Sgwarnog: In the Field

By sgwarnog

On the Trail of Ancestors

One of the mysteries in my family tree is whether we are related to the sculptor/architect/artist Hollins family of nineteenth century Birmingham.

My paternal grandmother was a Birmingham Hollins, and her family and ancestors were at the very least contemporaries who lived in the area, worshipped in the same church, and there are hints of a common connection in eighteenth century Shifnal, but at the moment we have a dead end, and haven't been able to firmly establish the link.

One of the things that cultivated the sense that there was a connection, is that we were told that there was one. In particular, one of the more celebrated works of Peter Hollins (1800-1886) is Suffer The Little Children to Come Unto Me, a font at the Marble Church in Bodelwyddan, near to where we grew up. Part of family lore was that the Hollins that carved this font was part of Grandma's family.

Operating under a version of the uncertainty principle, my view is that there is quite strong circumstantial evidence for a connection, and that until it's proven that there isn't a connection, I'm happy to think that there might be. And who wouldn't be happy to think that there were some successful provincial artist/sculptors and architects in their family. For this reason I've grown interested in their work, and I try to see it where I can.

St. Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham is one place where a lot of the work of Peter Hollins, and his father William Hollins (1763-1843) can be found. Which brings me to today's image - one of the many memorials carved by William Hollins in the cathedral, this one being in a prominant position in the main entrance porch. Pevsner refers to it as a "well draped urn", which seems to have been a noted William Hollins style.

There is better work by Peter Hollins inside, like this memorial to Edward Villers Wilkes, but this image wins out because of the dramatic window shadow.

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