial (1928) by A. Bertram Pegram for which 3 bronzes of representatives of the 3 armed forces were required, L.S.Merrifield's 7 feet high infantryman for Comber, Down, Northern Ireland (1923) and 2 bronze figures of a soldier and a sailor by Sir E. Bertram Mackennal (1929) for the Cenotaph, Sydney, Australia. Not all of Burton's work commemorated the many; a single bronze figure in Portsmouth Cathedral honours the memory of William Lionel Wyllie, of the Durham Light Infantry who was killed in the Battle of the Somme, on 19 July 1916. This memorial was erected by his parents. He left a widow and three children.
" We went to England to do the Ark because there we knew Mr. A. B. Burton, the finest bronze caster in the world." So wrote Fine Artists George Dennison and Frank Ingerson in their description of the creation of the Ark of the Covenant for Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. Burton's method removed all the impurities from the molten liquid by pouring it through a conical pyramid of coke. Kevin Wallace noted in the San Francisco Courier, 7 August 1949, " The metal's purity of content.......is matched by purity of workmanship in such exacting matters as the hair breadth articulation of its three inch thick bronze doors...." Burton's attention to detail and care for the artists' work is shown by his telephone call to San Francisco to say that he and four of his employees would pack and crate the Ark. Their task took seven days and the Ark arrived in perfect condition ready for its installation and dedication in 1927. Burton's high standards of craftsmanship must have attracted many of the greatest artists of the day to the Foundry in Thames Ditton: Sir William Goscombe John gave at least 13 commissions between 1905 and 1931; Richard Goulden at least 4 between 1908 and 1923, including the Angel on Burton's daughter's grave in Kingston Cemetery and the Kingston War Memorial; there were at least 2 commissions from George Frampton, the sculptor of Peter Pan; Charles Sarjeant Jagger's renowned war memorials at Hoylake and W. Kirby and Hyde Park in the 1920s; and Sir Thomas Brock's equestrian statue of Edward VII which occasioned a visit from George V and Queen Mary to A.B.Burton's Bronze Foundry in 1921 .
Arthur Burton was a man who took his craft and his community seriously. He served as a councillor on Surbiton council, was a deacon of Surbiton Park Congregational Church, was a Sunday school teacher and a benefactor of the Scout Movement, donating the bronze memorial statue, which was erected at Polyapes Camping Ground, Stoke D'Abernon in May, 1929. Burton was a Special Constable during the First World War and was instrumental in finding accommodation for 60 Belgian refugees. He also found time for his beloved gardening. When he died in July 1933 the evidence of his life's work could be seen throughout the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, Canada, India, and Iraq - to name just a few places. His son-in-law, L.R.Tricker sold the business in 1939 and eventually Burton Court was built on the site of the Foundry, which had seen the work of , "...the finest bronze caster in the world."
The Elmbridge Hundred © Alistair Grant and Elmbridge Museum, 2009 - 2013. All rights reserved.