Victoria Rooms, Bristol

Victoria Rooms pediment

A few minutes walk along Queens Road from the City Art Gallery gives an opportunity to see interesting sculpture by M. L. Watson and Henry Poole. The road opens out into a wide space with a central reservation between the lines of traffic (note statue of advancing soldier). The end of the open space is occupied by the rather grand Victoria Rooms (1839-41, architect C. Dyer), an example of the wave of public buildings put up in the early 19th Century. As described in a contemporary journal:

'The Victoria Rooms, Bristol, are one of the latest examples of improvements which are taking place in the provincial towns. The Bristol rooms contain accommodation for business and festivity. The columns of the Corinthian portico are 30 ft high, and the grand hall is 117 ft long, 55 ft wide, and 48 ft high, being more spacious than Freemason's Hall in London.'

The pediment, by M. L. Watson, is rather Roman, and shows Britannia precessing across the sky in a two-horse chariot, accompanied by the charioteer and four flying maidens. Rather reminiscent of Flaxman.

In front of the impressive building stands a statue of Edward VII in bronze, worthy rather than anything more (see the picture on this page), by Henry Poole, dating from 1912. And best of all, the fountain in front of the statue, with merman and mermaid, spiky fishes and shells, seal, turtle, and octopus (you have to hunt for this one!). Excellent altogether - can this be also by Poole?.

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