Here am I – A Picture Blog about Statues
This will be a pictorial blog concentrating on some of the statues I see often so I will order it geographically rather than chronologically.
Of course I have to start with my home town. Cheltenham has several statues but I will start with four prominent statues all close to its centre.
Albert Edward, known affectionately as Bertie by his family, was Prince of Wales waiting to become King for a long time. When Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901 after forty years of mourning for her beloved husband Albert, Bertie chose to be called King Edward rather than Albert, because he said he didn’t want to “undervalue the name of Albert” and “diminish the status of his father with whom, among royalty, the name Albert should stand alone.”
The statue in Montpellier is a very sentimental statue, showing Edward VII holding a child by the hand. It was made in 1914 by Ambrose Neal and stands on a granite plinth.
The well-known composer is one of few notable celebrities who were born in Cheltenham and you can still visit his house here and see his piano.
This relatively recent statue in Montpellier Gardens shows him with the baton in his left hand, his frequent practice because of the neuritis in his right arm. He stands on a plinth and each face of the plinth has a sculpture of a Roman god representing one of the planets in his famous orchestral suite, The Planets.
Here are Jupiter and Neptune.
Edward Adrian Wilson was another son of Cheltenham. He was one of the Antarctic explorers who died with Scott – as shown in the plaque below. His statue is on the Promenade with the Municipal Buildings in the background.
The statue of was modelled by Scott’s widow Kathleen, who we will meet again later.
I am not really counting this as a statue but just a little way from the main War Memorial at the centre of the Municipal Buildings in the Promenade is another war memorial statue.
It is placed to balance the statue of Wilson at the other end of the gardens with the main war memorial in the middle. This one dates from the South African War of 1899-1902, known more familiarly as the Boer War.
Without going far from this central area we also have my next two statues, which Cheltonians will recognize.
The statue of Neptune is really a fountain, also by the Municipal Buildings, but I managed to find it on a day when the water was turned off. It was built in 1892-3. Designed by borough engineer Joseph Hall, it is based on Rome’s Trevi Fountain. It was carved from Portland stone by local company R. L. Boulton & Sons.
I have only ever seen the word ’caryatids’ used in the book Doctor Zhivago where Chapter 13 is called: ‘Opposite the House of Caryatids.’ Having read the book when I came to Cheltenham I knew what these statues were. Montpellier has a street full of them – more or less between the statues of Edward VII and Holst.
When it went up in 1968 the Eagle Star building was the tallest in Cheltenham. It remains an almost universally hated eyesore when the town is seen from a distance. Eagle Star insurance disappeared when it became part of Zurich Financial Services in 1984 and the main offices transferred to nearby Bishops Cleeve. The tower continued to be used as offices but now it is being converted to luxury flats.
The tower used to have an impressive gold statue outside, which has now been removed. I managed to find it tucked round the back, almost out of sight.
Other Cheltenham Statues
Now in the Imperial Gardens in Montpellier, this statue of William IV is fairly insignificant. I don’t think William was one of our most significant monarchs.
I found this one by accident. I don’t know who it is. It’s by the entrance to a recent development of houses called Regency Mews. It could just be someone exercising with a medicine ball or it could be an allegorical representation of someone holding the World in his hands. I have now found, again by accident, that the sculptor is Giles Penny and it’s called ‘Man with Ball.’
I nearly forgot this one. He is one of a pair outside a house not far from where I live.
Not far away from the four central statues listed above but very different, is this statue, The Minotaur and the Hare, which is well known to all Cheltonians. It was initially part of a temporary exhibition of the work of Gloucestershire based artist Sophie Ryder at the Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery (now known somewhat enigmatically as The Wilson in honour of Cheltenham born Edward Wilson, as seen above,) and it was created in 1995. The overwhelming public response to the exhibition fuelled the campaign to retain one of Sophie Ryder’s sculptures and the Hare and Minotaur was acquired by public subscription in 1998.
This engraved flagstone lies nearby. Sophie Ryder’s work focuses on mythical creatures and hybrids, often hares combined with human features.
For two more statues that I see almost every week we move away from Cheltenham to the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust (WWT) headquarters at Slimbridge, a few miles down the M5 from Cheltenham.
We need to catch up with some family history and I will start, rather convolutedly, with Edith Agnes Kathleen Bruce. Born in 1878 her early friends included Auguste Rodin and she became a sculptress. In 1908 she married Captain Robert Falcon Scott and gave birth to Peter Scott. Her husband died in Antarctica in 1912 – hence the tenuous link to Edward Wilson above, whose sculpture was one of her works. She also did a famous one of her late husband, which is located at Christchurch in New Zealand. (The location is associated with his Antarctic expedition.)
Their son, Peter Scott was famous for many things. He won an Olympic medal for sailing and I remember his appearances in wildlife programmes on early television. He always seemed to be in search of different species of ducks, many of which he portrayed in water colour paintings. He was a founder member of the WWF and in 1946 he founded the WWT. It started at Slimbridge and at first was known just as the Severn Wildfowl Trust. It now has several sites over the UK but Slimbridge remains its headquarters. It’s a place I visit often and it is no surprise to find his statue there positioned very prominently.
The other statue that I always see at Slimbridge is tucked away almost out of sight on the way to the Zeiss Hide. Wikipedia refers to it as if it is still at Oundle School.
It’s another work by Kathleen who at the time taught at Oundle (the school that Peter Scott went to.)
Called ‘Here am I, Send me,’ it represents a young boy volunteering to fight for his country.
Perhaps the title comes from Isaiah 6:8
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” Then I said “Here am I. Send me!”
[Of course Kathleen Bruce became Kathleen Scott. She later remarried and became Kathleen Young. Her husband was made a Lord and she became Baroness Kennet.]
This last statue is another war memorial. I presume it relates to Old Boys from Oundle.
As I took the pictures above of Wilson and the War Memorials behind me all the trees were clothed in knitted poppies. Here is one of them.
It’s a sort of statue and a fitting end to a blog that will be issued on 11 November.