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Great London Sculptures: The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin in Victoria Tower Gardens

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Visitors to the Houses of Parliament, often ignore the Victoria Tower Gardens nearby. The gardens offer some wonderful riverfront views and have pieces of art to admire. One of the largest and most prestigious is The Burghers of Calais, by French sculptor, Auguste Rodin.

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Appropriately, considering it is within the shadow of the Houses of Parliament it represents the idea of freedom from oppression. The sculpture is based on an incident during the Hundred Years War, Calais had been surrounded for a year by English soldiers under King Edward III when in 1347, six leading citizens of Calais, the Burghers, offered to die if Edward spared the rest of the town’s people.

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It was this moment of heroic self-sacrifice that Rodin captures in his sculpture. In the end, an intervention by Edward’s wife, Queen Philippa pleaded on the Burghers behalf and they and the people of Calais were allowed to leave.

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Rodin was commissioned to undertake this work of art in the 1880s and his original sculpture was completed in 1889 and took pride of place outside Calais town hall. Rodin later made a number of casts, this one was bought by the National Art Collection Fund in 1911 and the artist himself came to London to give advice on where the sculpture should be erected.

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This particular sculpture was cast in 1908, installed in 1914 and unveiled in 1915. Over the last century, the sculpture is considered to be one of Rodin greatest works and further casts have been installed in museums and art galleries all over the world.

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Great London Sculptures : Paddington Bear Statue by Marcus Cornish at Paddington Station

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London railway stations have featured in many books over the years, however in the Paddington Bear books, our cuddly hero is named after Paddington Station. The station plays a very important role in the books because it is within the station where he was first found by Mr. and Mrs. Brown when he arrives in London from Peru and the reason he got his name.

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To commemorate this relationship, there is a life-sized bronze statue of Paddington in the station which was designed by the sculptor Marcus Cornish. The statue was unveiled by the Paddington Bear series author Michael Bond in 2000.

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Michael Bond was working as a television cameraman for the BBC that he first came up with the idea for Paddington. He bought a small toy bear for his wife and named it Paddington because they were living near Paddington Station at the time. He began to write some stories about the bear and eventually his very first book “A Bear Called Paddington” was accepted by a publisher and published in 1958. Since the first book, Paddington books have sold more than thirty-five million copies worldwide and have been translated into over forty different languages.

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Michael Bond lived in London, not far from Paddington Station where he continued to write until shortly before he died in 2017, aged 91.

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In the books, we found out that Paddington originally came from Peru where he was brought up by his Aunt Lucy. When Aunt Lucy went to live in the Home for Retired Bears in Lima, she decided to send him to England to live. He was found by the Browns sitting on a small suitcase near the lost property office wearing a hat with a label round his neck with the words “Please Look After This Bear. Thank You.” Paddington is famous for his love of marmalade and especially marmalade sandwiches.

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The sculpture recreates this scene, with Paddington sitting under a large clock with his suitcase waiting to be rescued.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Paddington has also achieved fame on television and more recently films, one strange but true fact is that the very first Paddington bear soft toy was designed in the UK by Shirley Clarkson who just happens to be the mother of TV personality Jeremy Clarkson. Now Paddington has his own shop on Paddington Station.

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Nearby the statue is a colourful Paddington bench and plaque marking the making of the first Paddington film in 2013 and mentions that some of the scenes were filmed in the station.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
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Great London Sculptures: John Betjeman Statue by Martin Jennings at St Pancras Railway Station

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The statue of John Betjeman at St Pancras railway station by the sculptor Martin Jennings was unveiled in 2007 celebrate the connection between St Pancras station and Betjeman.

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The poet John Betjeman was supporter of Victorian architecture and was one of the leading lights to protect important Victorian buildings. After the destruction of the Euston Arch in 1961, Betjeman led the campaign to save St Pancras which was under threat from plans to demolish St Pancras Station, the Midland Hotel and King’s Cross station. The campaign led to St Pancras receiving Grade I listed building status for the station and hotel in 1967 which led to its survival.

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During the late 20th century and early 21st century, St Pancras was renovated in a multi-million pound restoration and the station is considered one of the great railway stations in the world. During the restoration, plans were made to create a statue of John Betjeman by the sculptor Martin Jennings.

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The statue of Betjeman is made of bronze and is larger than life-size being 8.5ft and shows the poet in a suit, mackintosh and trilby hat. The poet holds his hat as he gazes up at the beloved roof of the station. The statue stands on Cumbrian slate which has words from some of Betjeman’s poems.

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The text reads: “And in the shadowless unclouded glare, Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where, A misty sealine meets the wash of air. / John Betjeman, 1906 – 1984, poet, who saved this glorious station”.

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Since its unveiling, the statue has become a popular attraction in its own right which many consider a worthy tribute to the well loved poet and his fight to save the station.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Great London Sculptures: Dr Salter’s Daydream in Bermondsey

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Walking along the Thames walk in Bermondsey near the Angel pub, you come across in a family group of sculptures. The scene is entitled Dr. Salter’s Daydream and tells the story of Dr Alfred Salter, his wife Ada Brown and their daughter Joyce with the family cat perched on the wall.

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Alfred Salter was born in nearby Greenwich in 1873 and went on to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London. He qualified in 1896 and it looked like he would have a successful career ahead of him in medicine. However, in 1898, Dr Salter became a resident at the Methodist Settlement in Bermondsey and began to work amongst the people who lived in poverty in the area. Many of the population of the area worked in the docks but due to the causal nature of the work it was difficult to have any kind of financial security.

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Whilst at the Settlement, Salter set up health insurance schemes and adult education classes and met Ada Brown who shared many of the doctor’s political and social concern views. The Doctor and Ada married in 1900 and in the same year established a medical practice in Bermondsey. The work of the couple led to a the establishment of a pioneering comprehensive health service in the area. To bring more widespread change to the area, Dr Salter and Ada decided to enter the political arena. Salter was elected to Bermondsey Borough Council in 1903, to the London County Council and eventually became a Member of Parliament for the area from 1922 up to the Second World War.

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Ada was elected to Bermondsey Borough Council in 1922, and in the same year was elected as the first female mayor of the borough. Ada became an early pioneer of urban gardening, and organised campaigned against air pollution in London. By the 1930s she had planted thousands of trees, decorated many buildings with window-boxes, and filled disused open spaces with plants and flowers.

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Amid the couple’s social and political work, they had to endure a personal tragedy in 1910, when their eight years old daughter Joyce, died of scarlet fever. The couple carried on their work till the 1940s when first Ada then Dr Salter died.

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To remember and celebrate the lives of the Salter family, a series of sculptures were commissioned and in 1991, sculptor Diane Gorvin unveiled her artwork. Originally Dr. Salter was seated on a bench in old age looking and remembering his young daughter when she was still alive with the cat on the wall. The well-loved sculpture of the Doctor was stolen in 2011 and a new model was made and a sculpture of Ada added which pays tribute to her tree and planting schemes for Bermondsey.


© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Since 2014, the family group has graced this lovely spot over looking the Thames and reminds people about some of the area’s history and characters before large-scale redevelopment took place.

The Secrets of the South Bank Lion

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The striking large white lion statue at the south end of Westminster Bridge has watched over the Thames on the South Bank for nearly two hundred years but its original position was rather higher up, on the top of the Lion Brewery in Lambeth.

James Goding had the Lion Brewery built in 1836–7, the main building facing the river was five storeys high topped off with a large white lion made of Coade stone. The Lion did not have travel far because the Coade’s Stone Works were located nearby, the works opened in 1769 and was run for the first 25 years by the remarkable Mrs. Eleanor Coade. The factory flourished for over 70 years, most due to the fact that the ‘recipe’ for Coade Stone was a closely guarded secret.

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Coade stone was not really stone at all but was rather ceramic stoneware that was considered a ‘wonder’ material in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Cheap to produce, It was mostly used for moulding neoclassical statues, architectural decorations and garden ornaments of the highest quality and remained resistant to the vagaries of the weather. It was popular with the Royal Family and was used on St George’s Chapel, Windsor; The Royal Pavilion, Brighton; Carlton House, London; the Royal Naval College, Greenwich; and Buckingham Palace. However the glory days of Coade Stone were over when large lion for the Lion Brewery was produced in 1837, in the same year, the artificial stone factory was closed down.

The Lion Brewery continued to operate until 1924 when it was bought out by Hoare and Co. brewers, of Wapping. The main building was seriously damaged by fire in 1931 and eventually the whole complex was demolished in 1949 to make way for the Royal Festival Hall.

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The Lion was saved from the building and was reused as part of the Festival of Britain. For some reason, the lion was painted red and mounted on a plinth near the entrance to Waterloo station. In 1966, during the redevelopment of Waterloo station, the statue was cleaned and red paint removed to bring it back to original colour and moved to its current location on a large granite plinth next to Westminster Bridge. The plinth bears the inscription “The South Bank Lion”. and the plaque gives further information about the Lion surviving the bombing in the Second World War and how he was preserved in the accordance with the wishes of His Majesty King George VI. The statue was given a Grade II* listing by English Heritage in 1981.

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The statue which is about 13 feet (4.0 m) long and 12 feet (3.7 m) high, and weighs about 13 tonnes (14 tons) is a reminder of long gone Lambeth industries and has been a reassuring landmark for generations of Londoners.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Great London Sculptures: The Traffic Light Tree by Pierre Vivant

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

One of the most unusual sculptures in London is located on a traffic roundabout near Billingsgate Market, close to the Canary Wharf Financial District.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The public sculpture entitled Traffic Light Tree was created by the French sculptor Pierre Vivant following a competition run by the Public Art Commissions Agency.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The sculpture is eight metres tall and contains 75 sets of lights, each controlled by computer.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Vivant was inspired to create the sculpture by London Plane Trees and the changing pattern of the lights reflects the never-ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The sculpture was originally located on a roundabout in Millwall, at the junction of Heron Quay, Marsh Wall and Westferry Road. It was installed in 1998 and soon became a favourite with tourists and locals, however due to redevelopment in 2011 the sculpture was moved to a new location opposite Billingsgate Market where it had an official lighting-up ceremony in 2014.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

It is still known to confuse motorists but that is all part of the fun about having a Traffic Light Tree. The sculpture was the reason the roundabout it stood on was voted the best UK roundabout in 2005.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Great London Sculptures: Memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan by Sir William Goscombe John in Victoria Embankment Gardens

Visitors to London will often come across many sculptures which often give a fascinating insight into some of London’s characters.

A walk along Victoria Embankment Gardens brings you to sculptor Sir William Goscombe John’s memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan. The striking memorial features a bronze bust of Sullivan on a high granite pedestal against which a bronze female figure which is draped around the stone.

The grieving ‘Muse’ has often been called the ‘sexiest statue in London’ and leans against the pedestal which has a inscription from The Yeoman Of The Guard. The inscription reads “Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death, whene’er he call, must call too soon”. W. S. Gilbert. At the bottom of the pedestal is a mask, sheet music from The Yeoman Of The Guard and a mandolin.

To fully understand the symbols and the importance of the location of the memorial, it is important to know a little more about Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Sir Arthur Sullivan was born in 1842 and was a composer who is best known for his comic opera collaborations with W. S. Gilbert which include H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. These operas were incredibly successful and Gilbert, Sullivan and impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte made a fortune from the collaborations. Carte used his profits from the partnership to build the Savoy Hotel which is directly opposite the memorial.

Although Sullivan wrote more serious pieces, his work with Gilbert is considered the forerunner of the type of musical theatre that would dominate the West End for the next hundred years. Sullivan’s  death at the age of 58 in 1900 was widely mourned and in 1903 this statue was erected to his memory.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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