Tom Nicholls Sculpture To Honour 513 Barnardo’s Children Buried In Unmarked Graves Unveiled

A special memorial sculpture by master carver Tom Nicholls, to honour 513 Barnardo’s children buried in unmarked graves, including three of Thomas Barnardo’s own children, has been unveiled in East London (5 December 2016)  The two-metre high Portland stone sculpture, by depicts a pair of hands releasing a symbolic cockney sparrow, stands in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. 

The children were buried at the Victorian cemetery between 1876 and 1924. Although they were given proper funerals, they did not receive headstones because the charity’s founder, Thomas Barnardo, survived on a shoestring to care for London’s most vulnerable children. Money for the £10,000 sculpture was raised single-handedly by Jean Clark, a former Barnardo’s resident and member of the charity’s national council of old boys and girls, who lives in Birmingham.

Jean Clark said:  “It’s been a labour of love to give these children the recognition they deserve. As someone who grew up in Barnardo’s care, I regard them as my brothers and sisters and wanted to ensure their lives are recognised.”

The children concerned were discovered due to thousands of hours of painstaking research by volunteers from Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park heritage team.

Chief Executive of Barnardo’s Javed Khan said:  “This remarkable project has been made possible by a group of dedicated, passionate volunteers, particularly Jean Clark, who has single-handedly raised the funds required to bring Tom Nicholls’s beautiful creation to life.

“The incredible work of the volunteer heritage team is also to be commended. They have spent several years searching through burial records for the names of the children concerned so that they can have a fitting memorial in the form of this stunning sculpture.”

The memorial sculpture is by master carver Tom Nicholls, who worked on the Queen’s Jubilee barge. Tom is a London based Sculptor and Architectural Carver who has been producing sculptural work to the highest standard for over a decade. He has won the prestigious “Carver of the Year” awards in 2013 from both the Master Carvers’ Association and the Worshipful Company of Masons.   Tom also received the “Highly Commended” award for Craftsmanship at the Stone Federation of Great Britain awards in 2016 for his carving work.  As well as being a highly respected craftsmen Tom is also known for his ability to design and create sculptures that are uniquely his own whilst remaining true to his clients’ vision. Creating work to suit any site or context, Tom has completed various high profile architectural and ornamental sculpture commissions.

Tom first trained at Weymouth College in the traditional techniques of Stonemasonry, Carving and Lettering. This provided him with a solid foundation in the craft. While developing his skills as a freelance sculptor, Tom went on to win a QEST (Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust) Scholarship which allowed him the opportunity to embark on a Post Graduate Diploma in Historic Stone Carving at the City and Guilds of London Art School in Kennington where he obtained a 1st.

In 2012 Tom was awarded the opportunity to be a key part of the core team of seven sculptors who worked on producing the Heraldic Ornamentation for the Queens Diamond Jubilee barge project. Modelled in clay, the monumental sculptures were then cast in resin and gilded.  Other notable projects have included carving 6 large brick architectural relief sculptures on a mansion block near Sloane Square in London, carving a bespoke grotesque sculpture to his own design for St Georges Chapel, Windsor and also winning the Ripon Cathedral Gargoyle competition in 2015.

As well as working to commission Tom also shows his design and sculptural work at major galleries and exhibitions in London including Thompson’s Gallery (Marylebone), The Mall Galleries (Westminster), Christies Auction House (St James, London)  and at the Coronation Festival in Buckingham Palace.

Tom has also  gained extensive experience with three of the UK’s most reputable conservation companies. He continues to work between commissions on a freelance basis for a leading London based Sculpture Conservation Company on projects including work by Henry Moore, Jacob Epstein, Mark Quinn and Barry Flanagan.

His restoration carving and conservation work is found in prestige landmark locations across the UK including Buckingham Palace, Kew Gardens, The Houses of Parliament, the V&A museum and The Queen’s College, Oxford.

A keen artist, Tom always aims to expand upon his traditional skill-base to create highly expressionistic and energetic work for both speculative and commissioned pieces. His main concern as an artist is to convey a sense of life and movement.

London-based  Tom Nicholls and his memorial sculpture for 513 Barnardo’s children buried in unmarked graves at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in East London. Credit: Ady Kerry/Barnardo’s

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