Rogers, William Gibbs (DNB00)

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ROGERS, WILLIAM GIBBS (1792–1875), wood-carver, was born at Dover on 10 Aug. 1792. He showed an early taste for drawing and modelling, and was apprenticed by his parents in 1807 to one McLauchlan of Printing House Square, London (afterwards master of the Shipwrights' Company). Although possessed of much original skill of his own, he was attracted at an early age by the beautiful wood carving and modelling of Grinling Gibbons [q. v.] His enthusiasm was further stimulated by an old wood-carver among his fellow-workers, who in his youth had worked at Burghley House, where he had been associated with men employed on the carvings in St. Paul's Cathedral under Gibbons himself. Rogers devoted his studies to the works of Gibbons, and thoroughly mastered that carver's art. Gaining much reputation, he was employed by the royal family on carvings for Carlton House, Kensington Palace, and the Pavilion at Brighton. His progress was assisted by the collection which he made of fine specimens of art. In 1848 he executed some of his best known carvings—those in the church of St. Mary-at-Hill in the city. In 1850 he was elected on the committee for carrying out the scheme of the Great Exhibition, and received a commission from the queen to carve a cradle in boxwood in the Italian style, which was exhibited and much admired at the exhibition in 1851. Rogers was awarded both a prize and a service medal. Among his innumerable wood carvings may be mentioned those executed for the palace of the sultan, Abdul Medjîd, at Constantinople, and the church of St. Michael, Cornhill, in the city. While it cannot be said that his works reproduce the consummate genius of Gibbons, they have great merit in themselves, and are sufficiently successful in their imitation to deceive the inexperienced eye. Rogers carried his devotion to the art of Gibbons far enough to devise a mode of preserving Gibbons's carvings from the ravages of worms and age. His method was completely successful, and among the carvings thus rescued from destruction may be noted those at Belton House, Grantham, at Melbury, at Chatsworth, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. Rogers received a pension of 50l. on the civil list, and after a long and successful career, he died on 21 March 1875, in his eighty-third year. He married, in April 1824, Miss Mary Johnson, and left a numerous family, of whom William Harry Rogers (1825–1873) showed great talents in designing; Edward Thomas Rogers (1830–1884), and Mary Eliza Rogers (b. 1827), who resided for many years in the East, and wrote, among other essays on oriental life, a well-known work, entitled ‘Domestic Life in Palestine’ (1862). His youngest son, George Alfred Rogers (b. 1837), who still survives, was the only son who adopted his father's profession. A portrait (with a memoir) of Rogers appeared in the ‘Illustrated London News’ for 4 April 1875.

[Private information.]

L. C.