Died 3 February 1910
Active: 1851 - 1907
Country of birth: Scotland
Country of death: England
Sculptor, carver, gilder
Born in Kelso, Scotland. He was the son of Adam Forsyth, mason, who died in James's early youth. By the age of thirteen James was an apprentice carver and gilder living in Kelso with his mother, Agnes (born c.1811), 'seemster'. His brother, William Forsyth (born c.1834 in Kelso) also became a wood carver and sculptor. Before 1851 James had moved to Wells, Somerset where he was commissioned by the architect Anthony Salvin to carve the organ case and choir stall for the cathedral. They worked together on a number of other projects and Forsyth also collaborated with Salvin's brother-in-law, the architect, William Andrew Nesfield. In the early 1850s, Forsyth entered into partnership with the Belgian/British sculptor, Theodore Phyffers at Lansdowne Yard, but this was dissolved by mutual consent on 23 March 1855.
A major turning point in James's and William's careers was an invitation to contribute to the renovation of Witley Court, Worcester in the late 1850s. Witley was owned by William Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley who also had property near Kelso where he probably first encountered the Forsyth brothers. The commissions at Witley included a large fountain for the grounds and extensive embellishments for the interior.
James received another substantial commission (c.1860-5) for the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome, Somerset. Here Forsyth carved the reredos; a Madonna and Child; a Pieta; statues of Saints Aldelm, Alban, Andrew and George; eighteen medallions; and a Via Crucis for the church exterior. Amongst his many other commissions were marble pulpits for Witley Church and Worcester Cathedral; architectural carvings for Alnwick Castle, Northumberland; Sherborne Abbey; and the cathedrals in Chichester; Norwich; and St Paul's, London.
Forsyth was later assisted by his sons James Nesfield (born c.1864), sculptor; William (born c.1873), architect; and John D. (born c.1875), stained glass artist. James's death certificate indicates he had been ill for the previous three years so it is assumed he retired from active work around 1907.
Includes information from Bernice Forsyth and Emma Hardy supplied to the Henry Moore Institute archive. There is a website for the Forsyth brothers, research by Elizabeth Moncrieff, with lists of their works at: http://www.theforsythbrothers.com/ (accessed 14 November 2014).
Wealth at death: £7,969 14s. 4d.
Probate date unknown, information supplied by Bernice Forsyth
Studio located at The Studios, 325 Finchley Road Hampstead London NW | View on map
1882 (Circa) - 1907 (Circa)
Presume working at this address until his retirement
Exhibitions, Meetings, Awards and other Events
Exhibited at The Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts (Summer Exhibition), 1768-
1864 - 1889
Exhibited 10 times, twenty-one works in all (reliefs, busts, statuettes and models, some portraits but primarily religious works)
Personal and Professional Connections
Aunt/uncle of Adam John Forsyth
Brother/sibling of William Forsyth
Mother/father/parent of James Nesfield Forsyth
Partnership with Theodore Phyffers
1853 (Circa) - 1855
The partnership working as sculptors and carvers from Lansdowne Yard was dissolved by mutual consent on 23 March 1855.
Descriptions of Practice
Listed under Sculptors Post Office London Directory, 1860 Post Office/Kelly London Directories
Listed under Sculptors Post Office London Directory, 1890 Post Office/Kelly London Directories
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851
'Freestone Carver Stone cut'
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901
'Sculptor', employer, also James Nesfield Forsyth (born c.1864), 'Sculptor', William Forsyth (born c.1873), 'Architect', and John D. Forsyth (born c.1875), 'Stained Glass Artist' all the son were working on their own account
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1881
'Sculptor Employing 18 Men and Eight Boys' also his son James Nesfield (born c.1864), 'Sculptor'
1841 Scotland Census
Name: James Forsyth Age: 14 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1827 Gender: Male Where born: Roxburghshire, Scotland Civil parish: Kelso County: Roxburghshire Address: Bridge Street Occupation: Carver & Gilder Ap Parish Number: 793
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851
Class: HO107; Piece: 1934; Folio: 305; Page: 31; GSU roll: 221093
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861
Class: RG9; Piece: 95; Folio: 138; Page: 3; GSU roll: 542572
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871
RG10 piece 201 folio 94 page 27
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1881
RG11 piece 169 folio 21 page 36
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891
RG12 piece 114 folio 53 page 9
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901
Class: RG13; Piece: 125; Folio: 6; Page: 4.
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901
Class: RG13; Piece: 125; Folio: 6; Page: 4
England & Wales, Death Index: 1916-2007
Name: James Forsyth Estimated Birth Year: abt 1827 Year of Registration: 1910 Quarter of Registration: Jan-Feb-Mar Age at Death: 83 District: Hampstead County: Greater London, London, Middlesex Volume: 1a Page: 377
The London Gazette
Gazette Issue 21686, 30 March 1855, p. 1299
Citing this record
'James Forsyth', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=ann_1233174642, accessed 10 Oct 2015]