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Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

These pages illustrate some case studies of sculptures and monuments which are under threat, or which have been recently renovated.

Grace Darling, reluctant heroine

Bamburgh (St Aiden Churchyard), Northumberland.
Monument to Grace Darling (1815-42).
Architect: Anthony Salvin; sculptor: C. R. Smith, 1846.
Stone effigy within stone and metal gothic canopy.

Grace Darling is shown lying alongside a coble oar in the churchyard at her birthplace on the Northumbrian coast. In its exposed position overlooking the North Sea, her monument's intricately-modelled canopy is eroding faster than funds can be amassed to preserve it. Part of the structure and the effigy have been replaced in at least one previous conservation campaign - the original effigy is inside the church.

The young Grace Darling attracted public adulation after rowing with her father, Keeper of the Longstone Lighthouse, to the paddle-steamer Forfarshire, wrecked in an autumn storm. The intense media attention that followed was acutely unsettling for a girl who had spent her childhood in the lighthouse on a rock in the North Sea. Five years later she succumbed to TB, and this substantial monument was raised in her honour by public subscription. The 21-ft rescue craft, a Northumberland fishing coble, is displayed with other mementos in the Grace Darling Museum at Bamburgh. 

Bamburgh, monument to Grace Darling. Anthony Salvin & C Raymond Smith, 1844

Bamburgh, monument to Grace Darling. Anthony Salvin & C Raymond Smith, 1844

      Bamburgh, monument to Grace Darling. Anthony Salvin & C Raymond Smith, 1844 Bamburgh, monument to Grace Darling. Anthony Salvin & C Raymond Smith, 1844
Photographs: © Mark Pinder

Maternity

Manchester, Piccadilly Gardens.
Monument to Queen Victoria, 1819-1901 (back of monument - detail) by Edward Onslow Ford, 1901.
Bronze sculptures incorporated into an architectural ensemble.

'Maternity' forms part of Manchester's monument to Queen Victoria, erected after her death in 1901. Other complex architectural ensembles, featuring bronze portraits of the aged Queen by leading sculptors of the day, were put up at this time in Liverpool, St Helens, Leeds, Bradford and Newcastle. Thomas Brock's national monument in marble, with fountains, relief carvings and large bronze sculptured groups, was unveiled outside Buckingham Palace in 1911.

The mix of bronze-work, marble and, in the Manchester example, mosaic, requires regular, expert attention. Manchester City Council is to apply for funding for a programme of conservation and restoration of the City's public sculpture, of which this, and the city's Albert Memorial, are prime examples. The City Council proposals are to be based on the typescript of the PMSA's proposed Manchester volume, the eighth in the National Recording Project series Public Sculpture of Britain (Liverpool University Press).

Manchester, E. Onslow Ford, Monument to Queen Victoria (1901)

Manchester, E. Onslow Ford, Monument to Queen Victoria (1901)
Photograph: © Conway Library

King Lud and his sons 

City of London, St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street.
Late 16th-century sculptures. Sculptor unknown. Limestone

Originally part of the old West Gate known as Ludgate, improved in 1586, King Lud and his sons Androgeus and Theomantius have had various resting places since Ludgate was demolished in 1760. These include the Parish charnel house and the burial ground next to St Dunstan's; after the old church was demolished in 1830, the group was incorporated into St Dunstan's Lodge, built by Decimus Burton in Regent's Park for the Marquis of Hertford. In 1935, they were returned to 'a sordid niche in the vestry porch' at St Dunstan's, where they remain 'in an increasingly battered and uncared-for state'.
[Information from Public Sculpture of the City of London by Philip Ward-Jackson - Liverpool University Press, 2003] 

St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, City of London. Late 16th-century sculptures. Sculptor unknown

St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, City of London. Late 16th-century sculptures.
Photograph: © Lucy Levine

Sir Joshua Reynolds - The President loses his chin

London Borough of Westminster, Leicester Square.
Limestone bust of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) by Henry Weekes, 1874

Before and After: these images what can happen when, as reported by the Marylebone & Paddington Informer of 8 November, 2002, historic sculptures such as these are subjected to 'inappropriate chemicals' during conservation treatment. Commissioned for Baron Grant's improvements of 1847, this is one of four stone busts, one set at each corner, of personages from the arts and sciences associated with Leicester Square. Reynolds, first President of the Royal Academy, lived on the west side of the square. Their treatment in 1976 exacerbated 100 years' exposure to London's weather and fumes, resulting in the present sorry state. Part of the SoS campaign is to stress the vital importance of consulting trained conservators (and then following their guidance) in all cleaning and restoration work.

Limestone bust of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) by Henry Weekes, 1874

Limestone bust of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) by Henry Weekes, 1874 Limestone bust of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) by Henry Weekes, 1874
Before and after

Photograph: © NRP

City Dragon (surmounting the Temple Bar Memorial)

City of London, Fleet Street
Bronze dragon by C. B. Birch, 1880, surmounting complex sculptured stone monument denoting the boundary of the Cities of London and Westminster. 

The monument with statues of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, and other sculpture, also commemorates the 17th-century boundary marker, Temple Bar, which it replaced in 1879-80. The figure of the dragon attracted praise and ridicule, as did the structure itself - replacing an impediment to traffic, it has remained so till this day.

Dragon sculptures were adopted by the City as boundary markers after the demolition of the City Coal Exchange in a 1960s road widening scheme. A pair of dragons which had been mounted above the entrance were re-sited at the western boundary of the City of London (October 1963), and it was later decided to place dragons at all the main entrances to the City. The Temple Bar, and Coal Exchange, dragons were suggested as models.

The re-siting of the Coal Exchange dragons (which were eventually selected) is a rare example of satisfactory sculptural after-life. More often than not, when a building is demolished or changes hands, its architectural sculpture is threatened with demolition - and sculptures within its curtilage removed from the public arena to a private location. Distinctive sculptures on unremarkable buildings are not eligible for listing: it is the building, not its architectural sculpture, that is deemed worthy of consideration.
[Information in part from Public Sculpture of the City of London by Philip Ward-Jackson - Liverpool University Press, 2003]

Bronze dragon by C. B. Birch, 1880, surmounting complex sculptured stone monument denoting the boundary of the Cities of London and Westminster

Bronze dragon by C. B. Birch, 1880, surmounting complex sculptured stone monument denoting the boundary of the Cities of London and Westminster
Photograph: © Lucy Levene

Nelson Panorama

Great Yarmouth (South Promenade), Norfolk
Nelson Pillar - Monument to Admiral Lord Nelson (1758-1805). Architect William Wilkins, 1819.
Doric column with cupola and glass fibre sculptures, surmounted by Britannia.

Britannia faces away from the sea towards Nelson's birthplace in Burnham Thorpe, north Norfolk. All the glass fibre sculptures replace Coade stone originals that had deteriorated. The monument, predating its famed counterpart in Trafalgar Square, is surrounded by unsightly sheds and huts: local environmentalists want it re-sited, or it could be better looked-after and its immediate surroundings upgraded. With Nelson's bicentenary approaching in 2005, however, decisions will have to be taken. The view from the top was once accessible on Trafalgar Day and other special days, but is now permanently closed: an example of a disused belvedere and a wasted asset. The view is spectacular.

Nelson Pillar - Monument to Admiral Lord Nelson (1758-1805)

Nelson Panorama

Nelson Pillar - Monument to Admiral Lord Nelson (1758-1805) Nelson Pillar - Monument to Admiral Lord Nelson (1758-1805)
Photographs: top - © Tony Millings; bottom - © NRP

Hodge - Dr Johnson's Cat

City of London, Gough Square
Sculpture of Dr Johnson's cat sitting on his master's Dictionary of the English Language, by Jon Bickley, 1997.
Bronze sculpture on Portland stone plinth. 

Miniatures of the statue, which is mounted 'at stroking height', can be purchased from 17 Gough Square where Dr Johnson lived from 1756 to 1759 whilst compiling his Dictionary, and which is open to the public. The life-size sculpture is modelled on the sculptor's tom-cat. The City Engineer has had to considerably strengthen the fixings after several attempts by cat-lovers to steal it.
[Information from Public Sculpture of the City of London by Philip Ward-Jackson - Liverpool University Press, 2003] 

Dr Johnson's Cat

Sculpture of Dr Johnson's cat sitting on his master's Dictionary of the English Language
Photograph: © Lucy Levene

Newspapermen

City of London, New Street Square. At main entrance of Newspaper House, architects R. Siefert and partners, sculpture group by Wilfred Dudney, 1956-8. Portland stone.

The typesetter holds a setting-stick; the proprietor or journalist is seated on a roll of papers, whilst the distributor is about to lift a bundle of newspapers. They could not have foreseen the radical change that was to overtake newspaper production, accompanied by the silencing of Fleet Street, a few decades hence.

Public sculptures of this date are relatively rare. Statues and monuments were not valued highly by local authorities of the period - many historical sculptures were relegated from their historic site to the local park, or even worse, broken up for motorway infill. Contemporary works still tend to be undervalued, not being deemed historical or traditional: for this reason they need special attention.

[Information in part from Public Sculpture of the City of London by Philip Ward-Jackson - Liverpool University Press, 2003]

Newspapermen

City of London, New Street Square.
Photograph: © Lucy Levene

The Comet

The Comet Public House sign, Barnet By-Pass, Hatfield, Herts 1936 by Eric Kennington. 

Pillar with flight symbols surmounted by model of DH88 Comet aircraft made by the nearby de Havilland Company. This commemorates an early flight to Australia.
Kennington was associated with the architect E B Musman in creating at least one other relief for a public house in the county.

The Comet Public House sign

The Comet Public House sign, Barnet By-Pass, Hatfield, Herts 1936 by Eric Kennington
Photograph: © Conway Library

The Odeon Cinema, Guildford

4 relief sculptures of theatrical scenes, probably of Portland stone, set within stone panels as a frieze above the main entrance to the cinema. Artist unknown. Iconography at the moment opaque.

The Odeon Cinema at Guildford was built in 1935. It has been empty for some years, but is now demolished to make way for a smart block of expensive flats. The sculptures have fortunately been preserved, and are due to be cleaned and restored, to be set within the wall of the main entrance of the block of flats. Cleaning may well reveal a signature, and will remove years of paint, grime and well-established plant life. The sculptures will however be removed from their immediate architectural setting, in which they form an important element in the design of the building as a whole.

Very few cinemas of the period appear to have had figurative sculptures as part of the overall design of the building.

The ironwork grilles of the tall windows below are (or were) fine examples of art deco decoration. Their fate is unknown.

The Odeon Cinema, Guildford
Frontage of the Odeon cinema, Guildford, 1935 showing sculptural frieze, and iron window grilles.

The Odeon Cinema, Guildford
Four sculptures forming a frieze above the entrance to the Odeon cinema, Guildford (1935) Sculptor and iconography unknown.

Photographs: © Jeremy Haslam