Top Five Public Sculptures: Cardiff

Cardiff is home to over 200 public artworks, from 19th-century commemorative statues to abstract works and celebrations of local industries commissioned as part of 20th-century regeneration projects. It is not difficult to spot many public sculptures as you walk around and they enhance what is already a fascinating City.

This is my personal top five. Let us know if you have any other favourites.

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5. Nereid, by Nathan David, 1996, The Friary

In Greek mythology, the Nereids are sea nymphs which often accompany Poseidon, the god of the sea. This bronze nymph stands on a wave, above a shoal of fish, and holds a sea bird in her left hand. Nereids can be friendly and helpful to sailors fighting perilous storms, so hopefully this one will offer some protection to the sailors setting out from Cardiff harbour.

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4. Sculptures on the National Museums Wales, 1914–1915, Cathays Park

You’ll need to look up to the top of the building to see these sculptures. A number of different sculptors designed the embellishment to the National Museum, including John Thomas Clapperton, Gilbert Bayes, Richard Louis Garbe, Bertram Pegram and David Evans. Some sculptures represent industries and artistic pursuits, including shipping, mining, music and learning. The figurative groups at the front of the building represent different historical periods – prehistoric, classical, medieval and modern. The image above shows the prehistoric and classical periods, both designed by Gilbert Bayes.

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3. All Hands, by Brian Fell, 2001, Custom House Street

Installed alongside the Glamorganshire Canal, this large sculpture depicts the hands of canal workers pulling their boats along with heavy ropes. The Glamorganshire Canal used to run from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff Docks, transporting raw materials from the valleys into Cardiff and beyond, but it went out of use in the 1940s. Most of the canal has been filled in.

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2. Alight, by S. Mark Gubb, 2014, Mary Ann Street

A fairly new public artwork in the City Centre, this 10-metre high illuminated lightning bolt, made from painted steel and glass, was commissioned by Admiral Group, Stoford Developments and EMP Projects, and is sited outside Admiral’s offices. Alight was designed to contain movement and its sides are inset with coloured lights that scroll down from top to bottom, making it very eye-catching, especially when it gets dark.

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1. Welsh National War Memorial by Sir J. Ninian Comper, 1928, Alexandra Gardens

This striking monument commemorates the servicemen and women who died during World War I. A commemorative plaque for those who died during World War II was added in 1949.

The memorial has a circular colonnade surrounding a sunken court, at the centre of which is a group of three bronze sculptures arranged around a stone pylon. The three figures are a soldier, a sailor and an airman, each holding a wreath. Above them, on top of the structure, is a winged male nude representing Victory.

The memorial was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and sculpted by Alfred Pegram. The stone masons were William D. Gough and Messrs E. Turner & Sons. The bronze statues were cast by A. B. Burton.

If you want to find out more about Cardiff’s public art, the city council has produced a Public Art Register. Their Public Art Strategy is also available online.


Top Five Public Sculptures: Edinburgh

The project development phase took me to Edinburgh last week, a beautiful city full of monuments, sculpture and impressive architecture. In between meetings I spent some time exploring streets that I’d not visited before and discovered some real gems.

This is very much a personal top five list. If there are other public sculptures in Edinburgh that you particularly like, feel free to let us know what they are and why you like them.

5. Lion of Scotland, Ronald Rae, 2006, St Andrew Square Garden2015-08-20 11.18.32The lion is a traditional symbol of Scotland and this huge granite version is carved from a twenty-tonne boulder of pink Corrennie granite from Aberdeenshire. The work took Ronald Rae a year to complete.

The sculpture currently sits in St Andrew Square Garden, having been moved there from Holyrood Park in 2010. The garden was busy on the day I visited, with people relaxing on the grass in the sun, and the sculpture seemed to be a popular attraction. It’s currently on loan to Essential Edinburgh, but with the hope of eventually being permanently owned by the city. It’s actually for sale, so if you are interested go to

4. Dreaming Spires, Helen Denerley, 2005, Greenside Place, Leith Walk2015-08-20 11.04.55These giraffes, made of recycled metal, stand outside Edinburgh’s Omni Centre. On the day I visited, the giraffes were surrounded by tape and the smaller giraffe had an orange cone on its head, probably as a result of over-enthusiastic visitors to Edinburgh Festival.2015-08-20 11.05.57-1Find out more about Helen Denerley’s work at

3. Sherlock Holmes, Memorial to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Gerald Ogilvie Laing, 1991, Picardy Place2015-08-20 10.58.36 HDRSir Arthur Conan Doyle was born close to the spot where the statue of his most famous creation now stands. I assume that when it was unveiled it had a commanding view across Picardy Place and could be seen by passing cars. Unfortunately, the vegetation in front of the statue now obscures his view from the road and he has his back to the street behind him.

2. Horse and Rider, Eoghan Bridge, 1993, Rutland Court2015-08-19 17.04.53-1This striking sculpture sits in a quiet walkway surrounded by office buildings, so probably isn’t seen by as many visitors to Edinburgh as other public art in the city. You almost feel that the man and the horse could break out of their strained pose at any moment and gallop off down the road.

Find out more about Eoghan Bridge’s work at

1. Robert Fergusson, David Annand, 2004, Kirk of the Canongate2015-08-19 12.34.10 HDR-1Edinburgh-born Robert Fergusson (1750–1774) had a short, but influential career as a poet and satirist. He is buried close to the spot of his life-size sculpture, having died in Darien House (Bedlam) in Edinburgh.

Despite the tragedy of his early death, the thing I like about this statue is his jaunty walk and his sense of purpose as he walks along the street.

2015-08-19 12.36.13Find out more about David Annand’s work at

Top Five Public Sculptures: Eastbourne

The PCF’s Sculpture Collection Researcher, Dr Anthony McIntosh, chooses his top five public sculptures in Eastbourne, East Sussex:

It couldn’t be said that Eastbourne is overflowing with public sculpture, but there are some important pieces in the town.

5. Memorial to John Wesley Woodward – Titanic Memorial, Charles Godfrey Garrard, 1914, 76cm x 145cm, Lower Parade underneath the columns in the bandstand arenaEestbourne 1John Wesley Woodward was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, but was associated with Eastbourne as a member of the Duke of Devonshire’s band in the town. He was a cello player and in the past had appeared both as a soloist and as a member of several well-known string quartets. He joined the White Star Line around 1909 and was on board the Olympic when she collided with H.M.S. Hawke, narrowly escaping injury as he was in the cabin with three colleagues just where the Hawke struck. Woodward died in the sinking of the Titanic during its maiden voyage on 15 April 1912, along with all the other ship’s musicians. The bronze and granite memorial was unveiled by the opera singer, Clara Butt.

This is an interesting curiosity in the town and it was restored in 2012 in time for the centenary of the disaster. The only unfortunate aspect is that it is not visible unless you enter the bandstand colonnades.

4. Eighteen Thousand Tides, David Nash, 1996, Manor Gardens, Borough LaneEastbourne 2David Nash was invited by the Towner Art Gallery to create a new outdoor sculpture in Manor Gardens. As the only durable wood for exterior sculpture is oak, he was shown oak trees that were damaged and due to be cut down, and the groynes at Eastbourne seafront which were to be replaced. He envisioned a group of oak buttresses, “standing vertically in a circle, creating a ‘place’, unusual and intriguing as an image and as a place to enter, majestic and quiet and contemplative”. It was the first time that Nash had worked with sea weathered timber. Nash says, “The timbers in this sculpture have been formed by the relentless breathing of tides, the sea pressing against Eastbourne over twenty-five years, eighteen thousand breaths. The living oak, before being a buttress, wove the elements of mineral, water, air and light to form its physical body; when no longer a tree the wood retains an echo of those elemental forces and through water erosion their image is magnified, each buttress becoming unique.” The buttresses measure between 2.5 and 4 metres in height.

I have visited this piece many times and the wonderful thing about it I find is the changing colours of the wood depending on the season and the weather – there is always something new to appreciate about the work.

3. War Memorial, Henry Charles Fehr, 1920, 488cm high, junction of Devonshire Place and Trinity TreesEastbourne 3The memorial was unveiled by General Lord Horne, G.C.B., K.C.M.G., the well-known commander of the First Army. As there were 1,065 names of the Fallen from Eastbourne, it was decided to erect sixteen oak panels in the Town Hall on which they would be carved rather than the original proposal to carve the names on the plinth. The bronze statue representing the ‘Angel of Victory’ is particularly striking.

2. Royal Sussex Memorial, William Goscombe John, 1906, approx. 5.5m high, junction of Elms Avenue and Cavendish Place, opposite the PierEastbourne 4The statue was unveiled by the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Lietenant of Sussex and a Major of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Battalion, in the presence of a Guard of Honour of the Royal Sussex Regiment. The figure is depicted in the uniform of the Bengal Regiment, one of the old regiments of the East India Company. When the East India Company came to an end the regiment was taken over by the Government and became the 107th regiment which in turn became the 2nd. Battalion. The monument is listed Grade II*.

Being on the seafront, I pass this monument so many times, but am always slightly amused by the figure’s somewhat ‘jaunty’ pose!

1. Statue of 7th Duke of Devonshire, Edward Alfred Briscoe Drury, 1910, approx. 5.5m high, King Edwards ParadeEastbourne 5The Dukes of Devonshire created much of Eastbourne’s modern town and its elegant and iconic seafront. William Cavendish, 7th Duke from 1858, inherited a large estate there in 1834 and appointed Decimus Burton, the renowned architect, to draw up plans for building homes. Burton, however, was more interested in carrying out his outstanding work a little further east at St Leonards. He resigned after producing just one church in Eastbourne. The Duke subsequently appointed the less well known James Berry to produce plans for the seafront. Work began on large houses and a promenade before Berry fell out of favour and was replaced by Henry Currey, who remained in post until the 7th Duke died in 1891. There is a seated statue of the 7th Duke by William Goscombe John on the seafront at the junction of Cavendish Place.

This Grade II bronze statue is of Spencer Compton, 8th Duke of Devonshire and was erected on the Western Lawns two years after the Duke’s death. It was unveiled by the Duke of Norfolk. The 8th Duke of Devonshire was Mayor of Eastbourne between 1897 and 1898. The statue portrays him in the robes of a Chancellor of Cambridge University and is rich with detail including the pince-nez held in his right hand – this was his habit when addressing a public assembly.

Interestingly the sculptor, Alfred Drury, is the grandfather of Jolyon Drury, a trustee of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association.

Find out more about the public monuments and sculpture of Sussex at:

There is also a book of the Sussex public monuments and sculpture, published by Liverpool University Press:

No Longer Watching Over Heath or Man

At the end of March, a furore erupted around the statue of Cecil John Rhodes (1853–1902) that has been a landmark at the University of Cape Town (UCT). This is not the first time that the legacy of Rhodes, the British mining magnate, financier and politician whose particular vision of Empire shaped Southern Africa, has been questioned. The #RhodesMustFall campaign called for the removal of the work as a gesture of wider transformation on campus. This soon spread to other campuses and escalated into a cross-country discussion about tangible change in South Africa. Annwen Bates, Copyright Assistant with the Public Catalogue Foundation, writes in her personal capacity about these recent events at her undergraduate alma mater:

From 1934 to 2015, Rhodes had sat on his pedestal.

In pose, this great hulk of man, the figure of visionary Empire, resembled Rodin’s ‘The Thinker.’ For close on 53 years, he leant in contemplation over the Southern Suburbs, Cape Flats and towards the Helderberg mountains on the horizon.1 On either side of this vista extends the coastline.

Goodman Gwasira remarks on the statue’s location, ‘The spatial setting of the statue, with Table Mountain stretching behind it can be read as symbolising Rhodes’ dreams. The breadth of the mountain inspired Rhodes’ aim of broadening his empire.’ A plaque below captioned Rhodes’s ambition, I DREAM A DREAM/ BY ROCK AND HEATH AND PINE/ OF EMPIRE NORTHWARDS/ AY ONE LAND/ FROM THE LION’S HEAD TO THE LINE.

Today’s youngsters at UCT did not buy this vision of Empire. Not a jot. ‘There is no collective history here. Where are our heroes and ancestors?’ declared activist and political science student Chumani Maxwele2, who led the protest and flung excrement, allegedly human, at the statue.

The new voices came with buckets of discontent, marches, sit-ins and the power of social media. They set down the terms of their protest: #RhodesMustFall, #RhodesMustGo.mss_buzv_uctThe statue, unveiled in 1934, was commissioned by then Governor General, the Earl of Clarendon and paid for by the Rhodes National South African Memorial Committee. The sculptor, Marion Walgate, was a British artist who exhibited at the Royal Academy at least three times between 1913 and 1932. She was also an accomplished medallist. Another example of her contribution to South African visual material culture was a five shilling piece minted in 1952: the obverse carried her design of Jan van Riebeeck’s3 three-master sailing into Table Bay. Her husband, Charles Percival Walgate, was also British-born and an architect who worked as Sir Herbert Baker’s assistant.

Sir Herbert Baker’s designs for buildings of colonial administration, which drew on the colonnades and symmetry of antiquity, are still to be found across South Africa and in Delhi. Examples of his work on view in London include South Africa House (The South African High Commission) on Trafalgar Square and the Bank of England’s current façade, which was part of the revision he undertook of Sir John Soane’s design. Rhodes commissioned Baker for a number of projects, including the re-design of his Cape Town residence, Groote Schuur (which is now one of the South African president’s official residences).

Since 1934, Walgate’s Rhodes statue has been erected at various locations on UCT’s main campus. It was only in 1996 that it was positioned at the thoroughfare intersection passed daily by students walking from Jameson Plaza to Grotto Road. In original architectural drawings by J. M. Solomon this point serves as the campus axis. Gwasira proposes that setting the Rhodes statue here, ‘emphasise[d] the role that Rhodes played in the establishment of the Institution’.mss_buzv_rhodes statue_1It is worth noting that campus architect Solomon’s early career was in Sir Herbert Baker’s firm, Herbert & Masey. After Solomon’s suicide, Charles Percival Walgate oversaw the building of the new campus on the land provided by Rhodes. These connections between Rhodes, Baker, the Walgates and Solomon underscore the stronghold a notably British-Imperialist visual legacy held over architecture, public space and the representation of patriotic identity in South Africa at the end of the nineteenth and in the first part of the twentieth century. In quarters, this visual legacy still resonates even in the post-Apartheid democracy of twenty-first century South Africa.rmf-5995Some quarters suggested that the #RhodesMustGo/#RhodesMustFall call displayed ignorance. However, the students’ views reflected an informed understanding of politics and public heritage, as these quotations indicate:

‘This movement is not just about a statue. It’s not just about a university. It’s not just about a curriculum. It’s not just about land. It’s about reclaiming black history as well.’

‘You are African. White, black, Coloured, Indian… If you are a white South African and you can think you can isolate yourself from being African, and that statue doesn’t bother you, you need to think twice. Because the future is moving a lot faster than your consciousness.’

It was not only students who voiced critique in the wake of #RhodesMustFall. Prof. Zine Magubane, who is based in the Sociology Department of Boston College, Massachusetts and at UCT as a Visiting Professor in the Van Zyl Slabbert Chair, commented in an interview for UCT’s Humanities Department newsletter:

‘Take the issue of Rhodes’ legacy, for example, we are still having discussions where he is called a “humanitarian” or an “entrepreneur”! This, about a person who said that he “preferred land to niggers”! To enter into scholarly dialogue means having not only to engage with things that insult you and your history in very profound ways but also to have to write through and against them. This is not easy.’

It is such that the statues must fall when the regimes change. These recent events are not particular to the Rhodes statue. After 1989, many of the great men of communism were removed from their pedestals in the former Soviet states. There is also the misremembered and misrepresented toppling of the Suddam Hussein statue on Baghdad’s Firdos Square on 9th April 2003.

While it is not right to venerate men who oppress others, it is such figures that make up much of history. Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya, journalist and editor of the Mercury newspaper , explored Rhodes’ contested legacy in his opinion piece, ‘How should we remember him?’ and concludes, ‘We may not rewrite history, but we can choose how we remember the historical figures.’

On the 9th of April, after consultation with the Heritage Western Cape (HWC) the statue of Cecil John Rhodes was removed from its plinth and transported to an unknown location for safekeeping.Rhodes Removal from Wiki CommonsAn application to HWC for permanent removal of the statue is in process. In the report, independent heritage practitioner, Ashley Lillie, will review the statue’s history, context and heritage significance and consider alternatives for the work. There is still an open call for public comments and an assessment of this consultation will be included.rmf-6014Some of these comments may include those who work at UCT who have also experienced the statue within socio-historical and institutional hegemonies.

The evening after the first day of protest, UCT law student Nik Fitzhenry photographed two men employed to clean the sewage that had been dumped on the statue. With this photograph Fitzhenry intended ‘to remind us of the complex nature of demonstration and the many people involved in and affected by actions taken in the name of activism. These two men are as much a part of the demonstration as the other actors.’

UCT employee Peter Buckton began his career as a cleaner, then progressed to laboratory attendant and is now a sports co-ordinator. Against the backdrop of the ‘white’ UCT of the 1970s and 1980s, Buckton studied for a history degree with the support of the then Dean of Science. After Rhodes fell, Buckton described what it was like not to have to pass the statue for the first time in 44 years,’ [I]t it was a good feeling. It prickles the brain when you go past there, especially if you are informed about history and what he stood for. It’s like he’s talking to you: “Hey, I’ve got you, I’m watching you!”’

Now that Rhodes no longer watches land or people, what might be the future for the empty pedestal? In a forum held at UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Art first-year students offered their suggestions. Associate Professor Fritha Langerman recounts, ‘One idea was that the plinth should become a viewing platform where staff and students would be able to command the view for themselves, symbolically gesturing to their own futures. Another suggestion was that the sculpture be melted down and used to cast a plaque commemorating this “moment of rupture”.’

Rhodes may now be absent from the campus intersection, but Sir Herbert Baker’s monolith memorial still broods on the mountain above UCT. It is also possible to visit the cottage in Muizenberg where Rhodes passed away of tuberculosis at 49, and his remains are still in the Matopos Hills in Zimbabwe. These monuments would be more difficult to dismantle. While Southern Africans continue to scrutinize the histories moulded and memorialised around them, the now vacant podium at UCT offers a transitory site to contemplate the possibilities of the future. Hopefully this future of real structural redress will move a lot faster than today’s dreams and consciousness.rmf-172958Notes:

1 An explanation about the areas mentioned:

Southern Suburbs: The leafy, once ‘white’, English-speaking suburbs of Cape Town, including Rondebosch and Rosebank, where much of UCT’s campus is located. Olive Schreiner, Lady Anne Barnard, Rhodes and even Rudyard Kipling lived and socialised in these Cape Town suburbs.

Cape Flats: The inhospitable, sandy flatlands to which evicted residents of District Six were sent. The Cape Flats is often, though unfairly, associated with gangs, poverty and social problems. It is still a largely ‘Coloured’ area.

The Helderberg Mountains: This mountain range heralds the Afrikaans-speaking areas beyond the Southern Suburbs. The area is known for its wine.

2 Maxwele has made headlines before. After accused of ‘giving the middle finger’ to President Jacob Zuma’s motorcade, he was beaten by police. Maxwele filed against the Police Minister for wrongful arrest and received an apology.

3 In Eurocentric histories of South Africa, Jan van Riebeeck is credited with the ‘founding’ of the nation in 1652 when he arrived with other representatives of the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) to found a refreshment station.


Cheremushkin, Peter, ‘When monuments fall: the politics of toppling political sculpture’ in The Unknown War, January 12, 2012

Fitzhenry, Nik, ‘Why I photographed these two cleaners at the foot of UCT’s Rhodes statue’ in The Daily Vox, 13 March 2015

Gwasira, Goodman (2001), ‘Reading Between the Lines: Monuments as Metaphors’ in Southern African Field Archaeology, 10:88-92.

Harding, Jeremy, ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ on the LRB blog, 1 April 2015

Langerma, Fritha, ‘New articulation for the site’ in a special edition of Monday Monthly, Volume 34.03, 13 April 2015

Moya, Fikile-Ntsikelelo, ‘How should we remember him?’ in The Star, Early Edition, 25 March 2015

Maass, Peter, ‘The Toppling: How the media inflated a minor moment in a long war’ in The New Yorker, 10 January 2011

One on One with Zine Mgubane’, 24 Apr 2015

Announcing public consultation phase re: Rhodes statue’ in a special edition of Monday Monthly, 16 April 2015

UCT timeline

Transform UCT

Other interesting links:

Hodes, Rebecca, ‘”The Rhodes statue must fall”: UCT’s radical rebirth’ in The Daily Maverick, 13 March 2015

Davenport, Jade, ‘Rhodes Memorial Debate’, in Mining Weekly, 25 July 2014

Biography of Charles Percival Walgate, Marion Walgate’s husband

Biography of Joseph Michael Solomon

Biography of Sir Herbert Baker

Image Credits:

The black and white images of the Rhodes statue are in the possession of the University of Cape Town Libraries and are reproduced with their permission.

The image of the crane removing the statue is by Tony Carr and is available on Wikimedia Commons.

All other images are by Barry Christianson. Instagram: @thesestreetsza


Annwen E. Bates pursued undergraduate studies in post-colonial English literature at the University of Cape Town before studying Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Oxford on an Oppenheimer Tuition Scholarship and with Jaftha Trust support. She has taught English in South America and Poland, Art History in the Eastern Cape (South Africa) and currently works in the UK at the Public Catalogue Foundation. She also writes poetry as BeadedQuill.

Top Five Public Sculptures: Birmingham

Work on the Your Sculpture project has been taking us around the UK in recent weeks and wherever we go, we keep an eye out for public sculptures to photograph and share on our Instagram account (@yoursculpture).

I had the opportunity to explore Birmingham last week and was struck by the extent and variety of public art in the city centre. Sculptures range from traditional statues of national heroes, such as Queen Victoria and Lord Nelson, to contemporary works by Antony Gormley, Gillian Wearing and Dhruva Mistry.

This is very much a personal top five. If there are other public sculptures in Birmingham that you particularly like, do let us know what they are and why you like them.

A Real Birmingham Family5. A Real Birmingham Family, Gillian Wearing, 2014, Centenary Square

The result of Ikon Gallery’s four-year project to find a ‘real’ Birmingham family to be immortalised in a sculpture, this work was created by Gillian Wearing, a Birmingham-born, Turner Prize-winning artist. Hundreds of families applied to take part in the project before a shortlist of four was selected by a diverse panel of community, cultural and religious figures. From this shortlist, the chosen family was Roma and Emma Jones, sisters and single parents, and their two sons Kyan and Shaye.

The sculpture has provoked some debate and controversy since its unveiling, being targeted by Fathers for Justice campaigners and criticised as a betrayal of traditional family values. Defenders have stated that the work represents Birmingham’s cultural diversity and challenges the notion of what constitutes a ‘real family’ in Britain today.

“I really liked how Roma and Emma Jones spoke of their closeness as sisters and how they supported each other. It seemed a very strong bond, one of friendship and family, and the sculpture puts across that connectedness between them. A nuclear family is one reality but it is one of many and this work celebrates the idea that what constitutes a family should not be fixed.” Gillian Wearing

Find out more about the project and the sculpture here.

Tony Hancock_Birmingham4. Tony Hancock, Bruce Williams, 1996, Old Square

The comedian and actor Tony Hancock was born in the Hall Green area of Birmingham in 1924. He is best known for his BBC series Hancock’s Half Hour, which ran first on radio from 1954, then on television from 1956. He died in 1968, aged 44.

Bruce Williams’ memorial was unveiled by Sir Harry Secombe on 13 May 1996. Originally intended to be placed on New Street, it was temporarily placed on the Corporation Street edge of Old Square, which at that time was opposite a Blood Donor Clinic, the subject of Hancock’s well-known sketch. The statue was later relocated to the centre of Old Square, where it remains.

War Memorial_Birmingham3. Statues on the Hall of Memory, Albert Toft, 1925, Centenary Square

The Hall of Memory is a war memorial commemorating the 12,320 Birmingham citizens who died in the First Word War. The building was designed by S. N. Cooke and W. N. Twist, and built between 1923 and 1925 by John Barnsley and Son.

The four statues around the exterior, by local artist Albert Toft, represent the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and Women’s Services. On the day I visited, the Women’s Services statue had been ‘flower-bombed’ by members of the Women’s Institute in response to the defacement of the Women’s War Memorial in Whitehall on Saturday 9 May 2015, by anti-Tory protestors. Read more about the flower-bombing here.

The Bull_Birmingham2. The Bull, Laurence Broderick, 2003, Bullring Shopping Centre

One of the largest bronze animal sculptures in the UK, this 2.2-metre (7ft 3in) tall running, turning bull stands at the main entrance to the Bullring’s west building.

The Bull is a popular spot for people to have their picture taken and on the day I visited, I had to wait a few minutes to be able to take a photograph. It’s a very tactile sculpture and visitors, especially children, seem keen to touch it and climb all over it. As I waited to take my photo, a mother held her young child up to The Bull’s face so he could kiss its nose!

Find out more about the sculpture and how it was made here.

The River_Birmingham1. The River, Dhruva Mistry, 1994, Victoria Square

The redevelopment of Victoria Square, from a busy road junction to a pedestrianised, public focal point, was started in 1992 and completed in 1994. An international design competition was held for a central water feature in the square, which was won by Dhruva Mistry. Four sculptures by Mistry are sited around the square: The River, Guardians, Youth and Object [Variations].

The River, a monumental female figure, representing the life force, sits in the upper pool in the square. Nicknamed ‘The Floozie in the Jacuzzi’, it is also a fountain, one of the largest in Europe, with a flow of 3,000 gallons per minute.

The following words, from the poem ‘Burnt Norton’ by T. S. Eliot, are engraved in the rim of the upper pool:

‘And the pool was filled with water of sunlight, And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly, The surface glittered out of heart of light, And they were behind us, reflected in the pool. Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.’

The water from the upper pool flows into a lower pool, in which is another of Mistry’s sculptures, Youth. On either side of the fountain are two large stone sculptures known as the Guardians (image below). On either side of these sculptures are two obelisk-shaped sculptures, Object (Variations), which act as lampstands in the square.Guardian_Birmingham

Further information on Birmingham’s public sculpture:

Birmingham City Council

The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association has produced two books on Birmingham in their Public Sculpture of Britain series, published by Liverpool University Press:

Public Sculpture of Birmingham by George T. Noszlopy, 1998

Birmingham Sculpture Trails by George T. Noszlopy and Fiona Waterhouse, 2007

Hidden Dramas in Covent Garden

Susannah Bray, Public Catalogue Foundation Volunteer, takes us on a tour of the some of the sculpture that can be seen near the PCF’s head office in the heart of London’s theatreland:

“Avoid the traps and focus in closer. What you might find may impress you.

Covent Garden, one of London’s busiest hotspots, is not just home to the hustle and bustle of theatre life, but to a huge amount of sculptures waiting to be uncovered. Some of Britain’s greatest actors, writers and directors are immortalised within the concrete of central London. Some notable names, such as Charlie Chaplin, will lead you through London on an uncommon trail that will make you discover places you never knew existed and have walked past in day-to-day life.

We begin with Agatha Christie. Agatha is particularly easy to miss. The likely person would bypass this sculpture in the heart of theatreland either because they are late to their play at the West End or are too excited by the prospect of meeting a fanciful flower girl in Covent Garden. However, this is a treat not to be overlooked. The bust of her head appears in profile within a solid surrounding of bronze, safely nestled from pedestrians. Her smiling face is a warm welcome against the chill. More than eight of Christie’s plays have been performed on the West End, with particular  The Mousetrap credited as the longest running play in the world.image1Above: Agatha Christie Memorial, Ben Twiston-Davies, 2013.

Not a stone’s throw away, in the north of Leicester Square, opposite the Leicester Square Theatre, you will find one of the heroes of the golden age of Hollywood; Charlie Chaplin. You will come across him in character, absently mindedley waiting your arrival. He doesn’t have a voice unlike another popular work by John Doubleday, Sherlock Holmes (1999), but almost appears, like on screen, that he doesn’t need one.

Chaplin appears to have a good view of the beginning of Chinatown and stares out to where Wilfred Earnest Lytton once lived, but he has not always been sited there. Previously he stood in the middle of Leicester Square, resting on a cane. This cane is now gone and you can only presume that it didn’t make the journey. Something to note is Chaplin’s change in height, as although never being tall in real life, between 1981 and 2011 he gained height physically and commemoratively by being placed in Leicester Square on a plinth. Following the remodelling he was moved without his plinth to Leicester Place.image2Above: Charlie Chaplin, John Doubleday, 1981.

Following the streams of people heading back east is recommended, as between Covent Garden and Bedford Street is a place of perfect serenity; St Paul’s Church garden. On my visit some restoration work was being done, but it is still worth a look. In the garden sits Neptune’s fountain, a piece fit for the water god himself. Although I was unable to see Neptune as the area directly behind the photo was cordened off, the back side reveals a ‘Baroquism’ of a scallop shell that leaves you wondering where an indignant Galatea has been left. St Paul’s Church is a stone’s throw away from the covers of Covent Garden and gains its fame from being referred to as ‘The Actor’s Church’. You can easily imagine flows of actors and playwrights en route from tavern to theatre, praying that they really do not break a leg.image3Above: Neptune Fountain, Philip Thomanson, 1995.image4Above: Doorway to Inigo Jones Garden. The Neptune Fountain can be glimpsed through the door.

Being in Covent Garden, it would be unthinkable to not think about dance, and, just on the other side of The Royal Opera House, a Young Dancer ties the ribbons of her ballet shoes. The grace and preciosity of her art can be seen in her posture, which Plazzotta captures in his sculpture. She perches half on the stool for moment to retie the ribbons before she leaps back into the rehearsal. The piece seems timeless, encompassing every hopeful dancer.image5Above: The Young Dancer, Enzo Plazotta, 1988

The last sculpture, if you recognise it for what it is, will probably be the most memorable. Found on Adelaide Street, many a passer-by will rest on this piece and not realise that they are actually regaining their strength on a nod to one of Britain’s greatest playwrights, Oscar Wilde. Indeed what they are actually sitting on is his coffin, which he seemingly rises out of and attempts to engage you in conversation. image6

Above: A Conversation with Oscar Wilde, Maggi Hambling, 1998.

Wilde, who died in 1900 at the age of 45, had been imprisoned for two years and in a way this controversial work feasibly reflects his life. It is far better, however, to look at a sculpture without any previous knowledge or bias of others’ opinions, just appreciating the art for the way you see it. Note: at the time of observation the whole of Adelaide Street was being dug up, making it hard to take a photo without any road works. I am sure Oscar would not have minded being submerged in the contemporary.”

Thanks very much to Susannah for taking us on this mini sculpture trail around London WC2.

Matthew Flinders and Trim the cat at Euston Station

I thought I knew every inch of Euston Station, having spent many hours there waiting for the platform number for my train to appear on the departures board. Towards the end of 2014, however, I became aware that a new statue had been installed on the main concourse and I was amazed that I hadn’t spotted it before. As anyone who travels through Euston will know, it’s a really busy place, so I hadn’t seen the new sculpture as it was always obscured by large numbers of people surrounding it or sitting on it.

Travellers will pass two sculptures on their way in and out of the station. A statue of railway engineer Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) stands just outside one of the entrances:Stephenson_EustonThe other work is Eduardo Paolozzi’s large sculpture Piscator, 1980, dedicated to German theatre director Erwin Piscator:Paolozzi_EustonThe new addition to the station’s public art is a statue of scientist and navigator Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), credited with popularising the name Australia, and the first person to circumnavigate the ‘Great Southern Land’ and map South Australia’s coastline. The statue, by sculptor Mark Richards, shows Flinders leaning over a chart of Australia, dividers in hand, accompanied by his faithful pet cat Trim. Flinders Euston_3_9March15Flinders is not a household name in the UK, but he is well known in South Australia where the Flinders Ranges, Flinders Chase National Park, Flinders Street and Flinders University all bear his name. A large number of statues erected in Flinders’ honour can be seen around Australia, apparently only second in number to statues of Queen Victoria. The statue at Euston is the second of Flinders and Trim to be erected in the UK, with the other unveiled in 2006 in Flinders’ birthplace, Donington, Lincolnshire.

Trim the cat was born in 1799 on the Southern Indian Ocean and accompanied Flinders around Australia and to Mauritius. He was described as ‘the best and most illustrious of his Race, the most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants, and best of creatures’. Trim is a much-loved cat even now, with a dedicated Wikipedia page and his own merchandise at the State Library of New South Wales.Flinders Euston_4_9March15Matthew Flinders died in England in 1814 aged 40 and was buried at St James, Hampstead Road, London. The church was demolished in the 1950s and it is rumoured Flinders’ remains are buried under one of the platforms. Some sources say platform 4 or 5, whilst others say his grave might lie somewhere under platforms 12-15.

Mark Richards’ statue was unveiled by Prince William at Australia House, London, on 21 July 2014. In his speech, Prince William said that he felt particularly honoured to have been invited ‘to celebrate a man who did far more than anyone to place Australia – quite literally – on the map’. The statue was subsequently installed within Euston station.

Many more details about Matthew Flinders’ fascinating life and work can be found on the Flinders Memorial website, which is worth visiting to see images of the creation of statue in progress. A collection of letters and documents about Flinders are held by the National Maritime Museum and can be viewed online.

Thousands of people pass by this impressive memorial each day and I hope that some of them will take a moment to look closer at Matthew Flinders and Trim the cat, rather than just use the plinth as a seat or a place to put their fast-food wrappers.