National Recording Project


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

Secular Hall: Busts of Free-Thinkers


Type Sculpture

     Each bust is framed within an aedicule over a pier capital bearing the subject's name. All are portrayed with incised eyes, except for Socrates. Robert Owen, at extreme left, differs from the other four busts in that it is in pink terracotta (the rest being in orange), it is significantly smaller, and it is the only one inscribed with the subject's name on the front of the bust. The Owen bust is neo-classical in format, nude and cut away, term-like at the shoulders, the head turned slightly to the viewer's right. Thomas Paine is represented in period costume, with head turned slightly to the viewer's left. Voltaire wears a riband encircling his hair and, around the shoulders, loose drapery. His head is turned to the viewer's right. The model is most likely the head from the celebrated seated portrait of Voltaire by Houdon (1780). Jesus is full-face, eyes gazing slightly upwards and to the viewer's left. The Socrates bust is copied from the famous classical antique sculpture [**details] - bearded, snub-nosed, with one piece of drapery hanging over the right shoulder.


1. on front of Owen bust, in incised Gothic lettering: R. Owen 2. in raised Roman letters on cartouches in carved foliated decoration of pier capitals below the aedicules containing the busts: - extreme left pier capital: ROBERT OWEN - second left pier capital: THOMAS PAINE - third left pier capital: VOLTAIRE [the return of this capital, in the main entrance archway, in inscribed, in the same style:] FRANCOIS MICHEL / AROVET [sic] - return and front face of pier capital to right of entrance archway: JESUS - extreme right pier capital: SOCRATES

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Vago, Ambrose Louis Sculptor
Sugden, W. Larner Architect

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Robert Owen bust terracotta h. 54 cm (est.)
Thomas Paine bust terracotta h. 60 cm (est.)
Voltaire bust terracotta h. 65 cm (est.)
Jesus bust terracotta h. 68 cm (est.)
Socrates bust terracotta h. 68 cm (est.)

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
General condition Fair
Surface condition
  • Accretions
  • Abrasions, cracks, splits
Structural condition
  • Cracks, splits, breaks, holes
  • None
Road Humberstone Gate
Precise location No. 75 Humberstone Gate (S. side)
A-Z ref 4 E3 (1)
OS ref SK589046
Date of design None
Year of unveiling 1881
Unveiling details None
Commissioned by The Leicester Secular Society
Duty of care The Leicester Secular Society
Listing status II
At risk? Not at risk

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