Sculpture in Castle Street and Derby Square

Castle Street runs from the Old Town Hall, in Dale Street, through to Derby Square, where the Victoria Memorial stands.

Castle Street

Panel from the mosaic in Castle Street, by Frank Murray.

The Old Town Hall faces down Castle Street, a street of some antiquity and now with a very good range of mostly Victorian commercial buildings. Among these are several with sculptural work, though none where I have yet found out the sculptors concerned – not unusual with architectural sculpture. Immediately on the right hand side by the corner with Dale Street is the British and Foreign Marine Insurance Co, a terra cotta effort with a band of mosaic, happily signed by Frank Murray and dated 1889, showing galleons with brightly coloured sails and heraldic devices, and more modern ships, and dolphins. Five storeys and a dormer high in the middle range. The terra cotta includes a variety of minor ornament including a ship's prow, half figures, flowers, and foliage with little fishes amongst it.

On the other side, on the corner of Castle Street with Brunswick Street is the Bank of Scotland, white stone with minor decorative banding, little cherubs and grotesqued birds, and a corner domed turret. On the other corner, no 40, once the Adelphi Bank, has an ogee dome on the corner and a variety of other little fanciful roofs. There is much busy surface decoration on walls, door and doorway, some of the little sculptural figures most amusing, and five full figures in niches. One, a knight in armour, is Truth, and the other four are allegorical girls who would appear to be: Motherhood, nursing an infant, Peace, with dove on her shoulder and holding an emblematic olive branch, someone obscure holding a bowl and what may be a rudder, and blind Justice with the usual sword and scales. The figure of Peace has an oriental face not matching the others, and is presumably a modern replacement.

Motherhood, Adelphi Bank, 40 Castle Street.

The next building along, no. 42, very white, is sober on the lower levels, and in seaside town style at the top, with banded decoration and two pairs of grotesque mermen blowing into seashells, with highly exaggerated musculature not particularly apparent from ground level.

On the other side is the former Bank of England, by C. R. Cockerell, with four massive Doric pillars, one of three such buildings the architect designed, and considered as a tour de force.

Crossing back again, a simple Italianate building with four nice allegorical ideal heads above the windows at second floor level, including a Mercury with winged helmet and staff with twined snake, girls emblematic perhaps of Peace and Agriculture, and an elder representing Industry.

Finally, no. 62 by Derby Square, a cream Italianate block, has a balcony above the door with much carved floral décor and two heads, bearded, wild and woolly. In the recessed door, unfortunately with modern encrustations, a simple couple of reclining elders, perhaps river gods. Directly above this ensemble, at 3rd floor level, two stone girls recline on the round-headed windows, a ship’s prow between, rather winsome and unfortunately rather damaged. They are seemingly resting their upper bodies on cornucopias. That to the left has a book on her lap, but her hands are too damaged – one is lost – to know what they contained. But the face is well done in a simple classical style, nicely framed with wavy hair and with a star above her forehead. The other rests one arm on her stomach and upper leg, with on it some sort of ladle, and her other hand is lost. She too has wavy hair, a headband, but no emblem. They are of a quality that suggests some significant artist was responsible, but who?

Spandrel figures, 62 Castle Street.

Derby Square

C.J. Allen's Queen Victoria Monument.

Derby Square, once the site of the city castle, now contains Liverpool’s Victoria Monument, the principle work of perhaps the most important Liverpool-based sculptor, C. J. Allen. The monument itself is of Portland stone, and all the figures are in bronze. We might pause to note that this monument contains an unusually large number of statues - as well as the figure of Victoria, we have four basal groups of three figures each, four upper figures each with two infants, and the summit angel. Only a very few monuments, and the most sumptiously decorated buildings, exceed this total ensemble.

The standing figure of Queen Victoria, a fairly typical depiction of her in later years, is surmounted by a cupola on four clusters of stone shafts. Atop each of these supports is a group of an allegorical woman with infants – Justice, Education, Prosperity through Peace, and perhaps Nurture. On top of the cupola is a winged Victory standing on a globe and holding trumpet and olive wreath – the careful pose gives dramatic silhouettes against the sky from many angles and distances. The base of the edifice, reached by steps, contains four further, larger groups on plinths in front of the pillars. Each of these groups has three figures, and the themes are Education again, Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce. An interesting mix of types among the figures. The men in these lower groups include some ‘heroic workers’, which became such a theme of deco work after the War. Ten years before, the young C.J. Allen had been counted among the second generation of New Sculptors, and there is something of this in the naturalistic pose of some of the figures. In particular, the allegorical females, which tend to the matronly rather than the girlish, fit exactly to the turn-of-the-century period with touches of art nouveau and symbolism. By contrast, the Agriculture group is eminently Edwardian – think of the pictures of Henry Tonks or A.F.A. Sandys, for example.

Groups from the Queen Victoria Monument.

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Old Town Hall at the top of Castle Street // Walk along Dale Street

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