Denis Alva Parsons

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Denis Alva Parsons
Denis Parsons.jpg
Denis Alva Parsons
Born(1934-11-14)14 November 1934
Polesworth, Warwickshire, UK
Died4 April 2012(2012-04-04) (aged 77)
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, UK
EducationSeven year apprenticeship, Robert Bridgeman & Sons, Lichfield, UK
Known forSculpture, carving, letter cutting, gilding.
AwardsMBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), ARBS (Associate of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, Membership Number 161)

Denis Alva Parsons MBE ARBS (14 November 1934 – 4 April 2012) was an English sculptor and carver in wood and stone, working in the tradition of "direct carving" technique and figurative bronzes.


Denis Parsons was a sculptor, one of the last traditionally-schooled craftsmen in a long British carving tradition. He was accomplished in "Direct carving" – cutting figures out of a block of stone or wood. This was seen as a primary test of the artist's abilities in releasing the figures "hidden" in the inert materials.

Born near Polesworth, Warwickshire, Parsons spent his whole working career in the Midlands. In the 1950s, he served a seven-year apprenticeship with Robert Bridgeman and Sons, Lichfield, later to become Linford Bridgeman a company concentrating on architectural and ecclesiastical carving and sculpture. At the time, the company employed a substantial team of carvers, each with a specialist skill in figurative sculpture, foliage carving and letter cutting. From each craftsman, Parsons was fortunate to acquire traditional skills that had been developed and handed down over many generations. Later he became the company's head sculptor before setting up his own studio near Lichfield. See The Architects' Journal reference below.

In a career lasting over fifty years, Denis Parsons established a reputation in the field of wood and stone carving, both figurative and architectural. A range of his figurative work can be found in locations worldwide. St Joseph's R.C. Church at Darlaston, Wednesbury, West Midlands, UK features four of his figures.[1] The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum in Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK exhibits a figure of Dr Johnson in the round created by Parsons.[2] St Ambrose's Church, Kidderminster, UK displays Denis' interpretation of St Ambrose in lime wood.[3] The crypt chapel at St Marylebone Parish Church, London contains a crucifix by Parsons.[4] His work is to be found in many of the great buildings across the UK – including St Paul's Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey where Parsons was responsible for the restoration/replacement of eight large figures and decorative stonework on the North Transept.[5] His skills were often called upon during major conservation projects for the National Trust including Little Moreton Hall which is featured in The Building Conservation Directory 1994[6]

Parsons demonstrated carving on behalf of The Royal Fine Art Commission (now known as the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) at the Royal Academy in July 1989 in the presence of Princess Margaret and an exhibition titled "On the Side of the Angels" at the commission's head office in St James's Square, London in March 1992 in the presence of The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh representing Linford Bridgeman, Lichfield.[7] In 1992 Denis was elected an Associate of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, as member 161.[8] In 1993 he was awarded the MBE in recognition of his services to conservation.[9] In 2013 The Denis Parsons Foundation was created under the auspices of The City of Lichfield Worshipful Company of Smiths to provide funds to assist local apprentices in practical skills. A tribute to Denis Parson was published in the Lichfield Gazette in June 2013[10] and again shortly afterwards when they featured the establishment of the Denis Parsons Foundation.[11]

Denis Parsons contributed an article to Practical Woordworking magazine in 1992.[12] Parsons has been featured in many publications, including Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country.[13] Parsons talks to Marion Hancock about his career in The Architects' Journal.[14] Parsons is featured in Country Life Magazine, where he was referred to as "one of the country's most expert architectural sculptors".[15]

A book is currently being written about the life and works of Denis Alva Parsons.


Selected works[edit]

Date Work Material Location
1955c. St Michael the Archangel Oak Unknown
1960c. Canon Jenkins Workshop Stone Lichfield Cathedral, North West tower
1960c. Coat of Arms – Pope John XXIII Portland Stone Unknown
1960c. Wheatsheaf Clipsham Stone NFU, Stratford-upon-Avon
1960c. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Chapaghat Bay Wood Ontario, Canada
1965c. Crucifix Teak Coventry
1965c. Christ in Glory Lime Wood Unknown
1965c. St Nicholas of Myra, Turkey Mahogany St Nicholas C of E Church, Droitwich
1965c. St Chad Honduras Mahogany Unknown
1967c. Madonna and Child Material unknown Unknown
1969c. St Leonard Hollington Stone Unknown
1969 Blue Coat Boy Portland Stone Blue Coat School, Walsall
1971 Rondel, Our Lady and St Peter Work in progress Cotswod Stone Prinknash Abbey, Cranham, Gloucester
1972 The Good Shepherd Lime Wood St Joseph's RC College, Stoke-on-Trent
1973 Sir Thomas More in workshop On site Close up Mahogany Thomas Moor RC School, Willenhall, Walsall
1973 Venerable Francis Leveson Rear view Close up Mahogany Thomas Moor RC School, Willenhall, Walsall
1973 St Nicholas Owen Work in progress Lime Wood St Joseph's RC Church, Darlaston, Wednesbury
1973c. The 'Blessed' John Henry Cardinal Newman Portland Stone Unknown
1974 Yoga Figure Resin Sculptors Collection
1975 Processional Cross Oak/Gilded Christ Church Cathedral, Stanley, Falkland Islands
1976 St Catherine of Alexandria Clipsham Stone Church of St Mary the Virgin, Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire
1978 St Thomas Becket Clipsham Stone Church of St Mary the Virgin, Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire
1978 Archangel Raphael & Archangel Uriel Raphael being worked Uriel being worked Uriel completed Portland Stone North Transept, Westminster Abbey
1978 Henry V & Catherine of Valois Carving Demonstration Catherine of Valois completed Portland Stone North Transept, Westminster Abbey
1978 Triple Shell Fountain Workshop Close up Side Shells Portland Stone Abbots Ripton Hall, Huntindonshire
1978 St Joseph and Child Christ Church York stone St Joseph's RC Church, Darlaston, West Midlands
1984 Talbot Hound Grinsill stone Alton Towers, Staffordshire
1985 Royal Achievement Coat of Arms Pawsons York Stone County Court Buildings, Burton-on-Trent
1985 Crucifix Wood, Decorated and Gilded St Agatha's Church, Llanymynech, Oswestry
1986 Crucifix In Workshop Ash Crypt Chapel, St Marylebone Parish Church, London
1986 Heraldic Symbols: Staff of Life – Lancaster Rose Guiting Stone Houses of Parliament, Riverside exterior
1986 Heraldic Symbols Guiting Stone Houses of Parliament, Riverside exterior
1989 Archangel Gabriel Clipsham Stone St Gabriels Church, Walsall
1990 Commemorative Tablet Work in progress Welsh Blue Slate St Osburg's RC Church, Coventry
1990 Dr Samuel Johnson Work in Progress Work in Progress RA Demonstration Completed figure front Completed figure rear Burmese Teak The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, Lichfield
1991 Little Moreton Hall South elevation Original post Carving in workshop Carving in situ English Green Oak Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire
1991 Amphitrite Rear view Close up Blocking in 1 Blocking in 2 Finishing Lime wood Sculptors Private Collection
1992 Sir Edwin Lutyens Blocking in 1 Blocking in 2 Carving Demonstration Bleached Brazilian mahogany Private Collection
1992 St Dunstan Lime wood St Dunstans RC Church, Kings Heath, Birmingham
1993 Pope St Gregory the Great Lime wood St Gregory's RC Church, Stoke-on-Trent
1993 Trophy boxes Trophy Box Working drawing Grand Cross Star Centre panel Crown Grand Cross Star in situ Oak Order of the British Empire Chapel, St Paul's Cathedral, London
1994 Sir William Dugdale, 2nd Baronet In situ Profile Clay maquette Bronze Merevale Hall, Warwickshire
1994 Dean John Lang & Francis Lang Work in progress Stone Lichfield Cathedral
1995 St Ambrose Working drawing Rear view Lime Wood St Ambrose RC Church, Kidderminster
1996 Salacia – Queen of the Ocean In workshop Lime Wood Private Collection
1998 Erasmus Darwin relief Incised Paving Slabs Stone Erasmus Darwin House, Lichfield
1998 St Kenelm Working Drawing In Workshop Lime Wood Our Lady and St Kenelm RC Church, Halesowen, West Midlands
1998 A pair of white lions In workshop In situ Cedar White Lion Hotel, Banbury
1998 St Mary and Child Christ Work in progress Dedication Lime Wood St Mary's Hospital Chapel, London
1999 St Kenelm Working Drawing School visit Lime Wood Our Lady and St Kenelm RC School, Halesowen, West Midlands
2002 Denis Parsons self-portrait Side view Lime wood Sculptors collection
2003 Augustus Pugin Portrait Bust Side View Base Maquette Japanese Oak Private collection
2004 Blessed Virgin Mary and Child Christ 1, 2, 3 Bronze Church of Our Lady, Merevale, Warwickshire


  1. ^ "Denis Parsons, artist in wood and stone". St Joseph's RC Church.
  2. ^ "Johnson birthplace carves out space for crafts people". Lichfield Mercury. 4 July 2013.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Crabtree, Charlie (29 November 2008). "Church celebrates 150th Anniversary". Kidderminster Shuttle.
  4. ^ "St Marylebone Parish Church".
  5. ^ "papers rel to carving of St Uriel". The National Archives. The National Archives.
  6. ^ Atkinson, Daryl (1994). "A voyage of Discovery – The Repair and Restoration of Little Moreton Hall". The Building Conservation Directory: 59, 60.
  7. ^ "On The Side of the Angels". The Birmingham Post. 21 February 1992.
  8. ^ Parsons, Denis Alva. "Membership No. 161". Royal British Society of Sculptors.
  9. ^ "The London Gazette Supplement:53332 Page:B20". The London Gazette.
  10. ^ Lichfield Gazette tribute to Denis Parsons
  11. ^ Lichfield Gazette – The Denis Parsons Foundation
  12. ^ "Carving Through Tradition – Holding your Work". Practical Wood Working. March 1992.
  13. ^ Noszlopy, George T.; Waterhouse, Fiona (2005). Public sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country. Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press. p. 278. ISBN 0853239894.
  14. ^ Hancock, Marion (27 April 1994). "My Carving". The Architects' Journal. 199 (17): 58.
  15. ^ Hall, Michael (21 April 1994). "True Principles". Country Life: 70.