The Halifax-born sculptor Joseph Bentley Leyland was the son of Roberts Leyland, and older brother of Francis Alexander Leyland
He was educated at his grandfather's academy in Halifax. He also wrote poetry.
He began modelling at the age of 16. Christopher Rawson allowed him to study his collection of Greek marbles which possibly inspired later works, such as Spartacus
At the age of 18, he sculpted the head of the minister at Northgate End Chapel which is now in Bankfield Museum.
He was noticed by Thomas Illidge, the portrait painter, whom he followed to London where he met Francis Leggatt Chantrey and Benjamin Haydon. He studied in London for a time, under Haydon, before returning to Halifax.
He was a close friend of Branwell Brontë.
Around 1840, he was to judge the poetry-writing contest between William Dearden and Brontë. About 1846, Leyland encouraged Brontë to write an epic poem about the history of Morley Hall, Lancashire, which had once belonged the Leyland's ancestors. In return for the poem, Leyland would make a medallion showing Brontë's profile. The medallion hangs in the Parsonage at Haworth, but the poem never appeared.
With Brontë and Tom Cliffe, he was a member of a club which met at the Union Cross Inn, and he had a studio at the rear of the inn. Branwell wrote a famous letter to Leyland announcing his intention to write a novel.
After meeting Sir Richard Westmacott, he opened a studio at Number 10 The Square which became a meeting place for artists and poets – including Branwell Brontë, William Dearden, Wilson Anderson.
Although impoverished himself, Leyland paid many of his friends' bar debts.
His studio later became the Halifax Marble Works where Leyland produced marble sculpture and – when Leyland was in financial difficulties – more popular and commercial products:
Halifax Marble Works|
J. B. Leyland, Sculptor
Monuments, busts, tombs, tablets, chiffonier slabs and all kinds of marble work used in the upholstery business, made to order. A variety of marble chimney pieces on view, cleaned, repaired, or set up
He died in the debtors' prison.
He was buried at Salem Methodist New Connexion Chapel, North Parade
|Some of his work|
Because Leyland made so many of his works in plaster, these often broke or decayed over time.
His works include:
Leyland originally intended to produce a group of three enormous classical figures, but probably could not afford to do so. He completed one of the statues and a plaster cast of it went to Salford. The original was on display for some years outside the old Halifax public baths and the work was known as The Listener.
Several people, including John Crossley, proposed that a metal cast should be made of this statue and that it should be displayed in a prominent place such as the Piece Hall.
It was proposed that the work be retitled Anglo Saxon Chieftain, but Leyland died before the casting had been made.
Insufficient money was raised by public subscription, so a local iron founder – named Pearson – paid for much of the work himself. Eventually it was completed but the statue – without a falcon – was given names such as Samson, Hercules, and Goliath, and stayed in Pearson's yard for many years until it was bought by the wealthy William Huntriss for the garden of Westfield House. This house was bought by Halifax Corporation in 1927, and the Thracian Falconer was bought for the gardens of The Hollins, then owned by Clifford Ramsden.
The statue has remained at The Hollins, through various changes of ownership. The Falconer, designed to represent a rude, barbarian race of men, has no falcon on the cast-iron version. But it is recorded that the cast once on display in Salford was equipped with a bird in its outstretched hand
Revised 18:11 /21st November 2020 / 11350
Page Ref: MML113
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