Charles Giddings – Sculptor and Pulham artist

This month’s Pulham post looks at the story of local sculptor Charles Giddings. Giddings produced sculptures for international clients including Boston Cathedral in the USA and the National Art Gallery, Ottawa. He carved many of England’s WWI memorials and also produced models of famous people. Locally his works included busts of King George V and King George VI which stood in the former Clock House and are now on display in the Museum. He also designed a number of garden pieces for Pulham & Son.

Giddings was born in 1870 in Wiltshire. When he was 20 he went to London to study at the Westminster School of Art. He settled for a time at Wandsworth where his first two children were born, before moving to 34 Amwell Street, Hoddesdon in 1910.

Giddings’ designs for Pulham & Son are listed in the company’s 1925 ‘Catalogue of Garden Ornaments’, a key resource for anyone researching the history of the firm. The first featured piece is a kneeling figure carrying a bowl, shown in the catalogue as an illustration, and below in real life.

1998.0933 - Kneeling figure
Giddings’ Kneeling Figure

Giddings also designed the company’s ‘Flora Sundial’ and a special ‘Giddings figure’ that could be bought separately or as part of the ‘Giddings Fountain’.

His largest creation for the firm was the statue of Mercury for a fountain at Madresfield Court in Malvern, made famous as the set for Brideshead Revisted. The statue is 11 feet tall and has had to be removed from the fountain for safety reasons.

1998.0931 (Mercury)
The Mercury Fountain at Madresfield Court

Giddings died on 5 November 1946 and his obituary appeared in the Hoddesdon Journal. When you visit the Museum you can see his busts of King George V and VI in the Petter Gallery, and artefacts relating to Giddings will also be on display in the Pulham exhibition launching 14 January 2017.


Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume III, August 1916

Friday 4 August

“We ended by doing 204 cases in the month of July which of course has broken all records.” They have been working up to 8:30pm and 9:00pm every night. He talks of sleepless nights. When talking about some of the patients, he writes “That is the thing to break your heart!”

“Today that blessed north wind is blowing strongly again so things are somewhat fresher”

To commemorate the declaration of war two years ago there was a ceremony. Detachments from the hospitals were present to put down wreaths. There were also pipers. He writes “Heaven hopes that we do not have such an anniversary to celebrate again next year.”

“Incidentally this last month has been very expensive for the hospital. A bill of £42 for gauze and £10 for gloves.” 03

Thursday 10 August

He talks about finding no new plants but describes the ones he does find as “a renewal of acquaintance with old friends.”

Walked home via St Fabriel Place – “ruined Hotel is getting more ruinous”

Saw the new railway rising “they’ve made a foot of a sand cliff about 10 – 100ft high.” He also writes that he believes they “collect the sand” which is “needed for filling the sand bags for the trenches.”

An order was given that all fat was to be preserved and not thrown away with “other refuse” It was used in artillery and he writes that it perhaps gives an idea of the “enormous quantity of materials of all sorts needed to meet the demands of the artillery.”

He talks about Sister Weston and expresses that he wishes she “had not for red hair!”. Sister Weston is described to “possess an expansive smile”. She feeds him with sandwiches and the two of them discuss plants.

Tuesday 15 August

Arthur Kaye is mentioned. Arthur has to do a variety of things for the Government depot. He writes that he has been told that they feed a number of men “averaging about 75000” per day. He then goes on to say he is not surprised when he remembers the “hundreds and hundreds of tents and huts” he has built up there.

The more I see Bob Lounds (X-ray) the more I like him in the more ways – rather rough and a speaker out of his mind, which rather upsets the Sisters sometimes but sticking stuff at the bottom – good at his work.”