Tympanum and panels beside the south (main) entrance to Leeds Town Hall. John Thomas (1813-62). The Headrow, Leeds.

Derek Linstrum suggests that Thomas's allegorical sculpture and reliefs at this entrance were "probably suggested by the richness of decoration on the New Louvre in Paris" (412); while Ian Blatchford, using Leeds Town Hall as one of his examples, reminds us that "Thomas was admired for his prodigious energy and versatility over a remarkable range of commissions completed within only a few years." In the centre of the tympanum is a crowned figure with a distaff, holding out a wreath. This is Leeds itself, for the tableau was intended to show "Leeds in its industrial character fostering and encouraging the Arts and Sciences" (qtd. in Briggs 181). Of the four female, robed, allegorical figures below and on either side of her (looking from left to right) are Manufacture, with a loose roll of textile, a mallet, an anvil, a cog and pincers; Music and Poetry, with a lyre under one arm, and a trumpet or horn in the other; the Fine Arts with a palette in one hand; and Science, with a compass, a globe, what looks like a press of some kind, and a cone behind her. Two owls, emblematic of the city, sit on the twin pedestals near the middle, beside which are also a kneeling figure that looks like Pan, on the left, and a bust of Athena, on the right.

The side panels, which are more accessible and certainly easier to photograph, show a little boy with a ram draped over his shoulders, signifying the importance of the wool trade to Leeds. The foliage here is wonderfully intricate, and is woven around other emblems of order, prosperity, etc.

Print of tympanum by kind permission of Leeds Library and Information Services; photographs of the panel by Jacqueline Banerjee, 2011. [You may use the images of the panel 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 or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Blatchford, Ian. "John Thomas and His 'Wonderful Facility of Invention': Revisiting a Neglected Sculptor." V&A Online Journal. Issue 3 (Spring 2011). Web. 3 July 2011 (see especially fig.10, which shows the models for the left side of the tympanum). Web. 4 July 2011.

Briggs, Asa. Victorian Cities. Berkley: University of California Press, 1993.

Discovering Leeds: Leeds Town Hall. Leeds City Council site. Web. 4 July 2011.

Linstrum, Derek. "Town Hall, Headrow." Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the North, by Peter Leach, Nikolaus Pevsner and others. The Buildings of England series. New Haven & London: Yale, University Press, 2009. 410-414.

Victorian Web Homepage Visual Arts Sculpture

Last modified 4 July 2011