Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Local Faces - the forgotten ones

Colonel Thomas Walker Harding (1843-1927)

The general public of Leeds were asked to nominate those represented on the Tapestry but I don't think anyone mentioned this chap. I'm intending to keep a list of those forgotten just in case someone would like to take up the challenge and make more panels. Feel free to nominate other people and places.

Without Colonel Harding Leeds may not have had the statues in City Square, such a well stocked Art Gallery or Abbey House Museum.

Thanks to Leeds Museums and Galleries for permission to reproduce the painting and the extract below

"Abbey House (now the Abbey House Museum) was sold to Col T W Harding in 1893. Col. Harding was married to the niece of J O Butler, one of the prominent and influential 'ironmasters' of Kirkstall Forge. Harding was Colonel of Butler's old regiment, the Leeds Artillery Volunteers. In addition to operating his family's firm, TR Harding and Son, card, wool-comb, steel pin, counter and speed indicator manufacturers, Harding made enormous contributions to the civic and cultural life of Leeds. He was a City Councillor for Headingley Ward, an alderman, Lord Mayor in 1898, Chairman of the West Riding Rives Board and President of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce. Today we can still appreciate many aspects of his artistic achievements. He virtually founded the Leeds City Art Gallery, chairing is committee for almost twenty years, and presenting some of its best-known paintings; he promoted the scheme for creating City Square, giving its fine statues of the Black Prince, Dean Hook, Joseph Priestley and their attendant ladies 'Morn' and 'Even', and he built one of the city's most fascinating industrial monuments - the dust extraction shaft at his Tower Works takes the form of Giotto's campanile at the Duomo in Florence. Less well known are his romantic historical novels, such as 'The Abbot of Kirkstall, a Romance of the Time of the Black Prince'. with these interests it is not surprising that Col. Harding took great pains to improve the Abbey House, using every opportunity to enhance its historic character. Above the Norman Hall he created 'Ye Abbot's Room' with oak panelling, stained glass windows, ornate plaster ceiling and fine carved oak fireplace, its overmantle showing Abbot Ripley surrendering Kirkstall Abbey in 1539. Downstairs in the south wing, the 'De Lacy Room' received similar treatment, the painted tiles set in the magnificent carved oak fireplace being of particular interest. Decorated in the style of William Morris and his circle, they feature portraits of Harding's namesake, Abbot Stephen of Citaux, who drew up the constitution of the Cistercian monastic order, Alexander the first abbot of Kirkstall, and Henry de Lacy, the founder of the Abbey. To the west of the gatehouse, the 1840s extensions were partly demolished to make way for a splendid oak staircase extending the full height of the building, its stained glass reflecting Col. Harding's historical and military interests. Those on the lower landing show Saladin, Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard Coeur de Lion, whilst those on the upper landing show the arms of Abbey House's owner, the Earl of Cardigan and successive occupants GS Beecroft, JO Butler and TW Harding. Other improvements included new panelling in the Norman Hall, new extensions to the kitchen wing, a stone and timber framed summerhouse or aviary to the north and many other minor details."

Extract from the out of print 'The Museum of Leeds Abbey House' (Leeds Leisure Services Publication)

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