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JOHN BRANCH

FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF ANtiQUE BRONZE LTD

John Branch, founding Director of Antique Bronze Ltd, died on 22nd December 2016 aged 86.

As a very young child, he showed an aptitude for gymnastics, a talent for art and a gift for entrepreneurship. However, it was during his national service that all these talents matured. The army encouraged and trained him in gymnastics, long-jump, boxing and sprinting. Achieving officer status as a PTI, he qualified for the Olympics in three disciplines while running an unofficial tailoring business for the soldiers.

It was while stationed in Cairo that he first considered a career in restoration. Target practice on the Great Sphinx of Giza and the pyramids was a routine way to pass the time for the troops in 1948. The first time he witnessed this activity, he said, 'He felt as if something close to murder was taking place.' He had no real understanding of their meaning or significance at the time, but he felt that this kind of vandalism was deeply wrong. This experience paved the way for a career as a carer of objects.

Upon returning to the UK, he enrolled in St Martin’s School of Art to study sculpture and afterwards worked for several noteworthy foundries including Morris Singers.

Though Antique Bronze wasn’t his only business, it was the one that maintained his interest life-long. Setting it up in 1955, he carved out a career focusing on restoration of large-scale sculpture and historic buildings standing out among other restorers with his one-handed handstands on top of many of London’s best-known monuments. In particular, he became well-known by contemporary artists for his skills in patination.

Barbara Hepworth was a friend, and he went on to work on many other of our best-known artworks including those by Henry Moore’s, Frank Dobson, and a list of monuments including Nelson’s Column, The Albert Memorial, Cleopatras Needle, Eros among many others. He advised on The Preservation of Venice Project and was invited to move to New York for two years to consult on works to The Statue of Liberty.

Historic buildings such as County Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Senate House - The University of London Headquarters were also places where he invested much of his restoration talent. The complexity of some of the items he restored was unimaginable, and this is where his real gift was unsurpassed.

He trained and mentored many other craftsmen during his lifetime. Many were so devoted to him that they worked with him for the duration of their lives and left their sons to continue within the company. His love of art, breadth of restoration knowledge and generosity were so inspiring that most who met him were in awe of all he could do.

A Man of Many Talents