HL Deb 31 May 1883 vol 279 cc1288-94

, in rising to call attention to the strong public feeling in favour of the Wellington Statue being allowed to remain in its present position instead of being removed to the Horse Guards, said, the Duke of Wellington had rendered unparalleled services to this country, and had, in addition, earned the gratitude of nearly all the nations of Europe, who had con- ferred many honours upon him, for his aid in rescuing them from French military occupation and despotism. England had possessed great Generals, second to none in their bravery and knowledge of the art of war; but to none had the lot fallen to be so identified with the world's great events, and to take a part so distinguished and glorious, and so conducive to the independence of Europe as this—England's immortal Leader. This country had presented him with Apsley House, containing all the archives relating to his unrivalled career of victories, as well as the numerous and valuable gifts from the Sovereigns and nations whom he had liberated, and had erected in his honour a statue close to that house, which was inseparably connected with the name of the Duke of Wellington. The likeness of the statue to the Duke's features was so striking that no one from John of Groat's House to the Land's End could mistake it. And his attitude, one hand with a telescope pointing to a height to his right front, and his head turned to the left front, as if giving directions for some movement, was very true and characteristic. As regarded the horse, with the exception of his nostrils being too much distended—a fault which could easily be set right, his points—namely, sloping shoulder, good barrel, &c, were good; and he was said to be a good likeness of the portrait of the Duke of Wellington's charger, "Copenhagen," which was in the possession of a noble Friend of his. It was true that the proportions of the horse were disfigured from being three times the size of life, to suit the high arch on which it was placed. But to separate the statue from Apsley House, with which it was so connected, and by such recollections, and to hide it, as appeared to be the intention, on account of the fastidiousness of a few critics, and of these doubtful imperfections, though a good ensemble, in a retired corner of St. James's Park, near the milk and bun stalls, the resort of children and nurserymaids, appeared to him—he spoke with great deference—opposed to the object of the statue, and a disregard of the good intentions of his countrymen, who wished to append to Apsley House a lasting memorial in his honour.


, as a Member of the Site Committee, said, their Lord- ships would agree with him in thinking that if five men entered a room for the purpose of considering any subject they would probably disagree; but upon this question the Committee, consisting of five men, were unanimous. They considered various sites. Chelsea Hospital and Primrose Hill were thought to be too far removed from the centre of London; and it was felt by those who were Members of the Committee that Apsley House would not be a suitable site for the statue, as its colossal proportions would dwarf the surrounding buildings. They next turned their attention to the site at the Horse Guards, and they came to the conclusion that it should be recommended to the Government, as the Horse Guards was a place which was closely connected with the noble Duke up to the last days of his life, it being where he had so frequently transacted business. The Committee thought it was an appropriate site; and the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington), who was consulted, fully shared in their views. The Committee were also unanimously of opinion that the statue was not worthy the reputation of the artist. They were told that the Duke never sat to the artist, who modelled the statue from a lay figure. It was a question whether it would have been possible for Michael Angelo himself to have given an artistic appearance to a huge equestrian figure in a stiff cloak and a cocked hat; but, at all events, if it were to be erected opposite the Horse Guards in the enclosure of St. James's Park, its harsh outlines would be somewhat broken and softened by the foliage surrounding and behind it. The statue would be at a greater distance from the Horse Guards than from Apsley House, and therefore would not dwarf that building—it would be immediately in rear of the gatekeeper's lodge. The noble and gallant Lord had talked of the strong public feeling against removing it from its present site; but as no Questions had been asked in Parliament, nor had any letters been written in the newspapers, he was at a loss to know how he had gauged public opinion. The cost of removing the figure would be only £600 or £700, a sum which he did not think should weigh with the Government when they were selecting a new site for the statue.


remarked that, in his opinion, the coun- try would not hesitate for a moment to expend the sum necessary for the re-erection of the statue of so great a man as the Duke of Wellington in a suitable position. The question, however, was, whether the site selected was the best that could be found. He did not pretend to be an artist; but he must confess that he could not see the artistic advantages of the Horse Guards' site. It would be a very unfortunate thing if the Horse Guards' Parade were to be entirely destroyed by the erection of this great statue in the middle of it. To place it in the enclosure, however, would be merely to hide it behind the trees; and was that the way to treat the statue of so great a man? He was no great admirer of the statue; but still, when it stood on its last site, everyone who came to London used to ask—"Who is that?" and was told—"Oh! that is the Duke of Wellington;" and they might depend upon it that, however inartistic the figure might be, it would be the artist and not the Duke of Wellington that would be found fault with. The noble Viscount had said that it was impossible to make a statue having a stiff cloak and a cocked hat look artistic. In that remark he entirely concurred. He trusted, however, that Her Majesty's Government would not come to any immediate decision on the question; because, now that the part of London near Hyde Park Corner had been so much improved, he saw no reason why this statue should not be altogether recast and made the centre of a group of fine statues which already existed in London.


said, that he always regarded the statue with admiration as seen from the other side of Hyde Park. In this case distance did lend enchantment to the view. He trusted that the statue would be re-erected where it could be seen from the Marble Arch.


said, that, as the Government were aware of different opinions existing on the subject, a number of people thinking that the statue should remain in the locality where it was, they appointed a Committee, on which were some of the most distinguished members of the Profession of Art; and the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) was placed on it to represent the views of the family. That Committee, after due deliberation, had arrived at a most distinct opinion with regard to the matter. They unanimously resolved that— It would be out of harmony with the surroundings if placed at Hyde Park Corner. They recommended that the statue should be placed upon a fitting pedestal on a site immediately within the present railings of St James's Park facing the Horse Guards, and on the central axis of the archway of that building. The Government, having regard to the eminent gentlemen composing that Committee, to whom they were much indebted, had given the subject very careful consideration, and had decided that it would be advisable, in the first instance, to erect at a small cost a full-sized wooden profile of the statue, showing exactly how it would be if placed in the position recommended by the Committee. When this was done the Committee would be asked to meet again, and probably the wooden profile would be moved up to Hyde Park Corner to be also seen in that position. Until this experiment was carried out no final decision in the matter could take place. As some misapprehension had arisen as to the cost for moving the statue from its present position, and as it had been rumoured that it would require some £5,000 to £6,000 to effect this object, he took the present opportunity of stating that it was estimated that the outside cost would not exceed £750, the risk of moving it being in this case also taken by the contractor. It was estimated that to erect it on a suitable granite pedestal, including foundations, about £4,000 would be required; but this would have to be incurred wherever the statue was placed. As the noble and gallant Lord who introduced this subject appeared to have a very strong opinion on the merits of the statue in an artistic point of view, it would, he thought, be interesting to their Lord-ships if he read a Report from a distinguished Academician to Lord Morpeth in 1847, the artist having been consulted on the merits of the statue— My feeling is that the appearance and effect of the said bronze equestrian statue is as detestable as the design is. If such art is intended to remain anywhere, the top of the Oregon Mountain or the summit of the loftiest mountain the Straits of Magellan, where it could never be hoped to be seen again, would be the place; but as a national memento of the sovereign General of the living world and our progress in design and genius, in my humble opinion it will cause the whole people of our Em- pire to feel disgraced by it. My objection to the statue itself is a want of action. Such a hero, so active and so full of manly fire, can never be represented by a tame, lifeless position. The wind might have been allowed to blow out the mantle to give some spirit. The horse is merely sniffing the wind; and the action of his forelegs is utter weakness. The pastern joints are too bent, especially the off one, which straightens in being behind the near one in stepping, and vice versâ. The body of the horse is too short, which makes the legs too long. The horse has not received the conventional form of a charger. He felt sure the Duke would not mount such a neck-stretching animal on any account; and certainly not go to battle on it. Such was the opinion of the well-known Academician of that day, Mr. Reimagle; and, without divulging a secret, he thought he was not far wrong in saying that this was pretty nearly the opinion of the Royal Academicians of the present day.


said, he was very glad to hear what had fallen from the noble Lord speaking on behalf of the Government, especially in regard to the determination to follow the Continental system of erecting a wooden profile before coming to an all-important final decision on the question of site. He hoped this plan would be adopted in the case of other statues.


said, that, on the question of taste, the opinion of the intelligent foreigner might be of service; and to that end he might quote the opinion of M. Lemoinne, who said that the real Duke was not the one represented by the Achilles which had been subscribed for and erected near Apsley House in questionable taste; he was the man on the top of the Arch who, going at a foot's pace all his life, always arrived in time. As the Government were going to put up a profile at Hyde Park Corner as well as the Horse Guards, he ventured to commend M. Lemoinne's opinion.


expressed his preference for the site at Hyde Park Corner; and he thought such a statue was all the more desirable now, on account of the improvements just effected there as a central object in the great space opened up.


said, he was not an admirer of the site opposite the Horse Guards. He defied anyone to say where the central point of the Horse Guards' Parade was; but he believed the site fixed upon was where there had recently been erected a magnificent mud mountain near a bun shop. He could not see any reason why the monument should not be retained on its present site.


said, he was glad the Government had not yet come to any decision on the question. He entirely agreed with the observations of the noble Earl (the Earl of Wemyss), and trusted his suggestion would be considered.