West Riding Union Bank, Park Row, Leeds, Now Kenneth Hodgson House, formally Abtech House

Architects Oliver and Dodson Completed in 1902.

This area of Park Row has some great sculptural architecture. It would appear the most striking examples are by Thewlis & Co. I found this description on victorianweb.org The frieze above Abtech House showing Minerva the goddess of wisdom and crafts, with commercial enterprises either side of her. The frieze has been carefully cleaned to reveal the detail. Left-hand panel: on this side of Minerva are seven figures. Two workmen on the left are unloading a ship (notice the crane in the upper lefthand corner), and a boy is crouching by some barrels, the agent in the middle is holding pen and accounts. On the right are activities at the other end of the trading equation. An African is lifting a bale, a Chinese man is gesticulating (perhaps driving a bargain), and someone in a Middle Eastern costume is carrying a basket on his shoulder. Behind a ship’s prow can be seen a sailing ship. Though Minerva herself is stylised and Art Nouveau-ish, it is a wonderfully lively scene, full of naturalistic details: notice the men’s moustaches and the thickset docker with his cap to one side. While doing some research I came across this image in ‘Academy architecture and annual architectural review’ 1902 edition here’s a link to the full magazine.

About the Sculpture

Joseph Thewlis

Born 1862 Died 28 December 1921 Active: 1881 – 1911 Country of birth and death: England Sculptor, stone mason Born and died in Leeds, Yorkshire. He was the son of James Thewlis (born c.1839), an engine stoker at a factory. Joseph is named as the carver of the façade of Abtech House, 18 Park Row, Leeds, LS1 5JA with a design commemorating international banking c.1900. The architects were Oliver and Dodgshun.

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