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The Statues Of Old London

June 14, 2020
by the gentle author

London is a city of statues that we mostly ignore until their meaning is pointed out to us. Then we have to consider the suitability of those whom we choose to glorify in this way and thus we constantly renegotiate our relationship with history as culture evolves. Here are the statues of old London, photographed a century ago by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for magic lantern shows at the Bishopsgate Institute.

Queen Anne gazes down Ludgate Hill, c.1910

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 courtesy 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

12 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 14, 2020

    A very timely blog with all the fuss about statues which is going on right now, and using the old photos helps put things into historical perspective.

    Interesting that the Stuart kings had themselves depicted as Roman Emperors – how vain is that?!

    But I’m glad to see two of my heroes Thomas Coram and George Peabody are featured (although I hardly dare research them further to see if they have got any back stories which might tarnish their reputations …)

  2. Catherine Morris permalink
    June 14, 2020

    I would love to know what happened to some of these old statues. There are probably a few stuck in someone’s back yard

  3. June 14, 2020

    What a wonderful collection. The Stuart kings in Roman attire are the best. Vain, certainly (as Jill Wilson comments), but very funny too.

  4. June 14, 2020

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, nice to see all those statues that stood in London a century or more before.

    I was glad to see the one of GEORGE PEABODY (1795-1869), the American philanthropist who lived in England for decades, made a huge fortune in the nascent “banking’ business, and funded much of the original public housing in London. I believe you have referred to Peabody estates in earlier pieces.

    Queen Victoria loved him, even offering to have him buried in Westminster Abbey. But the terms of Peabody’s will stipulated his desire to rest in Peabody, Massachusetts (formerly Danvers). His cortege was led stateside by Victoria’s son Prince Arthur.

    A replica of Peabody’s statue by William Wetmore Story also stands in Baltimore, Maryland.

  5. Jacque Reid walsh permalink
    June 14, 2020

    Indeed so timely and the photos so evocative themselves for a lantern show. I love the inclusion of fantasy characters Peter Pan that I have seen and the two giants guarding old London as well as people considered notable. What a worthwhile project to review who and what is memorialized this way.

  6. June 14, 2020

    I’d have thought General Gordon would be a target, though I don’t remember seeing him there, perhaps Traf Sq was earlier de-cluttered.

    Incidentally, I don’t think it is a box camera in one of the photos, but a generic bellows one

  7. paul loften permalink
    June 14, 2020

    In the immortal words of the little boy weeing in the back street of Brussels. ” If people are foolish enough to believe the hype about me and want to erect a statue, let the statue be of me doing something useful “

  8. Gillian Tindall permalink
    June 14, 2020

    As to Stuart worthies being partial to Roman togas for their statues – the habit increased in the 18th and early 19th centuries, due to the fact that a classical education with Roman and Greek languages was the major subject on offer at Universities all that time all over Europe. Evidently the toga lent dignity to local and transitory wars. And Karl Marx, writing in the mid-19th century, noted that “The French revolution was enacted in Roman dress.”

  9. Pimlico Pete permalink
    June 14, 2020

    Above the Queen Anne statue that’s a curious device on the roof of John Howell & Co, looking like an overlarge steam whistle.

    Kelly’s Street Directory of 1915 gives “Howell John & Co. Limited, warehousemen” so perhaps it is merely an ambitious chimney vent.

    Best wishes to GA, to Schrödinger and to readers all over the place.

  10. June 14, 2020

    What happened to Capt Maples at Trinity Almshouse? I don’t think he’s in situ anymore…

  11. June 14, 2020

    Amazing Statues, Thank you So Much!! ????????

  12. Jonathan O permalink
    June 15, 2022

    The photograph of Queen Caroline has been reversed.

    The identity of this statue was rather confused – at different times it was thought to be of Queen Charlotte, George III’s consort, and Queen Anne. This presumably led to someone adding the oddly-placed sceptre against her right hand in the photo; this has now been removed.

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