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Mark’s History: The Farsley carver who created the famous figures in Thornton’s Arcade

Meet John Wormald Appleyard, one-time resident of Water Lane in 1850s Farsley, writes Mark Stevenson.

This is John Wormald Appleyard, with a feather in his cap due to completing this prestigious commission, carved by Benjamin Payle. Photo: Mark Stevenson

He was the eldest (born 1832) of Jabez and Jane Appleyard’s nine children. The Appleyard family gravestone can be found in St John’s Graveyard in Farsley. 

The Appleyard family gravestone in Farsley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

John Wormald Appleyard was a bit of a ‘Jack of All Trades’ when it came to carving. When he had completed his apprenticeship with his grandfather he moved to 4 Hirst Square (Civic Hall stands there now) where he lived for the rest of his life with his wife Elizabeth.

Thornton’s Arcade in Leeds. Photo: Mark Stevenson

In 1871 he was producing sculpture and designs at his workshop in Cookridge Street. He remained there as a Monumental Mason until around 1891.

I was originally going take a pic of all of his work in Leeds but I never really got started as by the time I had taken some pics in Thorntons Arcade in town I had more than enough pics and info. 

Thorntons Arcade was the first of the shopping arcades in town. It was built for Charles Thornton, a local entrepreneur by George Smith in 1877. George Smith had previously built the City Varieties Music Hall for Charles Thornton on Swan Street in 1865.

As I am sure most of you know there is a clock at the Land Lane entrance to Thorntons Arcade that has characters from the novel Ivanhoe striking the clock hourly.

The clock is by Potts (the company started in Pudsey) but the carvings for the arcade are by John Wormald Appleyard.

The four figures on the clock were carved by Appleyard from wood. The figures are of Richard I, Friar Tuck, Robin Hood and the Swineherd Gurth.

thorntons arcade leeds
Famous figures in Thornton’s Arcade, Leeds. Photo: Mark Stevenson

It looks like the figures strike the bells but it is actually hammers hidden behind the display.

John Wormald Appleyard has many works around Leeds that still stand today. A stained glass crucifixion window was found at his studio after his death. You can now see it at St John the Evangelist Church in Farsley.

He died on 14 January 1894 and his buried at Beckett Street Cemetery.

John Appleyard’s graveston in Beckett Street Cemetery. Photo: Mark Stevenson


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