Bayes & the Medal

Works of Gilbert Bayes

Bayes and The Medal

The Royal Geographical Society

Gilbert Bayes exhibited one or more sculptures at the Royal Academy virtually every year for over half a century between 1889 and 1944. Since he had incorporated inscriptions into his earliest reliefs, his involvement in medallic work was a natural progression. His first medal was the Orchardson Medal, commissioned by the St John's Wood Art School, which was close to where he lived and part of the artistic society where he was active. The second medallic commission was from the Royal Geographical Society for a medal to be presented to Captain Scott and his colleagues on their return form the Antarctic expedition of 1902-4.The Society was obviously pleased with Bayes' submission for when Ernest Shackleton returned form his Antarctic expedition of 1909, it again approached Bayes for a medal. The Royal Geographical Society commissions earned for Bayes something of a reputation as a medallist and other organisations began to turn to him for their medals.

The Orchardson Medal
National Rose
Rubber Association
Country Life Competition

Private Commission Medals

In 1907 the National Rose Society instituted a Gold Medal in memory of its founder and recently deceased president Dean Samuel Reynolds Hole and Bayes was asked to design it with the first presentation being made in 1909. Another commission came from the Rubber Growers' Association, formed in 1907 and presented for services to the rubber industry was first distributed in 1911. A further commission resulted in a medal for Country Life magazine as part of its awards to the annual rifle competition for schools, in addition to the trophy that was also distributed. Another privately commissioned medal of about the same time was produced for the Brentford Gas Company.

Official Commission Medals

Beside these private medals, Bayes also received official commissions. In July 1909, as a result of a request by the Association of Chief Constables, Edward VII issued a royal warrant instituting the King's Police Medal, to be awarded for acts of courage on the parts of members of police forces and fire brigades in Britain and throughout the Empire. After some controversy over the design, this was finally approved. Twenty-three years later, at the wish of George V, the medal was to be replaced by two separate medals, one for long service and one for gallantry for which Bayes' design was retained with new legends fitted in the exergue. Later that year Gilbert Bayes was commissioned to submit designs for the Great Seal. Considerable controversy took place over the design of this and a design by another artist was accepted only to be interrupted by the outbreak of war. Another official commission was for a design for the reverse of the Edward Extension Medal, awarded for acts of bravery in the workplace and was awarded at the same time that Bayes was still working on the Great Seal. After the submission of more designs from the artist, in December 1911, royal approval was given. A final official commission came to Bayes after the First World War, when in 1919, it was decided to change the Imperial Service Medal from a star to a circular medal. The commission was for the reverse side and the process went smoothly.

Police Medal
Police Medal
Royal Society of British Sculptors
Royal Society of British Sculptors

Royal Society of British Sculptors

Private medal commissions, however, continued, largely as a result of personal friendships. Two commissions from the Institute of Actuaries were received, one for a Gold Medal in honour of George James Lidstone in 1929 and the second in 1937 for when William Palin Elderton was to be honoured. Another commission of the inter- war years came in 1924 from the Worshipful Company of Musicians again as a result of personal friendship. Walter Wilson Cobbett, who in 1928 became its master, endowed the medal. It was to be presented annually to a distinguished musician for services to chamber music. In the following year, Bayes received a commission for a medal from the Royal Society of British Sculptures. This medal was to be awarded annually for the best work by a British sculptor exhibited in London during the previous twelve months. This medal, which was produced by Pinch's from Bayes' design, was completed in March 1926. Also in 1925 a commission was received from the London and North Eastern Railway Company to mark the railway's elaborate celebration of July of that year. During the Second World War the company again approached Bayes once it decided that a medal should be awarded to employees for acts of bravery. The models were submitted and passed in May 1941.

Queen Mary Maiden Voyage Commemorative Medal

A series of commissions were received from the Royal Automobile Club in the form of the Segrave Trophy and medals (see Segrave Trophy page).

In 1935 Bayes suggested that a medal should be produced to commemorate the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary, which the Cunard board agreed to commission. After considerable debate as to the design of both sides of the medal, it was completed in November of that year. By the end of the following January the first five thousand had been struck by the Royal Mint. Five Gold medals were produced two for presentation to King Edward VIII and Queen Mary, two for Mr and Mrs Roosevelt and one for Percy Bates, Chairman of the shipping line, as a gift from the Cunard board.

Bayes' final medal was commissioned in 1948 by the Chapter-General of the Order of St John and was the second of the series of revived portrait medals of The Grand Priors of England.

At a time when avant-garde sculptors were carving directly into stone and turning their back on the medal, the more conservative Bayes was flexible enough to include medals amongst his varied output. The quality of their design and modelling ensures for Bayes a foremost position amongst British medallists for the first half of the twentieth century.

The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary