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The Statues & Effigies of Old London

May 4, 2013
by the gentle author

Queen Anne gazes down Ludgate Hill eternally

Do you ever get the feeling you are being watched from above? That there is a silent figure observing from a strategic vantage point? Many of the statues and effigies of old London – as photographed a century ago by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for magic lantern shows at the Bishopsgate Institute – are so familiar as to be invisible to the casual passerby, but they have got their eyes on you.

Over the years, they have seen everything from their plinths – riots and marches, weddings and funerals, bombs and parties, war and peace, tourists and commuters. With frozen postures and implacable composures, the statues and effigies have no choice but to carry on watching – growing infinitely wise and eternally bored.

Gods, monarchs, Nelson & Wellington, and Victorian worthies alike, after all this time, many are shorn of the details of their original significance, exchanging it for a simpler heroism derived from the longevity of their images. The statues and effigies of London are the oldest residents of the streets, and – over time – these familiar weathered stone and bronze figures have become universally appreciated for their usefulness as memorable landmarks and fond embodiments of the places they inhabit.

Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Sq, c. 1910

Achilles in Hyde Park, c. 1910

Prince Albert, c. 1910

Alfred the Great in Trinity Sq, Southwark, c. 1910

Charles II, c. 1910

Caroline of Brunswick, c. 1910

Thomas Coram, c. 1910

Charles Darwin in the Natural History Museum, c. 1910

John Franklin, c. 1910

General Gordon in Trafalgar Square, c. 1910

Crimean Memorial, c. 1900

Rowland Hill in King Edward St, c. 1910

Capt Maples at Trinity Almshouse, Mile End Rd,  c. 1920

Gog at the City of London Guildhall, c. 1910 – note the box camera caught in the left corner of the frame

Magog at the City of London Guildhall, c. 1910

Richard the Lionheart in Palace Yard, c. 1910

Sir Hans Sloane in Apothecaries’ Gardens, Chelsea, c. 1920

Temple Bar, Fleet St, c. 1870

Queen Anne at St Paul’s Cathedral, c. 1920

James II, c. 1910

House of Parliament, St Stephen’s Hall, c. 1920

One of Landseer’s lions at the base of Nelson’s Column, c. 1910

George Peabody, c. 1910

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, c. 1915

Physical Energy in Kensington Gardens, c. 1910

Duke of Wellington, c. 1910

Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, c. 1880

Duke of York’s Column at Waterloo Place, c. 1900

Images copyright © Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

The Nights of Old London

The Ghosts of Old London

The Dogs of Old London

The Signs of Old London

The Markets of Old London

The Pubs of Old London

The Doors of Old London

The Staircases of Old London

The High Days & Holidays of Old London

The Dinners of Old London

The Shops of Old London

The Streets of Old London

The Fogs & Smogs of Old London

The Chambers of Old London

The Tombs of Old London

The Bridges of Old London

The Forgotten Corners of Old London

The Thames of Old London

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Libby Hall permalink
    May 4, 2013

    “…no choice but to carry on watching – growing infinitely wise and eternally bored.”


  2. William Palin permalink
    May 4, 2013

    Beautiful and haunting photographs. Thanks GA.

    Unless I’m mistaken the pic labelled Richard Cobden is actually Thomas Coram, at the entrance to the Foundling Hospital.

  3. May 4, 2013

    Is it known where the statue of Caroline of Brunswick is sited/remains/still stands? She was the reviled wife of George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent (he of the Brighton Royal Pavilion). I have wondered if our Regency Brunswick Town (Brunswick Place, Square, etc.) was named in her honour – she was German.

  4. the gentle author permalink*
    May 4, 2013

    In Queen’s Sq, Bloomsbury I believe

  5. Gary permalink
    May 4, 2013

    I get a feeling of satisfaction from seeing a noble king covered in bird droppings

  6. Leonard Bentley permalink
    November 15, 2013

    Very interesting article. The photograph of the Richard I statue is back to front, and I think that the photograph of the Landseer Lion is much earlier than 1910, the building on the left in the background is Morley’s Hotel and the buildings on the right should be the Grand Hotel and the Hotel Victoria if this is 1910. The buildings look like they are being demolished which suggests that this is 1874 or thereabouts when Northumberland House was demolished to make way for Northumberland House, the Grand Hotel was built in 1879 and the Hotel Victoria in 1886.

  7. Mike Charlton permalink
    January 30, 2015

    Poor old Queen Anne – there was a popular ditty made up about her thanks to that statue of her next to St Paul’s, which went something like:

    “Brandy Nan, Brandy Nan, you’re left in the lurch;
    Your face to the gin shop, your back to the church.”

    I believe the non-arch equine statue of Wellington depicts him astride his favourite horse, Copenhagen. To round off these hearsay statuesque facts, making them a triumvirate, Landseer used the paws of his pet cat to model the lion’s paws of the Trafalgar Square lions.

    Another great article and more great pictures! What a wonderful blog this is!

  8. Helen Breen permalink
    March 21, 2016

    GA, yet another great piece. I go to London often and enjoy checking out every statue that I pass.

    I was happy to see GEORGE PEABODY included here. It is quite an impressive statue near the Royal Exchange. Peabody was born poor on a farm in Danvers, Massachusetts in 1795. A self-made entrepreneur, he really invented what we now call “banking” with the help of financiers like J. P. Morgan. He was most philanthropic – spreading his largess to those cities where he made his fortune – Boston, Baltimore, and London especially. He lived in Britain most of his life and was honored by Queen Victoria for building housing for the poor in London.

    At his death in 1869, a grand funeral was held at Westminster Abbey. The Queen offered a burial spot in the Abbey, but Peabody had insisted on being buried “at home.” In the meanwhile the town of South Danvers chose to change their name to “Peabody.” A large contingent of dignitaries accompanied his body back to America. On the day of the interment, however, a blizzard drove the mourners (including one of Victoria’s sons) to seek shelter in the humble homes of nearby farmers.

    George Peabody never married so he had no heirs. Yet his contributions live on in libraries and museums here and abroad. How do I know? I live next door to Peabody in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.

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