Plumbers’ Apprentice statue found?

Company News

Perhaps not!

Super sleuth Past Steward John Carnaby is on the case……..


After David Creasey’s interesting article last week, John has sent the following:

The “London Apprentice” was certainly on display on 12th January 1906 in the Old Hall Charterhouse to promote apprenticeship, when the Master of the Plumbers’ Company William Douglas Caroe entertained the Lord Mayor and some 400 guests. The reason for the “The London Apprentice” statue being there was because this was a festive display and to “impress on the assembly the beauty and value of true and good craftsmanship.” The evening revolved around the “Elizabethan Masque of Lovely London” that was originally presented to the Lord Mayor, Sir Wolstane Dixie in 1585.

“That lovely London may one day enjoy

The power that now lies dormant in the boy”

The statue actually became the trademark of Dent and Hellyer in the in 1870s and the workshop and office in Newcastle Street was aptly named “Ye Olde Plumbers’ Shop.”

The “London Apprentice” statue was later mentioned by Bertram Hellyer in the 1930s saying, “It stood for a great many years with five others representing “Flora,” “Lucretia,” “A Roman Matron,” and two Roman Centurions, on the verandah and roof at 21 Newcastle Street.”

Coming more up to date, but still on the subject of the “London Apprentice”, in London in 1986, as Secretary of the London Branch of the (then) Institute of Plumbing, we held a very special presentation evening to celebrate the 100 years since the Worshipful Company of Plumbers first formed the register for plumbers in London. We held this on the top floor of Guys Hospital, supported by many plumbing companies and other plumbing organisations with wonderful views over “lovely” London. We invited the 12 London Plumbing Colleges along to participate in this unique event and to nominate their very best plumbing students to receive a certificate and also receive a miniature resin version of the Dent and Hellyer “London Apprentice.”

The Master of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers’ Martin Caroe, who incidentally was the Grandson of William Douglas Caroe, previously mentioned above and Liveryman Eric Small, the President of the Institute of Plumbing and past Chairman of our London Branch presented the awards.

Left to right: PM Martin Caroe, Liveryman Eric Small, student, Past Std John Carnaby

A further connection with “London Apprentice” is that Eric, when he was a young plumber was employed by Dent and Hellyer and both Eric Small and Bill Cox, that David Creasey mentioned, worked together on the leadwork on the Prudential Insurance offices in Leadenall Street in the 1950’s.

David remembers Bill Cox repairing the statue in 1956, but did you know that the Dent and Hellyer workshops and offices at 35 Red Lion Square, where they had been since 1902 were totally destroyed in a 1941 bombing; and that’s why they had to move to Ormond Close for temporary accommodation. Then a few years later when Bertram Hellyer died, John Bolding and sons Ltd acquired the Company.

I also became very curious as to what happened to the lead statue and after a lot of research, I visited Wallington Hall in Northumberland. There I found in the walled garden among many other statues a full size example of what we know as the “London Apprentice”.

Past Steward John Carnaby standing next to “Singing Simon” in 1986

On making further enquirers at the Hall all those years ago, it was thought by the archivist that the original statue was possibly named “Singing Simon” and was possibly made by Henry Cheere or John Van Nost, both makers of lead statuary and had workshops in Piccadilly and St Martins Lane, just a short distance away from Newcastle Street, Strand. I could find no more about the origin or what happened the original Lancelot Burton “London Apprentice.”

There is some more interesting information that many people will be unaware of.

The Company name of Burton, Beard, Dent and Hellyer has been changed and altered on numerous occasions over the centuries but, believe it or not, was still very much alive in the 21st century under the name MDH (Microflow Dent and Hellyer), a world leader in sterile control. The Bioquell Group based in Andover who produce sanitary and sterilization equipment etc, used the name MDH right up until the year 2018.

Therefore the name traded under 11 Reigns:

George 1            1714 – 1727

George 11          1727 – 1760

George 111        1760 – 1820

George 1V          1820 – 1830

William 1V         1830 – 1837

Victoria               1837 – 1901

Edward V11       1901 – 1910

George V            1910 – 1936

Edward V111     1936 – Abdicated

George V1          1936 – 1952

Elizabeth 11       1952

David Creasey’s item has reignited John’s curiosity.  Will he find the statue this time?