Thomas’ Life as a Young Adult
After 5 years in London, Thomas returned to Lancashire as the Modelling Master and Anatomy Lecturer at Manchester School of Art. Once there, he had lectures to prepare and work to be done. He was conscientious and in time, earned the respect of his colleagues and students who appreciated his quick wit. However, by nature, he was a quiet sensitive man.
In 1899, keen to embark on his own sculpting career, he rented a house at 79, Clarendon Road, South Manchester. There he put up a studio in the garden. The Painting Master at the Art school, John Shields, shared with the house with him too. Thomas and he remained good friends for many years following.
In 1901, Thomas is shown in the census as being resident at 79, Clarendon road. The years from 1900-1905 were very busy with sculpture and his students at the Art School.
Sadly, in April 1905, Thomas’ father, James, passed away. Later the same year, Thomas decided to make his way in London, resigned his position in Manchester and moved to Chiswick, where he rented a studio in Gainsborough Road. His widowed mother and his two unmarried sisters went with him and they all lived at Wavendon Avenue.
They attended Our Lady and St Edward’s Catholic Church in Chiswick. Dinah Crook attended Daily Mass there until the day before she died in 1924. Thomas too, remained a Parishioner there for the rest of his life. It was to play a large part in his life over the years to come.
By this time, encouraged by having had one piece of sculpture on show at the Royal Academy, Thomas was determined to have more there in due course. With work for exhibitions and commissions, he was a busy man. Even with the outbreak of the First World War, although the demand was less, he still had plenty of work to do. His marble statue of Sir Thomas Picton was done during this era.
Having been told that he was too old for active service, he sought to do what he could in London. From 1914-18, he was a Red Cross volunteer. In this capacity his detailed knowledge of anatomy was vital. He helped to unload the trains as they returned to London full of the injured and sick men returning from the Western Front. He would accompany them to the designated hospitals, providing First Aid and then assist in the operations that were needed.
Many men had lost limbs; Thomas with his anatomical knowledge together with his sculptural background was able to help provide artificial limbs. In 1915, he became a member of the Committee for the War Relief Exhibition at the Royal Academy. Even before the War had finished, plans were being made to have permanent memorials made countrywide, to commemorate the men who had died. Thomas’ first such request came from St. Mary’s, Wigan, followed in due course by requests for Memorials in Caterham, Raynes Park, Streetly and Felixstowe. Other such requests came from St Catherine’s, Rotherhithe, St Mark’s, North Audley Street and from the London and Lancashire Insurance Company in London.
The Memorial for Caterham in the shape of a Celtic cross with and the Rotherhithe Pieta formed part of the 1919 War Memorial Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
In 1924, Thomas’ mother, Dinah passed away and his two sisters, Frances and Theresa who had never really settled in London returned North. Not wanting to keep two properties going for himself, he decided to make the Studio in Gainsborough Road, Chiswick his permanent home.