The Firm of W. Clarke, Llandaff - Sculpture and Building Works: A very brief history

The illustration here all come, with many thanks, from the archives of W. Clarke, Llandaff. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the author and W. Clarke, Llandaff, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them. — Jacqueline Banerjee

Family Line

Left: Edward Clarke (1821-1878), sculptor.

Sculptor Edward Clarke (1821–1878), a Bristolian by birth, moved to London sometime after 1841 but by 1851 had relocated to Cardiff to work for John Prichard on the restoration of Llandaff Cathedral. One of Edward’s sons Robert Clarke (1849–1915), who became a sculptor and founded a firm in Hereford, was born in Westminster, so it is quite possible that prior to his move to Wales Edward may have worked on the Houses of Parliament. As well as Llandaff Cathedral, Edward is also known to have worked for Prichard at Ettington Park in Warwickshire. It also seems likely that he worked for J.P. Seddon, who between 1852 and 1863 was in partnership with Prichard, on a sea-front hotel in Aberystwyth which is now the Old College, Aberystwyth University. Edward died from a fall from scaffolding at Llandaff Cathedral. Edward’s first child, Edward Henry Clarke (1841-1858) also died whilst working at the cathedral.

Left to right: (a) Part of Llandaff Cathedral organ case designed by Seddon, 1902. (b) William Clarke (1853-1923), sculptor and founder of W. Clarke, Llandaff. (c) Work in progress at Ettington Park.

Another of Edward’s sons, William Clarke (1853–1923), who was born in Llandaff, also became a sculptor and founded the highly regarded firm of W. Clarke, Llandaff, which specialised in sculpture in wood and stone but also took on all kinds of building and maintenance work. The firm became particularly well known for its church furnishings and one on which they worked, the reredos for St Mary’s church Aberavon, was exhibited at the Church Congress in Cardiff in October 1889. The firm also constructed and installed a reredos in St Augustine’s church Wiesbaden, Germany. Although the church was bombed in 1945, and had to be completely rebuilt after further fire damage, it can been seen in a postcard dated 1911 (see Statham 21). In later life, William became very active in the field of archaeology and worked on many digs including Roman sites at Caerwent, Andover and Kenchester where he successfully raised and conserved mosaic floors; the one from Andover is now in the town’s museum, the one from Kenchester is on display in Hereford Museum and Art Gallery, whilst material from Caerwent is held by Newport Museum. William was also very active in the foundation of the National Museum of Wales.

Left: Part of Aberavon reredos for St Mary's Church. Right: Andover Roman Mosaic, photographed in Clarke's Yard.

William’s son Wyndham Jenkins Clarke (1881-1943) became a sculptor and worked for his father’s firm for some time, but after William Clarke retired his younger son Thomas Guy Clarke (1882-1942), known as Guy, who was a quantity surveyor, took over the running of the firm and shortly before his death had the unenviable task of rescue and remedial work at Llandaff Cathedral after it was damaged by a German land mine in 1941.

Thomas Guy Clarke (1882-1942),
quantity surveyor.

Guy was also very interested in archaeology and accounts of the sites he and his father worked on can be found in The Reports and Transactions of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society and Archaeologia Cambrensis. After Guy’s death his son William Robert Pritchard Clarke (1918–2000), known as Bill, eventually took over the reins after serving in the navy during World War II and worked under George Pace on the restoration of the Cathedral. His son Michael William Clarke (1953- ), known as Mike, a chartered Civil Engineer, took over the firm when his father retired and is still active.

Archives of W. Clarke, LLandaff

As well as hundreds of drawings and photographs, the firm’s archive also contains a collection of thirty ledgers including Day Books, Bill Books, Accounts, Purchases and Working Expenses dating from 1892 to 1945 all of which have been digitally photographed. Day Book ledgers give the surnames of employees, the types of work they undertook, and time spent on each task. In the late nineteeth and early twentieth centuries the most notable artisan who undertook sculptural works for the firm was William Willingale Taylor. He worked for much of his time “on his own account” at a rate of pay considerably higher than that earned by Clarke’s employees. However, certainly by the early twentieth century, the most highly paid actual employee in the firm was Harry Gregory. He was the son of Charles Gregory, a well-known artist based in Cowes, Isle of Wight. Harry was a wood carver by trade but, from the records in Clarke’s archives, it is evident that he became the firm’s draughtsman. Whilst there are probably very many of Gregory’s drawings in Clarke’s archive, only one has been found that bears his actual signature, though not the job for which it was drawn. A miniature statue in walnut of Godfrey, first Viscount Tredegar on horseback carved by Harry, based on the life-sized statue by Sir William Goscombe John which stands in the Gorsedd Gardens in Cardiff, was presented to Lord Tredegar in 1910. The piece came up for auction in 2013 and was bought by the National Trust for their collection at Tredegar House, Newport.

Left: Example of Day Book (1900) Right: Drawing by Harry Gregory.

Henry Durnell, who was a nephew of William Clarke, also worked as a sculptor in the firm and after World War II his son Reginald managed the firm for some time. Sculptor Sidney Llewellyn, who studied at the Cardiff School of Art and was wounded in World War I was still working for the firm in the 1940s. Research is ongoing on other employees recorded in Clarke’s Day Books.

Links to Related Material


"Aberavon." South Wales Daily News. 12 August 1889: 7.

Andrew, Kate. Personal communication.

"Feature Spotlight: The Fullerton Mars Mosaic – Andover Museum and Museum of the Iron Age." Coffee Break Archaeology (

"Llandaff’s lead in reviving ancient craft." Unidentified newspaper clipping in Clarke’s archive annotated CIRCA 1946 — includes a photo of Reginald Durnell and Sidney Llewellyn. Probably from either the South Wales Echo or the Western Mail.

"Mosaic" (referring to the Kenchester mosaic, accession no. 249). Museum Collections.

"New Parish Hall and Institute in Cardiff." Evening Express. 15 December 1910: 4.

The Public Library Journal quarterly magazine of the Cardiff and Penarth public libraries. Vol III, part 6 March 1902: 179. Available at Welsh Journals - The National Library of Wales.

St Augustine’s church (Wiesbaden). The Carmarthen Journal and South Wales Weekly Advertiser. 11 April 1890: 6.

Statham, Michael. Penarth Alabaster. Welsh Stone Forum, 2017: 21.

Transactions of the Cardiff Naturalist’s Society. XXXVII: 86. Available at Welsh Journals - The National Library of Wales

Created 10 December 2022