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Thomas Kershaw 1819-1898

Leading wood grainer and marbler, Thomas Kershaw visited Shakespeare's Birthplace on 5 October 1859

Norma Hampson
Thomas Kershaw

Thomas Kershaw signed the Birthplace visitors book on 5 October 1859.

He was born in Standish, Lancashire in 1819 to a farmer, George Kershaw, and his wife Mary (nee Critchley). At the age of 12 years his father paid £23 per annum for his nine year apprenticeship to local painter and decorator Mr. John Platt of Bolton, Lancashire. In return his employer undertook to teach him his trade and to keep him in food and clothing. During this period he bought his first set of graining tools with money earned from painting pictures and developed his skills in the art of wood graining.

Thomas Kershaw Birthplace visit

On completion of his apprenticeship he moved to London becoming the leading wood grainer at the firm of Messrs. William Cubitt. In the mid 1840s he decided to branch out on his own. The Great Exhibition of 1851 provided him with an opportunity to display his imitation marble panels for which he was awarded a prize medal together with many lucrative commissions. These included one from the Russian Ambassador to decorate the Imperial Palaces in St. Petersburg. This he declined but he accepted the commission from Prince Albert, in 1858, to carry out the marbling of columns at Buckingham Palace and Osborne House.

Other achievements include Gold Medals at the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris and the 1862 Exhibition in London. In 1860 he became a Freeman of the City of London and in 1862 he was elected a liveryman in The Worshipful Compay of Painters-Stainers.

On a personal note he married Mary Atkinson on 24 May 1845 in Wigan, Lancashire and had four daughters, the eldest of whom married Thomas Bonnar of Edinburgh son of William Bonnar, RSA a well known artist.

In the Census of 1871 his status is that of Widower, occupation house painter and decorator employing 23 men and 2 boys.

He died 30 June 1898 at 38 Baker Street, London a very rich man leaving £158,267 to his beneficiaries.


Sources:

McDonald, Stewart : Thomas Kershaw 1819-1898 ‘Prince of Grainers & Marblers :  a brief history and tribute to his life and Works’.  2004

Census 1881

Examples of his work are on show in Bolton Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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