King Alfred the Great
Book of Common Law
FSA arrived in London sometime before 1830 (the exact date is as yet not known), where he initially became an apprentice to Benjamin Massey – a bullion dealer, goldsmith, silversmith and coin dealer of 116 Leadenhall Street in the city’s ‘square mile’. It was during his time at Leadenhall Street that Frederick began to realize what he wanted to be and who he wanted to become. Benjamin Massey originally a native of Norwich, Norfolk had set up in business in the city some 15 years or so before Frederick Scott Archer came to London. By the time FSA became his apprentice his business was thriving – dealing in every kind of precious jewellery – diamonds, pearls, watches, gold, silver and antique coins. Here the young Archer was enthralled by all that he saw and became fascinated with coins and in particular the representations of the sculptured heads that appeared on them depicting the Kings and Queens of Europe, the Tsars of Russia and all the other rulers of kingdoms far away. He became an expert in numismatics and regularly gave appraisals to customers who brought both antique and modern coins in for valuation.
Henrietta Weld Forester
Lady Albert Conyngham
During his apprenticeship, Frederick Scott Archer’s knowledge of coins and his talent in sculpting the figures he found on them came to the attention of Edward Hawkins, the keeper of coins, medals, prints and drawings at the British Museum. On Hawkins’s recommendation, FSA began attending classes in Art and Sculpture, at the prestigious Royal Academy Schools (RA). It was here that a learnt to become a proficient if not exceptional Sculptor. From 1836 until 1851 Archer exhibited numerous works in sculpture at the annual exhibitions of the Royal Academy; then held in Somerset House in the Strand. These were mainly busts of well-known people such as the musician Sir George Thomas Smart (1839): the actor, Benjamin Nottingham Webster (1851); the Reverend George Hull Bowers, Dean of Manchester (1848): Spencer Compton the 2nd Marquess of Northampton (1850); as well as portrait medallions of the engineer Sir Isambard Marc Brunel (1841,1842) and miscellaneous narrative historical subjects, Falling Angels (1836) and ‘A Young Briton Receiving Instruction’ (1848).
His best known sculptures were those of ‘Alfred the Great with the Book of Common Law’ which was exhibited at Westminster Hall in 1844 to mixed reviews; and his wall monument to Lady Albert Conyngham (1850) for Mickleham Church, Surrey, which was carved in the form of an urn and was illustrated by an engraving in the Gentleman’s Magazine for May that year but was criticized as having been ‘too severely copied from the antique’. Most of Archer's work in sculpture remains untraced in 2013. Help us find them. Do you know of the whereabouts of any of the Sculptures of FSA. Then please let us know. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org