STANFORD, William (c. 1837-1880)


STANFORD, William (c. 1837-1880)
sculptor
was born in England in 1836 or 1837 and as a youth was apprenticed to a stone mason. He came to Victoria in 1852 and for a time worked on the diggings at Bendigo. In 1854 he was found guilty on a charge of horse-stealing and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. After serving nearly six years he was released on ticket-of-leave. On 1 May 1860 Stanford was found guilty on two charges of highway robbery and one of horse-stealing, and was given sentences amounting to 22 years. Stanford afterwards declared he was quite innocent of two of the charges, and that in the third he was not the principal in the act but was assisting a fellow ex-prisoner. He was placed in Pentridge jail near Melbourne and became one of the most insubordinate of all the prisoners. He had apparently become thoroughly hardened, but one day the prison chaplain noticed some drawings Stanford had made on a slate, which appeared to have merit. The chaplain was afterwards shown a carved figure which the prisoner had fashioned out of a bone with a knife which he had somehow procured. This was shown to Colonel Champ, the governor of the prison, who obtained a promise from Stanford that he would behave himself if he were allowed to cultivate his talent. The chaplain also obtained permission to allow Charles Summers (q.v.) to give Stanford some elementary lessons in modelling. Later Stanford submitted a design for a fountain and obtained permission to execute it, but no better material could be given him than the local bluestone from the prison quarry. He worked for four years on it and became exemplary in his conduct. Summers told his friends about it and many appeals were made for the release of the prisoner. He was "discharged to freedom by remission" on 28 October 1870, the fountain was set up in the triangular piece of ground between parliament house and the treasury building, and there Stanford gave it its finishing touches. It is an excellent piece of design, amazingly successful when the conditions under which it was produced are considered.
Stanford set up as a monumental mason at Windsor, a suburb of Melbourne. There he married and was respected and liked by his neighbours. His business was successful and he made a reputation for his carved headstones. One of these may be seen on the main drive of the St Kilda cemetery not far from the gate. Another example of his work is on his wife's grave at the Melbourne cemetery. He died in 1880 partly from the effects of inhaling the fine dust while working on the fountain.
William Moore, Studio Sketches, p. 41, and The Story of Australian Art, vol. II, p. 78.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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