An over-life size equestrian statue of the Third Marquis of Londonderry clothed in elaborate Hussar uniform. Reining in his mount, the now green copper figure, stands high above a large sandstone pedestal in the centre of Durham's Market Place. The sculptor is said to have used a painting of Londonderry for details of features and dress. (1)
The statue was privately commissioned by Lady Londonderry in the year of her husband's death.(7) Prior to its erection in the Market Place other locations were put forward for consideration. Seaham Harbour was suggested as well as Sunderland.(8) The council, believing that the work would be too large for the Market Place, attempted to persuade the University to erect it on Palace Green.(9) Finally and in accordance with the widow's wishes, work began at the present site. Subsequent to the completion of the pedestal five Durham businessmen filed a suit against the mason, claiming that the statue would interfere with free passage to the markets and thus affect their businesses. The case was thrown out of court.
Further problems arose with the construction and siting of the figure. The sculptor had considerable difficulties executing the work. Though Monti had used the newly-developed electro-plating process before, he had not worked on a such a large scale. He became bankrupt before the work was due to be delivered to Durham and his creditors seized the statue. Lady Londonderry retrieved the work at a cost of £1000.(10)
At midday on 2nd December1861 the statue was unveiled to a throng of spectators. The Londonderry family and local dignitaries viewed the proceedings from a temporary platform erected between the statue and Neptune. Staff of the North Durham Militia, the 2nd Durham Artillery, the 3rd and 7th Durham Rifles were in attendance. Also present were Benjamin Disraeli and Rafaelle Monti.(11) Several days after the unveiling the Durham County Advertiser declared the 'splendid' statue 'lasting proof of the general regard in which the brave and generous (Marquis) was held by all classes and parties of the people of Durham.'(12)
Lord Londonderry's statue, sometimes called 'The Horse' was sent to London for repair in 1951, returning to its pedestal nine months later. A local story holds that the horse has no tongue and the sculptor committed suicide when informed of his error. Similar tales are told of equestrian statues elsewhere.(13)
Charles Stewart (1788-1854) was born in Dublin on 18 May, 1788. Educated at Eton, at the age of 16 he embarked on what was to become a successful military career. His courage as Adjutant-General under the Duke of Wellington earned him the name of 'The Bold Sabreur'. Following his marriage to Frances Anne Vane-Tempest, an Irish heiress to large estates in Durham and Ireland, he moved to Wynard Park near Stockton.
When his half-brother Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, the Second Marquis of Londonderry killed himself in 1822, Charles Vane succeeded him to become the Third Marquis. The same year he bought the Seaham estate, a purchase that included several collieries. His plans for the expansion of the town found fruition in 1831 with the completion of the Seaham harbour and docks.(2)
Londonderry's opposition to trade unions and general hostility to reforms made him much disliked as an employer. His reputation as the most ruthless colliery owner in the North was strengthened by the 'Seaham Letter'. Written to the merchants of his town this threatened damage on those supplying any striking union members. (3) A revisionist history, however, suggests that Londonderry was, an 'above-average employer'. He provided his men with free houses and schools, conceded to the miners' demands in the 1831 strike and negotiated with them in the strike of 1844.(4) Although he forbade official inspection of his mines, his desire for improved safety was exhibited by the sponsorship of Dr. William Ried Clanny's miners' lamp which was to precede Davy's safety lamp.(5) He died at Holdernesse House, London on March 6, 1854.(6)
Incised on a granite plaque, in Roman capitals, on east face: CHARLES WILLIAM VANE STEWART / 3RD MARQUIS OF LONDONDERRY / IST EARL VANE AND BARON STEWART / OF STEWARTS COURT K.G.G.C.B. / LORD LIEUTENANT COUNTY OF DURHAM / AND FOUNDER OF SEAHAM HARBOUR / GENERAL IN THE ARMY / BORN MAY 8TH 1778 DIED MARCH 6TH 1854.
On south-facing metal plaque, in Roman capitals: THIS PLAQUE WAS UNVEILED ON / THE 9TH DAY OF APRIL, 1952 BY THE / EIGHTH MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY / TO COMMEMORATE THE RESTORATION / OF THE STATUE FROM FUNDS RAISED BY / THE CITY COUNCIL.
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