One of Thomas’ earliest works was the relief decoration in 1901, of the Council Chamber in Manchester ready for the opening of the Manchester School of Technology in 1902, by the then Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour. The building erected to accommodate this new Manchester School of Technology is on Sackville Street, Manchester. The first Principal was John Henry Reynolds M.Sc. During his tenure of 1902-1912, it became recognised as the first Faculty of Technology in a British University.
At the time of this Commission, Thomas was a Lecturer at the Manchester School of Art. His name as a versatile and talented Sculptor was obviously becoming known in the locality.
The black and white photos shown here are photos taken of the work in 1901, when the room was not fully finished. Currently it is one of the buildings used by UMIST.
The Council Chamber is still there and Thomas’ work can be seen on the ceiling panels in the room with the 8 Caryatids supporting the ceiling spaced at intervals around it. It is a beautifully decorated room, not least because of the rich decoration by my grandfather. The colour photos at the bottom of the page are of Thomas’ work in 2017. This was the first time that I had seen this work.
I notice that the room can be hired for meetings. Although this wood-panelled room has many portrait paintings of various Principals over the years, there is no reference to the sculptor who did so much towards the decoration of it. This is a serious omission.
Description of the Ceiling
The Caryatids represent the virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, Patience, Vigilance, Faithfulness and Chastity.
The ceiling centre panel shows Helios the Sun God surrounded by 4 figures, Wisdom, Understanding, Council and Knowledge each standing on an emblematic tripod. Between these are placed the Seasons, Spring Summer, Autumn and Winter with the Zodiac signs representing the different months.
On the outer rim of this centrepiece are represented the fruits of the earth, oranges, figs, grapes tomatoes, apples, pears and pomegranates.
In one of the side panels there is Eos driving her two horses Brightness and Lustre in order that she may hasten on in front of the Sun God.
Here is how the ceiling looked in 2017.
A snapshot of the whole room can be seen by following the link below: