Left: Joseph Priestley by Alfred Drury, RA. Drury's bronze statue of Joseph Priestley is signed and dated 1899, and was the gift of T. Walter Harding, Lord Mayor of Leeds from 1989-99 (see Read 364). Right: Plaster version of Joseph Priestley that Drury exhibited at the 1899 Royal Academy (published in the 1899 issue of The Studio). [Click on these images and those below for larger pictures.]

Drury's statue celebrates and memorialises a remarkable man. Born in Birstall, Fieldhead, near Leeds, the Reverend Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) is described in the Biographia Leodiensis as a "dissenting divine, but more justly eminent as a philosopher" (217) — his work on natural philosophy, alluded to in this statue, included the isolation of oxygen, and led to his being elected a fellow of the Royal Society. As well as helping lay the foundations for the study of chemistry, he was a grammarian, educationist, and a political as well as religious polemicist. His life was as eventful as it was influential; he died in exile in Pennsylvania after his dissenting views, his efforts towards the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and support of the French Revolution, culminated in rioting.

Photographs, discussion of Priestly, and sources by Jacqueline Banerjee. Formatting, scanned image, and caption by George P. Landow. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Leach, Peter, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Yorkshire West Riding, Leeds, Bradford and the North. The Buildings of England series. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Little, J. Stanley. "The Art of 1899. Part III. The Exhibition at Knightsbridge." The Studio. 17 (1899): 115.

Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1982.

Schofield, Robert E, *Priestly, Joseph (1733-1804)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 27 July 2011.

Taylor, Rev. Richard Vickerman. The Biographia Leodiensis; or, biographical sketches of the worthies of Leeds. London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co, 1865. Internet Archive. Web. 27 July 2011.

Last modified 20 April 2007