William Wheatley Wagstaff
Born 16 November 1880
Died 13 December 1962
Active: 1901 - 1946
Country of birth: England
Country of death: Scotland
Sculptor, architectural sculptor, stone carver, draughtsman in an aircraft factory, sculpture business and foundry owner
Born in Keighley. He was the son of James Wagstaff (born c.1857 in Caldecot, Bedfordshire), railway porter or shunter. As a boy William attended Eastwood School, and then evening classes at Keighley Institute. He served for some years with Alexander Frank Smith (1862-c.1953 ), sculptor, Keighley. Wagstaff moved to London and studied at the South London Technical School of Art (City and Guilds of London Art School), Kennington and then at the Royal Academy Schools. He won the Royal Academy Silver Medal for a Modelled Design in 1910 for 'Mary Magdalene' (present location unknown) and the same year exhibited 'The Woman' at the Royal Academy. He appears to have worked primarily as an architectural sculptor or stone carver before 1914. This is based on the evidence of his son Donald's birth certificate (1904) which gives William's occupation as ‘Sculptor (Journeyman)’ and the census returns of 1911, in which he described himself as a 'Stone Carver' and worker.
During the First World War, Wagstaff was employed as a draughtsman in an aircraft factory. Afterwards he received a commission to design the Deptford Borough War Memorial (unveiled on July 7, 1921). Wagstaff created two figures of servicemen and collaborated with the builder William Richards on the central octagonal shaft in Portland stone. In 1920 Wagstaff joined the firm of 'Arts and Crafts' in Shanghai, China in answer to an advertisement for a sculptor. A few years later he opened his own sculpture, ornamental plaster and metal work studio and workshop with a Chinese workforce in the Great Western Road, Shanghai. With the help of his two sons, Donald (1904-41) and Alec (1908-43), W.W. Wagstaff & Sons were well known in the Far East before the Second World War with branches in Singapore (run by Alec) and Hong Kong (run by Donald).
Wagstaff carried out commissions for a firm of architects, Palmer and Turner, who were involved in public buildings, banks etc. in Shanghai. One of his commissions was a group of figures on top of the Post Office building. Among his other principal works are casting the full-size bronze lions outside the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong (c.1933-35) and are now said to be in the Shanghai Museum. (These were originally modelled by Henry Poole for the headquarters of the bank in Shanghai). Wagstaff created the bronze and ornamental plaster work in the Cathay Hotel grill room and Mitsui Bank in Shanghai. Donald Wagstaff painted the murals in the Peninsular Hotel, Hong Kong. There is an unconfirmed report that Donald was commissioned to paint two pictures of Hong Kong for the offices of P&O, London.
Donald died in 1941 while serving on a motor torpedo boat, which was bombed by the Japanese in Hong Kong harbour. Alec died whilst a prisoner of war on the Burma Railway in 1943. William Wagstaff and his wife, Mina, were interned in China during the war. In 1946 they decided to sell up their business and return to England, they landed in 1947. From 1947-61 the Wagstaffs lived in Kent and then moved to Edinburgh in 1961 to be close to family.
This entry is largely based on information submitted by David Inglis and an extract from the 'Keighley News', Saturday 4 November 1916, p.10, column 2.
Wealth at death: £830 14s. 0d.
Probate date: 26 February 1963
Exhibitions, Meetings, Awards and other Events
Exhibited at The Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts (Summer Exhibition), 1768-
1910 - 1931
Exhibited twice, two works in all ('The Woman', cat no. 1710 in 1910 and 'The Man Child' statuette group in marble, cat. no. 1511, in 1931)
Institutional and Business Connections
Studied at Royal Academy Schools
Awarded a silver medal for a model of a design containing figure and ornament, in 1908. See 'Annual Report, 1908', (1909), p. 32.
Personal and Professional Connections
Copied work by Henry Poole
1933 (Circa) - 1935
Wagstaff was commissioned to make new casts of the lions that Poole had created for the Shanghai Bank. The second set of lions were placed outside the branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Des Vouex Road, Hong Kong (building unveiled October 1935).
Employee of Alexander Frank Smith
Based on information given in the 'Keighley News', Saturday 4 November 1916, p.10, column 2 [submitted by David Inglis].
Descriptions of Practice
Occupation given in West Yorkshire, England, Marriages and Banns, 1813-1921
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911
'Stone Carver' worker
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901
RG13 piece 75 folio 31 page 16
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911
RG14PN7196 RG78PN353 RD132 SD1 ED4 SN138
England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915
Name: William Wheatley Wagstaff Date of Registration: Oct-Nov-Dec 1880 Registration district: Pancras Inferred County: London Volume: 1b Page: 187
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966
Name: William Wheatley Wagstaff Probate Date: 26 Feb 1963 Death Date: 13 Dec 1962 Death Place: Edinburgh, Scotland Registry: London, England
London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906
London Metropolitan Archives, St Pancras, Register of Birth, STPBG, Item 268.
West Yorkshire, England, Marriages and Banns, 1813-1921
Name: William Wheatley Wagstaff Birth Year: abt 1881 Age: 22 Marriage or Bann Date: 1 Aug 1903 Parish: Manningham, St Mark Father's Name: James Wagstaff Spouse's Name: Mina Christina Vosper Hayes Spouse's Father's Name: John Charles Vosper
Citing this record
'William Wheatley Wagstaff', 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=msib4_1262789222, accessed 19 Jan 2017]