Below is a further chapter from A Kerridge Childhood written
by Enid Simpson. For a full introduction and index to all the stories
please see the head
ALFRED GATLEY (1816-1863)
I have told you of some of the characters - eccentric and otherwise
- who lived on Kerridge in my childhood days. There is another
person who lived there before my time and who became famous for
his skill as a sculptor - one Alfred Gatley.
Dad used to tell me about him, they were both Kerridge boys.
Gatley's yard, a group of three cottages, could be seen from
our front door - which incidentally faced on to a meadow. One
of its occupants in later years was Harriet Shufflebottom, of
whom I have written in another essay.
Alfred's father owned two quarries on Kerridge, probably one
was where my Dad worked. Alfred learnt to hold and use a chisel
at a very young age and his biography tells us that at the age
of ten, he carved an inscription on a small tombstone with the
words 'Robin Redbreast's Grave.' Many children his age could
hardly even write these words, and for one so young to be able
to space and then chisel the words, was something to be proud
of. I have never seen the gravestone but hope that it exists
He attended Pott Shrigley School - this may have been the nearest
one at that time, and the Vicar of the Church recognized his
skills and gave him every encouragement to improve them. From
Kerridge and Pott Shrigley, he decided at the age of 21, to go
to London in order to improve his knowledge, and attached himself
to a Mr. Bailey. At the Royal Academy he won one prize after
another. His work was much sought after and he made money from
sculpting commemorative plaques and busts of well-known people.
This work, however, did not fulfil Alfred's ambitions, and he
left London for Rome where be joined a group of English Artists
led by a carver of genius, a Welshman named John Gibson. Here
he was able to develop his love for carving animals - (stemming
maybe from his Kerridge days) and made quite a name for himself.
The huge bas-reliefs of Pharaoh, Moses and Miriu now hang in
Edinburgh Museum. A block of Carrera* marble weighing thirteen
tons was used for this work and Alfred spent the last seven years
of his life working on them.
This carving and much of his earlier work was taken to London
- at his own expense - and put on exhibition at a much publicized
International Exhibition. Sadly, the English ignored his work,
to Alfred's great and bitter disappointment. He could not afford
to transport it back to Rome, where it may have received a better
He died a broken man at the age of 47 and was buried in Rome
in the English Cemetery. Much of his work is on permanent display
in the Edinburgh Museum.
We grew up knowing about Alfred Gatley, a local boy who became
famous and travelled much of the world. I did not appreciate
the significance of his fame until much later in life. 'A prophet
without fame in his own country.' This is true of Alfred Gatley.
Maybe in years to come, his skill and fame will be honored in
* Carrera - a town of Tuscany, West Italy. Fine, white marble is
© 1985 Enid Simpson
Editor's note - this story should not be relied upon for the locations
of Gatley's works.
There is a history page devoted to
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