12 January 2016

Queen Victoria's Statue, Hove

Judy Middleton (2013)

copyright © J.Middleton
Queen Victoria gazes imperially out
 to sea from the south end of Grand Avenue. 
The idea of having a statue of Queen Victoria in Hove emanated from the celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. But such an ambitious project could not be completed in a year and it was not until March 1899 that the Borough Surveyor was instructed to go ahead with laying concrete foundations for the ‘Jubilee’ statue at the south end of Grand Avenue.

The imposing statue was finally unveiled on 9 February 1901. It was of course most unfortunate that the old Queen had died on 22 January 1901 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Therefore the unveiling ceremony had to be a discreet affair. The official programme, suitable edged in black, stated ‘in consequence of the death of our late Sovereign and the National Mourning there will be no Speeches nor the Popular Demonstrations, which are usual on such occasions.’
copyright © J.Middleton
The breathtaking width of Grand Avenue is shown to advantage in this postcard and in consequence
Queen Victoria seems even more imposing.
But Thomas Brock (1847-1922) certainly fulfilled his commission, which was ‘to design a Memorial Statue of large proportions and of the highest class’. The magnificent statue stands at a height of thirteen feet and cost £2,700.

The official description of the statue is as follows; The Statue … represents the Queen standing in Royal Robes with Crown and Veil, holding the sceptre in her right hand, and in her left an Orb, surmounted by the figure of Victory with extended wings. Around the angle of the bronze plinth are festoons of laurel and in front a cartouche bearing the letters VRI. The richly moulded pedestal is of grey Aberdeen granite, 14 feet high; around the four sides of the necking is incised the legend – Victoria – Dei – Gratia – Britannia – Regina – Fidei – Defensor – Ind Imperatrix and in each of the four sides of the pedestal are bronze panels emblematic of Empire, Education, Art and Science and Commerce.
copyright © J.Middleton
The front panel represents Justice with four figures
representing the Empire.
Front Panel – In the centre is a female figure, holding with her right hand a pair of scales, symbolical of Justice, and in her left an Orb. On her right stand figures representing Canada and Australia, whilst on her left are those representing India and Africa. The whole is suggestive of Empire.

Back Panel – The central portion of this panel is occupied by a female figure, in a seated posture, embracing a child who is sitting on an anvil with an electrical machine in his hands. Behind stands a youth, holding a piece of machinery. On her left is a figure of a boy with palette and brush. At his feet a mallet, chisel and compasses are lying. Science and Art are depicted on this panel.

Right Hand Panel – Here is shown a mother with her child at her side. She is seated, and has a book upon her knees, which she is teaching her child to read. Standing behind them and engaged in study are three scholars of different ages. This group is symbolical of Education.
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The west panel shows a trader offering his wares for sale. 
Left Hand Panel – In the foreground kneels an Eastern trader, with his wares spread out before him. He is offering them for sale to two merchants, who stand looking down at the goods. Behind is a figure with a vase held in his hands, while in the background the sea is visible, through which a galley, with sails set, is ploughing its way. This panel represents Commerce.  

 The following inscriptions are incised on the pedestal under the Front Panel – Erected by the Inhabitants of Hove to commemorate the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Accession of Queen Victoria (June 20 AD 1897). Under the Back Panel – Born 24 May 1819 Died January 22 1901.’

It is interesting to note the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park features four large groups representing Agriculture, Manufacture, Engineering and Commerce while there is an allusion to Empire in the groups of sculpture on the plinth.
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The Queen Victoria Memorial, London, designed and executed by Thomas Brock.
Thomas Brock became something of an expert on the features of Queen Victoria and sculpted several statues of her. Perhaps his most famous work was the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace, which is always much in evidence to the public eye whenever there is a ceremony involving the Palace. It has recently been beautifully restored. It must have been very satisfying to Brock when he was knighted on the steps of the memorial in 1911. Brock was also responsible for Queen Victoria’s portrait design that appeared on the coinage in 1897. In 1914 Brock created the statue of Captain James Cook that is such a familiar sight in the Mall.
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Compare this old postcard view with the modern photograph and you will see that an unimaginative block of flats
has replaced the stately pile in the centre. At least the modern extension to King’s House  was carried out in a
style sympathetic to its surroundings.
There is a replica of Hove’s statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Park, Carlisle. The park is situated between the Castle and the River Eden. The Carlisle statue was unveiled on 7 May 1902 and was apparently over budget at a cost of £1,500. 

The Hove statue was cleaned in 1912 and again in 1921. On the latter occasion, it was Mr Burton ‘founder of the casting’ who responsible for the cleaning and the task cost £25.

The statue has been cleaned sporadically over the years and in 1977 received a thorough cleaning, no doubt as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee.

In 1984 vandals threw green paint over the statue. In March 1985 London-based Bronze Restorations began the task of cleaning the statue. The company claimed that a similar statue today would cost between £30,000 and £40,000.

In 1987 Jack Smith cleaned the statue and there was nothing he did not know about the work because he had spent his entire working life cleaning various statues up and down the country.
copyright © J.Middleton
This view looks north up the west side of Grand Avenue and perhaps the less said about it, the better.
Even Queen Victoria seems diminished. 
In June 1992 specialist-firm Archer Stone were busy cleaning the statue. First of all, the dirt had to be removed and afterwards the bronze was burnished before being chemically re-patinated.

In September 2012 some bright spark climbed up the statue and placed a pair of underpants over Queen Victoria’s head. Brighton & Hove City Council said they were unable to send someone out straight away to remove the offending garment because it would be too great an expense. Instead, people would have to wait until a cherry-picker was in the area.


Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade 

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