English Sculptor born in Liverpool
The legacy of George Herbert Tyson Smith can be seen throughout the Liverpool and Merseyside area. Born in Liverpool in 1883, he was first apprenticed to a stonemason, then studied at Liverpool University and the Liverpool College of Art. He established his own practice in 1912, but was interrupted by serving in the Royal Flying Corps during WWI. Post-war, he set up his first studio, later moving to a larger one behind the Bluecoat Chambers in 1925, where he lovingly carried out some restoration work after bomb damage in 1941.
He was much sought after during his lifetime for his work on war memorials, on Merseyside and beyond. Perhaps the most striking of these is Liverpool Cenotaph, located on The Plateau directly before the entrance of St George’s Hall. First proposed by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1920, the high rates of unemployment after the war delayed fund-raising efforts and a temporary wooden cenotaph was wheeled into position annually until 1930, when the one we see today was unveiled.
The Cenotaph, designed by architect Lionel Budden and featuring panels by Smith, is unusual both for its horizontal design and the powerful and modern, realistic portrayals of soldiers and mourners. On one panel, row after row of uniformed men march onwards, as if to war. On the other, a group of mourners in 1920s clothing pay their respects against a backdrop of war graves stretching into infinity. If you get close, you’ll see the exquisite detail – every button, shoelace and fingernail is beautifully portrayed.
Tyson Smith’s work also included the Liverpool Post Office War Memorial, now located in the Met Quarter, and carving lettering and sculptures on many significant Liverpool buildings such as the dolphins, starfish, seahorses, mermen and other nautical details on the outside of Spinney House in Church Street, originally built for Littlewoods stores. His bronze panels for the former Martins Bank on Water Street can be seen in Merseyside Maritime Museum.
Herbert Tyson Smith died in 1972 and is buried in Allerton Cemetery.
Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.