National Recording Project

  ..

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

Edmund Burke

Summary

     This larger than life free-standing bronze figure of Edmund Burke is clothed in the style of the 1780's. That is, a knee-length coat hanging unfastened, cut away at the front, with two buttons at each cuff, and a wide collar. He has a waistcoat with three unfastened buttons at the breast; a stock tied high around the neck; plain tight breeches, with four buttons at the knee, stockings and low-heeled shoes, with modest buckles. Facing the quay head to the south, the figure steps strongly forward with the weight on the right foot. Only the ball of the left foot, that points to the left, touches the base. His right hand, open with palm down, is raised to the side and is higher than his head in the gesture of a speaker about to address an audience. His left hand, slightly to the rear, holds a wide-brimmed tricorn. His hair appears to have been cut short over the upper crown forming a fringe over his high forehead and hangs straight to finish in curls, just above the collar. The strongly-featured face has an intense expression and resembles a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1). The statue, with the right-hand raised is in a pose that, perhaps, owes something to painting of Charles James Fox and Edmund Burke by Angelica Kauffman. (2) The smooth bronze base, has a concave moulding and the edges sweep up reducing the size of the platform on which the figure stands to an approximately 100cm square. The edge by the left foot is inscribed: 'I Harvard Thomas MDCCCXCIV CASTA CVPURDO Sommer, Naples'. The large pedestal, constructed of seven pieces of polished pink Aberdeen granite, has a plain block base 137cmsquare and 280cm high. A smaller block above has a cyma-moulded upper surface and the shaft, almost cuboid, supports a wider moulded cornice. Cut into the front of this pedestal, in sans serif letters, is the name of the subject and a quotation from one of his speeches. On the rear of the pedestal is a credit to the donor, 'William Henry Wills', as he was at the time of the gift was made. The condition of the Burke bronze was reported upon in 1983 (3). The statue was then said to be covered with thick black paint but the metal was exposed in places. There were holes which appeared to be shrapnel damage. These were above the right elbow, on both sides of the forearm above the eyebrow and below the mouth. The chest had a puncture in the chest and one in the right side, also on the left-hand side. There were two large patches of corrosion on the left leg. Further holes were found in the left inner ankle, the left side, and the right leg. The casting still had the core inside. Water was penetrating the holes and this was breaking down the core, causing internal corrosion. Major conservation treatment was recommended: the statue needed to be dismantled to remove the deteriorating core and completely re-patined. A report on the more recent state of this work has been promised by Garry Reeder. DM 6 January 1999 References 1 Edmund Burke, (1729-1797) Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1771, Oil on canvas, 75.6 x 62.9 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London. 2 Charles James Fox and Edmund Burke, Oil, Angelica Kauffman(n), National Portrait Gallery, London. 3 Andrew Naylor, Survey of Bristol's Public, Monuments and Fountains in Bronze. 1983 Person or event commemorated Edmund Burke's association with Bristol as its most eminent MP was relatively brief. He represented the city for six years, from 1774, when he was 45, to 1780 and was rarely in the city (1) What was the impetus to erect a statue to him in Bristol in the mid-1890s? There was no obvious anniversary - the centenary of his death did not fall until 1897. Burke's liberal credentials were perhaps echoed in the ascendancy of the Liberal's after periods of government led by William Gladstone. The Liberal Party had been in power during the years 1868 -74, then from 1880-85. History of commission In the early stages of the NRP research every source (including a report prepared for the owners of the Burke statue - Bristol City Council) stated this bronze, signed 'Harvard Thomas', was not his original design but a replica cast by him from a marble statue made by William Theed the younger for St.Stephens's Hall in the Palace of Westminster. (1) At first this information was not doubted. But why would an established sculptor, who had already been commissioned in to create the Samuel Morley statue (1887) in Bristol, use a new opportunity merely to copy another artist's work, made nearly forty years before? Uncertainty prompted a visit to St.Stephen's Hall in May 1998. This revealed there is no resemblance between the two statues. Photographs were then obtained from the Parliamentary Works Directorate to confirm (a) the provenance of the St. Stephen's Hall version and (b) to establish there was no other statue of Burke within the Palace of Westminster. (2) Since establishing the Bristol statue was Harvard Thomas's original work, the probable source of the misleading story may have come from a book published to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of The Western Daily Press in 1908. That said: 'On Oct.30th. 1894, Lord Rosebery, the Premier, unveiled a bronze statue of Edmund Burke in Colston Avenue. It was a replica of one in the Houses of Parliament'. (3) A 1909 re-print contained additions from the Bristol Evening News and this erratum: 'The reference to the Burke statue on page 311 of this section, needs correction. Sir William Henry Wills (now Lord Winterstoke), in his communication to the City Council in 1892, offered to present a bronze replica of the marble statue in Westminster Abbey (sic). The success of the Bristol sculptor, Mr J. Harvard Thomas, however, led to the commission being entrusted to him, and the statue in Colston Avenue is his work. (4). Other Bristol newspaper reports, written the day after the unveiling, said: 'Mr. Harvard Thomas, the sculptor, has successfully depicted the great orator in the act of delivering one of his eloquent orations . . . which must be regarded as the most brilliant in this style Mr. Thomas has yet executed'.(5) The statute was unveiled by Lord Rosebery, the Prime Minister, in October 1894. The Builder reported the date as 27 October (6). Other accounts say it was the 30th or the 31st.(7) In March 1894 Lord Rosebery had become Prime Minister, taking-over from the 85-year-old Gladstone and it was Rosebery who came to Bristol to unveil the Burke statue. (8) This was a gift to 'his fellow citizens' from the tobacco magnate William Henry Wills, himself an MP for Bristol at that time. (Was Wills a Liberal? What party was in power in Bristol in 1894?) Harvard Thomas worked in Italy between 1889 and 1906 (9) so it is no surprise that this bronze bears an inscription crediting 'Sommers, Naples' as the foundry. Sir George Clausen wrote: 'He (Harvard Thomas) lived in Naples, Pompeii and Capri, studying the old work, particularly the Greek bronzes: in Naples he made the fine bronze statue of Burke, which is now is Bristol, working at the foundry and making himself a thorough master of the art of bronze founding'. (10). The new space, formed in the City when St.Augustine's Bridge replaced the old Drawbridge and the River Frome was covered in 1893, became the site for the statue of Burke. The erection of the statue and the setting were prepared by Messrs Cowlin and Sons' (11). A building company with the same name is still based in Bristol. The firm of Cowlin and Sons also erected the statues of Queen Victoria (BR05) in1888 and the nearby Colston monument (BR09) in 1895 The statue has remained more-or-less where it was erected in Colston Avenue, facing St. Augustine's Bridge over the River Frome. (12) The landscape immediately around the statue has changed radically with the 'improvement' scheme to cover the river. (13) More than one reference says the statue marked the opening of the new bridge (14). At one point it was taken down for a period to allow a copy to be made. According to Bristol City Council records the statue was removed by 'Messrs. Thomas and Sons on 25 January 1922 (15) to be re-cast in bronze by H.H.Martyn & Co. Ltd. of Cheltenham (16) This copy now stands in Washington D.C. at U.S. Reservation 68, at the junction of Massachusetts Avenue and 11th and 12th Streets, NW. (17) The statue was donated 'to the people of America' by Sir Charles Cheers to honour Burke's advocacy of 'liberal treatment of the American colonies' through the Sulgrave Institution under an Act of Congress approved on 25 April 1922 and dedicated on 12 November 1922.(18) Oddly a Bristol account differs: the statue was 'presented to America by Sir Charles Wakefield, an ex-Lord Mayor of London and honorary treasurer of the Anglo-American society and unveiled in May 1922, during the visit of a British delegation'.(19) A poignant link between sculptor and subject comes from the memory of a fellow student when he and Harvard Thomas were at the South Kensington Schools in the 1870s. Later Sir George Clausen wrote very aptly and admiringly: 'I remember him bringing an atmosphere of the 18th century classicists into the school; he would quote Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful, and would discourse on Hamilton's Greek vases . . . it is evident that from those early days to the end of his career, he held consistently to the same ideal - to follow the classic tradition of fine sculpture'. (20). References 1 Memorials, fountains and statues and other items of historical interest, A report by the City of Bristol, Engineers' Department, 1982: 'This bronze statue is a replica of the marble statue in Saint Stephen's Hall in the House (sic) of Parliament'. Other sources with the 'replica' story are: P.T. Underdown Bristol and Burke, Bristol Branch of the Historical Association, University of Bristol, un-dated, caption to photograph on p.2: 'It is a bronze replica of the original in the Houses of Parliament' and Brian Little, Bristol: The public view, 19??, p.72 : 'J. Harvard Thomas, born in Bristol and a sculptor much favoured by the donor, made this Bristol version of a London statue' 2 Letter and photographs from Jacqueline Riding, Assistant Curator at Palace of Westminster, 3 June 1998 'The statue is indeed by William Theed and was commissioned in 1856 by the Fine Arts Commission. It was the last of the set to be completed and was put up into position in 1858'. 3 Bristol: As it was - and as it is, Western Daily Press, Bristol 1908, Edmund Burke's statue, p.311. 4 Bristol: As it was - and as it is, Western Daily Press - reprint with additions from the Bristol Evening News, 1909, p.314. 5 Western Daily Press and the Bristol Times and Mirror, 31 October 1894 6 The Builder, 10 November 1894, pp.84-85? 7 Western Daily Press and the Bristol Times and Mirror, 31 October 1894 8 ibid. 9 Susan Beattie, The New Sculpture, Yale, 1983, p.251 10 Sir George Clausen, A Memoir of James Harvard Thomas, for The Leicester Galleries, reprinted in a Beaux Arts Gallery catalogue, 'Commemorative exhibition of sculpture and drawings by J. Harvard Thomas', 1936 .page 2 11 The Builder, 10 November 1894, pp.84-85 12 Ordnance Survey Map, Bristol (NW) and Clifton, 1901, Alan Godfrey Maps, Newcastle. Photographic card posted in 1909 and line drawings of Colston Avenue by Samuel Loxton, 1905 and 1907 13 To be found Date of the covering of the Frome from Baldwin Street to the Watershed? 14 Caption to a Reece Winstone photograph 22996, National Monuments Record Centre 15 Memorials, fountains and statues and other items of historical interest, A report by the City of Bristol, Engineers' Department, Statue of Edmund Burke, 1982 16 Inscription on the Washington version of the Burke statue by James Harvard Thomas 17 Edmund Burke, Statues, monuments and memorials in the parks of the national capital, May 1973. 18 ibid. 19 Edmund Burke Memorials, fountains and statues and other items of historical interest, A report by the City of Bristol, Engineers' Department, 1982 20 Sir George Clausen, A Memoir of James Harvard Thomas, for The Leicester Galleries, reprinted in a Beaux Arts Gallery catalogue, 'Commemorative exhibition of sculpture and drawings by J. Harvard Thomas', 1936 Biography of maker James Harvard Thomas 1854-1921 Born in Bristol on 22 December 1854 of Welsh parents, Harvard Thomas first studied at the Bristol School of Art. He then went to London as a National Scholar at the National Art Training School in South Kensington from 1872 to 75. In Paris he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under J.P.Cavelier. (1) After a brief period in London he lived and worked in Italy for fifteen years. (2) 'According to newspaper obituaries, Mr Thomas had once said in an interview, "To learn marble carving I went to Thomas Tyley's. in St Augustine's, who was then very old man, and had been a pupil of Bacon Jun., and retained many of the traditions of the English eighteenth century sculpture". (3) He 'worked in a bland academic style and, absent from England at crucial period (from 1889 to 1906) took little part in development of the new Sculpture movement'. (4) After the WW1 he gained wide acclaim as a classicist.(5) He was the first Professor of Sculpture at the Slade School where had taught from 1911. His work covered ideal works, portraits and public monuments. He made two copies of his marble statue of Samuel Morley - one for Bristol and one for Nottingham, (check?) a marble Boadicea at Cardiff Town Hall, a bronze of W.E.Foster for Bradford. The Tate Gallery, Cardiff, Manchester, and the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery all have examples of Hardvard Thomas's ideal work in both bronze and marble. He died in London on 6 June 1921 1 James Macay, Western Sculptors in Bronze 2 Susan Beattie, The New Sculpture, Yale, 1983 3 From a letter written by the Bristol City Archivist, 29 July 1980, I reply to an enquiry regarding James Tyley 4 Frank Gibson, The Sculpture of Professor James Havard Thomas Studio, 1919 volume 76, pp. 79, 85
     A contemporary issue of The Builder gives the unveiling date as 27 October 1894, not the 30th, as noted by the Bristol City Council. History of commission In the early stages of the NRP research every source (including a report prepared for the owners of the Burke statue - Bristol City Council) stated this bronze, signed 'Harvard Thomas', was not his original design but a replica cast by him from a marble statue made by William Theed the younger for St.Stephens's Hall in the Palace of Westminster. (1) At first this information was not doubted. But why would an established sculptor, who had already been commissioned in to create the Samuel Morley statue (1887) in Bristol, use a new opportunity merely to copy another artist's work, made nearly forty years before? Uncertainty prompted a visit to St.Stephen's Hall in May 1998. This revealed there is no resemblance between the two statues. Photographs were then obtained from the Parliamentary Works Directorate to confirm (a) the provenance of the St. Stephen's Hall version and (b) to establish there was no other statue of Burke within the Palace of Westminster. (2) Since establishing the Bristol statue was Harvard Thomas's original work, the probable source of the misleading story may have come from a book published to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of The Western Daily Press in 1908. That said: 'On Oct.30th. 1894, Lord Rosebery, the Premier, unveiled a bronze statue of Edmund Burke in Colston Avenue. It was a replica of one in the Houses of Parliament'. (3) A 1909 re-print contained additions from the Bristol Evening News and this erratum: 'The reference to the Burke statue on page 311 of this section, needs correction. Sir William Henry Wills (now Lord Winterstoke), in his communication to the City Council in 1892, offered to present a bronze replica of the marble statue in Westminster Abbey (sic). The success of the Bristol sculptor, Mr J. Harvard Thomas, however, led to the commission being entrusted to him, and the statue in Colston Avenue is his work. (4). Other Bristol newspaper reports, written the day after the unveiling, said: 'Mr. Harvard Thomas, the sculptor, has successfully depicted the great orator in the act of delivering one of his eloquent orations . . . which must be regarded as the most brilliant in this style Mr. Thomas has yet executed'.(5) The statute was unveiled by Lord Rosebery, the Prime Minister, in October 1894. The Builder reported the date as 27 October (6). Other accounts say it was the 30th or the 31st.(7) In March 1894 Lord Rosebery had become Prime Minister, taking-over from the 85-year-old Gladstone and it was Rosebery who came to Bristol to unveil the Burke statue. (8) This was a gift to 'his fellow citizens' from the tobacco magnate William Henry Wills, himself an MP for Bristol at that time. (Was Wills a Liberal? What party was in power in Bristol in 1894?) Harvard Thomas worked in Italy between 1889 and 1906 (9) so it is no surprise that this bronze bears an inscription crediting 'Sommers, Naples' as the foundry. Sir George Clausen wrote: 'He (Harvard Thomas) lived in Naples, Pompeii and Capri, studying the old work, particularly the Greek bronzes: in Naples he made the fine bronze statue of Burke, which is now is Bristol, working at the foundry and making himself a thorough master of the art of bronze founding'. (10). The new space, formed in the City when St.Augustine's Bridge replaced the old Drawbridge and the River Frome was covered in 1893, became the site for the statue of Burke. The erection of the statue and the setting were prepared by Messrs Cowlin and Sons' (11). A building company with the same name is still based in Bristol. The firm of Cowlin and Sons also erected the statues of Queen Victoria (BR05) in1888 and the nearby Colston monument (BR09) in 1895 The statue has remained more-or-less where it was erected in Colston Avenue, facing St. Augustine's Bridge over the River Frome. (12) The landscape immediately around the statue has changed radically with the 'improvement' scheme to cover the river. (13) More than one reference says the statue marked the opening of the new bridge (14). At one point it was taken down for a period to allow a copy to be made. According to Bristol City Council records the statue was removed by 'Messrs. Thomas and Sons on 25 January 1922 (15) to be re-cast in bronze by H.H.Martyn & Co. Ltd. of Cheltenham (16) This copy now stands in Washington D.C. at U.S. Reservation 68, at the junction of Massachusetts Avenue and 11th and 12th Streets, NW. (17) The statue was donated 'to the people of America' by Sir Charles Cheers to honour Burke's advocacy of 'liberal treatment of the American colonies' through the Sulgrave Institution under an Act of Congress approved on 25 April 1922 and dedicated on 12 November 1922.(18) Oddly a Bristol account differs: the statue was 'presented to America by Sir Charles Wakefield, an ex-Lord Mayor of London and honorary treasurer of the Anglo-American society and unveiled in May 1922, during the visit of a British delegation'.(19) A poignant link between sculptor and subject comes from the memory of a fellow student when he and Harvard Thomas were at the South Kensington Schools in the 1870s. Later Sir George Clausen wrote very aptly and admiringly: 'I remember him bringing an atmosphere of the 18th century classicists into the school; he would quote Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful, and would discourse on Hamilton's Greek vases . . . it is evident that from those early days to the end of his career, he held consistently to the same ideal - to follow the classic tradition of fine sculpture'. (20). References 1 Memorials, fountains and statues and other items of historical interest, A report by the City of Bristol, Engineers' Department, 1982: 'This bronze statue is a replica of the marble statue in Saint Stephen's Hall in the House (sic) of Parliament'. Other sources with the 'replica' story are: P.T. Underdown Bristol and Burke, Bristol Branch of the Historical Association, University of Bristol, un-dated, caption to photograph on p.2: 'It is a bronze replica of the original in the Houses of Parliament' and Brian Little, Bristol: The public view, 19??, p.72 : 'J. Harvard Thomas, born in Bristol and a sculptor much favoured by the donor, made this Bristol version of a London statue' 2 Letter and photographs from Jacqueline Riding, Assistant Curator at Palace of Westminster, 3 June 1998 'The statue is indeed by William Theed and was commissioned in 1856 by the Fine Arts Commission. It was the last of the set to be completed and was put up into position in 1858'. 3 Bristol: As it was - and as it is, Western Daily Press, Bristol 1908, Edmund Burke's statue, p.311. 4 Bristol: As it was - and as it is, Western Daily Press - reprint with additions from the Bristol Evening News, 1909, p.314. 5 Western Daily Press and the Bristol Times and Mirror, 31 October 1894 6 The Builder, 10 November 1894, pp.84-85? 7 Western Daily Press and the Bristol Times and Mirror, 31 October 1894 8 ibid. 9 Susan Beattie, The New Sculpture, Yale, 1983, p.251 10 Sir George Clausen, A Memoir of James Harvard Thomas, for The Leicester Galleries, reprinted in a Beaux Arts Gallery catalogue, 'Commemorative exhibition of sculpture and drawings by J. Harvard Thomas', 1936 .page 2 11 The Builder, 10 November 1894, pp.84-85 12 Ordnance Survey Map, Bristol (NW) and Clifton, 1901, Alan Godfrey Maps, Newcastle. Photographic card posted in 1909 and line drawings of Colston Avenue by Samuel Loxton, 1905 and 1907 13 To be found Date of the covering of the Frome from Baldwin Street to the Watershed? 14 Caption to a Reece Winstone photograph 22996, National Monuments Record Centre 15 Memorials, fountains and statues and other items of historical interest, A report by the City of Bristol, Engineers' Department, Statue of Edmund Burke, 1982 16 Inscription on the Washington version of the Burke statue by James Harvard Thomas 17 Edmund Burke, Statues, monuments and memorials in the parks of the national capital, May 1973. 18 ibid. 19 Edmund Burke Memorials, fountains and statues and other items of historical interest, A report by the City of Bristol, Engineers' Department, 1982 20 Sir George Clausen, A Memoir of James Harvard Thomas, for The Leicester Galleries, reprinted in a Beaux Arts Gallery catalogue, 'Commemorative exhibition of sculpture and drawings by J. Harvard Thomas', 1936 Biography of maker James Harvard Thomas 1854-1921 Born in Bristol on 22 December 1854 of Welsh parents, Harvard Thomas first studied at the Bristol School of Art. He then went to London as a National Scholar at the National Art Training School in South Kensington from 1872 to 75. In Paris he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under J.P.Cavelier. (1) After a brief period in London he lived and worked in Italy for fifteen years. (2) 'According to newspaper obituaries, Mr Thomas had once said in an interview, "To learn marble carving I went to Thomas Tyley's. in St Augustine's, who was then very old man, and had been a pupil of Bacon Jun., and retained many of the traditions of the English eighteenth century sculpture". (3) He 'worked in a bland academic style and, absent from England at crucial period (from 1889 to 1906) took little part in development of the new Sculpture movement'. (4) After the WW1 he gained wide acclaim as a classicist.(5) He was the first Professor of Sculpture at the Slade School where had taught from 1911. His work covered ideal works, portraits and public monuments. He made two copies of his marble statue of Samuel Morley - one for Bristol and one for Nottingham, (check?) a marble Boadicea at Cardiff Town Hall, a bronze of W.E.Foster for Bradford. The Tate Gallery, Cardiff, Manchester, and the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery all have examples of Hardvard Thomas's ideal work in both bronze and marble. He died in London on 6 June 1921 1 James Macay, Western Sculptors in Bronze 2 Susan Beattie, The New Sculpture, Yale, 1983 3 From a letter written by the Bristol City Archivist, 29 July 1980, I reply to an enquiry regarding James Tyley 4 Frank Gibson, The Sculpture of Professor James Havard Thomas Studio, 1919 volume 76, pp. 79, 85
    

Inscriptions

Front of pedestal: BURKE/ 1774-1780/ I WISH TO BE A MEMBER/ OF PARLIAMENT TO HAVE MY/SHARE OF DOING GOOD AND/RESISTING EVIL'/SPEECH AT BRISTOL 1780./ Incised in sans serif capital letters. On the rear o the pedestal: TO/HIS FELLOW CITIZENS./FROM/WILLIAM HENRY WILLS. BART./1894./

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Foundry, Sommer Foundry
Thomas, James Havard Sculptor

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Statue Bronze 284cm high 150cm wide 162cm deep
Pedestal Aberdeen red granite 220cm high

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
BR47 BL
General condition Fair
Surface condition
  • Bird guano
Structural condition
Vandalism
Road Colston Avenue
Precise location City Centre Gardens
A-Z ref 4 3B
OS ref None

Sorry, we have no precise geographical information for this item.

Date of design 1858
Year of unveiling c18571894
Unveiling details 30/10/1894
Commissioned by Mr.H.W.(afterwards Sir Henry) Wills
Duty of care Bristol City Council, Directorate of Corporate Resouces, Property Division,
Listing status II
At risk? Not at risk

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