George Thomas Clark (1809-1898), Esq., FSA, by Joseph Edwards (1814-1882)

George Thomas Clark (1809–1898), Esq., FSA, by Joseph Edwards (1814–1882). Dated 1872, this striking white marble portrait bust measures H 83 x W 59 x D 29 cm, and is in the collection of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Merthyr Tydfil, S. Wales. Accession number: CCM 1033.995.<.p>

Clark was, just as Edwards represents him here, a powerful, confident and successful figure, a man of great presence, who performed nationally as well as locally. Born in London, and having qualified and briefly practised as a surgeon (see James), Clark worked as an engineer on the Welsh railways under Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and even spent several years contributing to the groundwork of the railways in India, by surveying and planning for the Great India Peninsula Railway. But he is best known now for his great success in promoting the Dowlais Ironworks in South Wales. In 1850 he had married Ann Price Lewis, descendant of Thomas Lewis, who had been one of its original partners: as its resident trustee from 1852, he "devoted all his energies to it," says his 1898 obituary in the papers of the Iron and Steel Institute. In close collaboration with William Menelaus, he promoted its "steady growth" and the "joint acquisition, with Consett and Krupp, of large and rich deposits of iron ore at Bilbao, in Spain" as well as "the establishment of blast-furnaces and rolling mills at Cardiff; and above all, the uninterrupted prosperity of the concern."

Clark became president of the British Iron Trade Association, and, we learn from the same source, was also an important public figure nearer home, becoming the "magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant for Glamorgan, and High Sheriff in 1867. He was a strong supporter of the Volunteer movement in Wales, and was Colonel of the 2nd Battalion of the Glamorgan Rifles." Clark evidently took a great interest in his own locality: as a "prominent member of the Society of Antiquaries," he wrote "several works on antiquarian subjects." Interestingly, this obituary fails to mention that, in addition to all this, he had once been surgeon. But it does says that "he was heavily involved in public affairs in Merthyr Tydfil, particularly in the areas of public health, sanitation, and education." So perhaps his medical training still formed a strand in his later interests. In fact, this bust, commissioned by the Merthyr Tydfil Board of Guardians used to stand in the board room of the Merthyr Workhouse. The sculptor Joseph Edwards, who grew up in Merthyr, would have been the obvious choice for the work.

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Images downloaded from Art UK, where they were kindly made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence. Commentary and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee, who also digitally removed the distracting background of the profile view on the left.


"G. T. Clark (1809–1898), Esq., FSA." Art U7. Web. 27 January 2021.

""George Thomas Clark." Obituary from the Iron and Steel Institute. Grace's Guide. Web. 27 January 2021.

James, B. "Clark, George Thomas (1809–1898), engineer and antiquary." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 27 January 2021.

27 January 2014