Thomas Mewburn Crook’s life – the Later Years

Thomas Mewburn Crook’s life – the Later Years

Even before Dinah’s death, shortly after WW1, Thomas had employed an Artist’s Assistant, a Miss Saunders. Working full-time, he needed some help with the accounts, making up the paint colours he needed and generally helping to prepare for the next Sculpture.

Miss Saunders, Winifred, lived with her mother and younger brother in Mortlake. She had recently moved to London from Dumfries, but spent her early years in Dudley, Worcestershire.

Thomas continued his work, but 3rd October 1929 was a day he had probably never envisaged-he married Winifred at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Mortlake. Their home was, of course, the studio in Gainsborough Road. By the end of 1930, their first child had arrived, followed by four more over subsequent years. It is hardly surprising then, that his output in terms of sculptures was somewhat less than it had been!

All of them were baptised in their local Church, Our Lady of Grace and St Edward’s, with two of them going on to marry from there.

By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the youngest was only 18 months. Thomas and Winifred were faced with a difficult decision, whether or not to remain in London, which was where Thomas’ work was centred. Finally, Winifred and the children were evacuated to Buckinghamshire, whilst Thomas stayed in London throughout the War. He would visit his family as frequently as was possible.

Thomas did not like the separation, but he got on with his work; in 1939 he was working on the stone plaques for the New Malden Library, followed by two portrait busts, one of which was George VI.

Thomas’ last work, though not an original, caused him many long and anxious hours of work. He had been approached by the Edmund Burke American Memorial Committee to make a replica in marble of the Edmund Burke statue by John Henry Foley in St Stephen’s Hall, Westminster. The idea was to erect the statue in Washington and in each of the other 13 State Capitols. Thomas lost no time in drawing up sketches, plans and estimates for the task. However, on this occasion he could not work in his studio as the Statue was in Westminster. He travelled daily from Chiswick throughout the worst of the War, carrying wet clay tools and instruments that he needed. He persevered until his job was done. He was only too aware,with the night bombings of London, the statue may not survive. In what was a race against time to complete the model, he would work for 12 hours at a time some days.

When he had finished, he wrote to America with photographs and suggestions for casting a full-scale model, but nothing further ever came of this project. In 1944, the relentless toil of working in an unheated hall and working with wet clay daily, was taking its toll on a man who was now getting on in years. He was beginning to look his age.

By 1945, when his family returned to London, he was a sick man. He was though, delighted to have his family home. Another request for Thomas’ skill, came shortly after the War; Chiswick had not escaped the bombing. One landed on Dukes Avenue, which caused a lot of damage to Our Lady of Grace and St Edward. After the initial clear up, the undamaged part continued to be used. The Stations of the Cross, oil paintings by a Belgian Artist, Charles Bayaert were badly damaged and had to be removed.

After the Church was bombed we had ten stations in our front room as a safe dry place to store
them, the other four needed much more restoration

Evie Hughes(nee Cuss)

Thomas was asked to repair them. However, he was too unwell to do this task. His health continued to deteriorate and in early 1949, Thomas passed away. He is buried in Chiswick Old Cemetery, the same one where other artists, Whistler and Hogarth, are buried too.

The repair of the Stations of the Cross was Winifred’s all absorbing task for several years, after Thomas’ death, as well as looking after her family. She was determined to honour the undertaking her husband had made. Winifred had, after all, had much experience of the artistic world and knew the necessity of getting the colours exactly right. My mother recalls the Stations being in the Studio and the hours her mother spent repairing the bomb damage, taking great pains to ensure that the colours were true to the original. As indicated 4 of them were severely damaged, the canvas torn; with painstaking skill and care, she restored them to their former glory.

Winifred remained in the Studio until 1963, when she moved to Isleworth to be nearer her son, attending St Vincent’s Church, Osterley. In later life, she was a mosaicist and got a deal of enjoyment from this work. Much of it remains within the family.

She died in July 1980 and was buried with her husband in Chiswick Old Cemetery.

Their five ‘children’ and some of their 16 grandchildren have inherited the artistic skills of their grandparents. Sadly in 2012, their eldest grandchild passed away after a long illness.

This web-site, though primarily a tribute to Thomas is also a tribute to Winifred, for the unstinting and loyal support she gave him.