|Home | Biography | Works | Features | News and comment | Links | Contact|
This site celebrates the life and work of sculptor John
Cassidy (1860 - 1939).
The John Kay memorial, Bury, Greater Manchester
We are pleased to report that the Kay memorial has been cleaned and refurbished in 2011, an operation which was very badly needed: we have updated this page with new pictures to celebrate the occasion.
Arrive in Bury by bus or tram, visit the town's famous market or shopping centre, and you cannot fail to see the Kay Memorial, which is right in the centre of things, in the centre of Kay Gardens, an open space created from the former market place when a new market hall was built in 1901. The new space, and the memorial at its centre, erected in 1908, were paid for by Henry Whitehead, a wealthy local millowner (see lower left column).
An imposing (over ten metres high) and complex structure, designed by Bristol-based architect, William Venn Gough (1842-1918), the memorial, constructed by local builders, Thompson and Brierley, comprises, in the words of the Public Monument and Sculpture Association National Recording Project (PMSA):
Ornate Italianate domed octagon on base of seven steps. Horizontally rusticated based sandstone, re-used from the old market hall. Main stage of eight red granite ionic columns broken forward under entablature. These frame four bronze panels depicting looms, the inscriptions and a medallion of Kay.The dome of Portland stone is encircled by a balustrade, surmounted by bronze figure of Fame, and surrounded by smaller figures of Agriculture, Engineering, Mining and Weaving.
The bronze statues, medallion and plaques are all by John Cassidy. Fame, perched at the top of the dome, is shown blowing a long this trumpet and holding a laurel wreath. Of the four workers the original description was: 'Agriculture' is a young man with a sickle, mopping his brow; Engineering is a man with a cogwheel and a pair of compasses or dividers; Mining is a bare-chested man with a pickaxe and safety lamp; and Weaving is the main in a cap holding a shuttle.' Our pictures show that the pickaxe, the safety lamp and the sickle are all missing: they would have been separate parts from the main castings, and may well have been stolen, or possibly removed in case they fell on the people who congregate around the memorial. Sadly, perhaps, they have not been replicated during the refurbishment.
Above 'Mining.' A bronze copy of this statue was retained by Cassidy and appears as 'The Miner' in his 'Catalogue of a Small Collection' of 1914. The picture reproduced there shows how this one would have looked originally. 'Agriculture' is perobably also the same figure as listed in that catalogue as 'The Reaper.'
'Engineering' (above) has emerged particularly well from cleaning: he still has his original gearwheel and dividers.
'Fame' has the look of a cousin of 'victory' seen on Cassidy's later war memorial work.
Kay Gardens and the Kay Monument were opened in April 1908. Mrs Henry Whitehead opened the gardens and the Earl of Derby unveiled the monument.
THE GIFT OF HENRY WHITEHEAD OF HASLAM HEY TO HIS NATIVE TOWN
TO PERPETUATE THE NAME AND FAME OF
WHOSE INVENTION IN THE YEAR 1733 OF THE FLY SHUTTLE
QUADRUPLED HUMAN POWER IN WEAVING & PLACED ENGLAND IN THE FRONT RANK
AS THE BEST MARKET IN THE WORLD FOR TEXTILE MANUFACTURES.
HE WAS BORN IN BURY IN 1704, AND DIED IN EXILE AND POVERTY IN FRANCE,
WHERE HE LIES IN AN UNKNOWN GRAVE.
The memorial became sadly neglected, in parallel with the decline of the Lancashire textile industry, and by 1996 it was in such dangerous condition that it had to be fenced off. However, it was restored, although the condition of the dome by 2008 appeared to belie this fact. Originally there were railings round the top step of the plinth - perhaps these vanished in the Second World War scrap drive. In 2011 the whole monument was clearned and refurbished again.
These lions' heads are presumably also by Cassidy.
John Kay (1704–1780/81), was born at Park Farm in the parish of Bury, Lancashire, on 16 July 1704, the fifth son of prosperous farmer Robert Kay (1651–1704) and his wife, Ellen, née Entwistle, of Quarlton.
He is famous in Lancashire the 'Inventor of the flying shuttle' - the flying shuttle being a mechanism for speeding up the production of cloth on a hand-operated loom. He was in fact a prolific inventor; his first invention, which passed into general use, arose from he first employment as a maker of reeds, and was an improved reed for the loom, which substituted thin wire for the usual strips of cane or reed. In 1733 he patented a shuttle, which was much lighter than the existing one, ran upon four wheels, and could be used for weaving woollen or linen broad-goods. Termed at first a wheel-shuttle, a spring-shuttle, or a bobbin-shuttle, it was only later called a fly-shuttle. Unfortunately Kay's business skills did not match his ingenuity, and he charged so much for the use of his invention that it was widely pirated. Other ideas were a water-powered device for raising water from mines, and a new type of loom for weaving tape.
In 1747 he emigrated to France, where he set up as a manufacturer of his designs, with encouragement from the French government. Historian Douglas Farnie wrote:
To help him in the task of manufacture in a Paris workshop he brought over three of his sons from England - Robert Kay (1728–1802), James Kay, and John Kay (1740–1791) - but he soon found that French weavers were diligently counterfeiting ‘the English shuttle’ (la navette anglaise, as it was styled in a French publication of 1763).
Unfortunately his inventions were pirated in France too, but by all accounts he made a reasonable living. He died in the south of France during the winter of 1780–81. The exact date and place remain unknown, as does the site of his grave; at the time France and England were at war.
Although he left Bury, he has always been seen as a celebrated son of the town and one of the men responsible for Lancashire's success in the cotton industry, although he left before the development of the cotton industry and powered looms. Legends have developed around him, including the idea that he was driven out of Bury by hostile weavers who believed his inventions threated their livelihoods, and 'died in exile and poverty' as the working on the memorial has it. The legend is fostered by being included in Ford Madox Brown's series of murals in Manchester Town Hall chronicling Manchester's history.
The official description of this work (above) from the Manchester City Council website reads: 'For thousands of years, weaving was done by hand, throwing the shuttle across the loom. If a wider cloth was needed, two weavers threw the shuttle to each other. John Kay invented a shuttle fired by a cord into boxes either side of the loom. On the left, rioters are breaking in to smash the loom, while Kay is being smuggled to safety.'
The memorial in 2008, before cleaning.
Links and References
Douglas Farnie: 'John Kay' - entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
William Brockbank: The Honorary Medical Staff of the Manchester Royal Infirmary 1830-1948. Manchester University Press, 1965. (Available on Google Books)
Tracy, W. Burnett and Pike, W.T: Manchester and Salford at the Close of the 19th Century: Contemporary Biographies. Brighton: W.T. Pike & Co., 1899. (Available on the Spinning the Web website)
Robert Whitehead (1823 - 1905) - Wykenet
''[Walter] Whitehead's operations': British Journal of Surgery, Volume 12, Issue 48 p. 625-629.
The Kays of Bury district, Lancashire: a Rootsweb genealogy compiled by Stephen Painter.
Robert Whitehead: a brief history
The Cottontown Project: Blackburn with Darwen Council
Text and Pictures by Charlie Hulme, May 2009. Last