Mrs Coade’s Stone

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Many of the large carvings and statues you see around London, particularly of the Georgian era, are not actually carvings but pottery. Produced by a once secret process called Coade Stone, it has weathered exceptionally well. Continue reading “Mrs Coade’s Stone”


The politest statue in London

Doffing his hat to the cars whirring around Holborn Circus, and regally isolated from pedestrians by them, Prince Albert’s statue is ignored by all. It’s a bit of a comedown for the man Queen Victoria mourned for 40 years and whose efforts gave us the Albert Hall and the Science, Natural History and V&A museums.

Continue reading “The politest statue in London”

Moving statues No.2: Wellington

Wellington at Aldershot

Queen Anne moving from St Paul’s to Sussex (see post below) reminded me of Wellington’s statue at Aldershot (above). Made from 40 tons of bronze, mainly from cannon captured at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the statue of Wellington (victor of the battle) on his famous horse, Copenhagen, is nearly 30 feet high and 26 feet long. Sculpted by Matthew Wyatt in 1846, it originally sat atop Constitution Arch (which is why it is now commonly  known as Wellington Arch). The illustration below shows how out of scale it was.

Even Queen Victoria thought it spoiled her view from Buckingham Palace but such was the popularity of Wellington that it could not be moved until after he died in 1852 at the age of 83. It was another 30 years before Hyde Park Corner was realigned because of increasing traffic, when the statue was taken down and moved to Green Park, being replaced with the present figure of Victory in her chariot.

In 1883, the Prince of Wales suggested that the statue should go to the home of the British Army. It took four days to move it, using a team of 16 horses, to where it now stands on Round Hill in Wellesley Road, Aldershot.

Wellington on Constitution Arch

The statue of Queen Anne at St Paul’s

ANNE was Queen when St Paul’s was built in 1710. The weather-beaten original of this 1712 sculpture by Francis Bird was replaced with a replica by Richard Belt in 1885. The figures on the base represent England, Ireland, France and North America, all of which Queen Anne laid claim to. Note the Royal Coat of Arms of the time are quartered with the French Fleur-di-Lis as well as the Irish Harp and English Lions. Continue reading “The statue of Queen Anne at St Paul’s”

Marconi House – the BBC’s first home

Two panels on Marconi House, Strand

Since I started Secret London in 2005, I have become obsessed by statues (among many other things). Today, I was in Gibraltar House, on the Strand, from the fourth floor of which there is a clear view of the old Marconi House and, more important, the frieze around it at roof height. They show several groups of women among which the two panels above seem to represent different nationalities, from a woman with snowshoes (extreme left), through a European, an African and an Egyptian to a pair of Asians (extreme right).

The figures are by a relatively unknown artist called Hibbert C Binney and are a fairly typical but still lovely product of the Arts & Crafts movement of the early 1900s. They date to the original Gaiety restaurant building of 1906 by architect Norman Shaw (Savoy Theatre, New Scotland Yard). The restaurant struggled and closed down in 1908, becoming the headquarters of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company in 1912 and being renamed accordingly.

This is famous as the place where the newly-founded BBC made its first radio broadcast from in November 1922, using a transmitter built by Marconi. By December, the BBC staff of four were broadcasting for an hour a day to Britain’s 36,000 licensed radios.

After a while as the headquarters of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (and being renamed Ariel House) the building was sold off and demolished in 2007, but the Listed frontage was preserved.

(Architect Sir Norman Foster drew up the plans in 2004 to turn the site into a luxury hotel for a Spanish group. The project hit financial trouble in 2009 – like many other property developments – so the original 2011 completion date may be optimistic. The Aldwych Hotel will have 173 hotel bedrooms and 78 apartments, with restaurants, bars and a rooftop terrace.)

Conincidentally, I was on Piccadilly yesterday when I took a picture of another HC Binney work, high above St James’s. This is a group for the former tenants,, an insurance group, and they all look suitably hard-working and thrifty with a clear vision of the future (see below).

PS Marconi is also connected to Rathlin Island, where he made the first commercial telegraph transmission in 1898  – see my other website:

Binney sculpture, corner of Piccadilly & St James's