Some sculpture in Nottingham

As well as the Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Nottingham offers a chance to see some interesting sculpture. Two churches show excellent late 19th C and turn of the century works, and early and mid-20th Century work can be seen in the town.

Much to my regret, I have not seen the statue of Queen Victoria by Albert Toft (his memorial to Captain Ball is described in the page on the Museum).

On Castle Road, the 20th Century sculptor James Woodford is responsible for the statue of Robin Hood (1951), together with the two small freestanding groups and four panels showing events from the legend. The illustrative panels are the best of the bunch, typical of their date and with some reference to Epstein.

The Council House, Old Market Square

Deco-period sculpture in Portland Stone can be seen on the exterior of the Council House. The portico of this building, built 1927 by the architect T Cecil Howitt, dominates the Old Market Square in the centre of the town. Two classic deco lions in stone are in front, and behind the eight Corinthian pillars are a frieze of busy cherubs in stone the full width - competently done, but why choose cherubs? Above, the pediment holds a more classical pantheon of 19 figures or so centred around a figure of Justice. To either side, a series of flanking figures symmetrically placed, starting with a chained pair of figures at the feet of Justice. The left side seems to be Manufactures, with a pair of shire horses, and figures representing the cloths, architecture, pottery and trade. The right hand side shows the Arts - a sculptor, painter, and reclining musician with harp. A slight jarring effect is given to the composition by the leftmost figure, which has been damaged, and perhaps with broken-off head poorly re-emplaced. Apart from this, the whole is a most satisfying mix of draped and semi-draped figures with vertical deco lines.

Other exterior sculpture includes figure groups of Commerce, Knowledge, Civil Law and Prosperity around the dome (need to see from some distance). These are by students of the Old Nottingham School of Art. The building holds a T-shaped arcade in its interior, wherein are stone friezes with wreaths held by pairs of cherubs, and in the central dome, four lively illustrations in oil from Nottingham's history.

A couple of the buildings fronting onto the Square are decorated, most notably Debenhams. On the left hand side of the square as one faces the Council House, down a side street, King St, can be seen a good pointed effort in terra cotta which is the Prudential building, dated 1898, by Alfred Waterhouse. Above the door, a terra cotta statue of a girl - Prudentia. She holds a book and a satisfactorily scaly snake. The road splits to go round the building as King St and Queen St, and behind the Pru, filling the whole back of the island site, which backs onto Upper Parliament Street, is the former Elite Cinema. This building, in hard white ceramic, bears a series of standing figures at high elevation, facing all three streets, somewhat duplicated. Rather too high up to appreciate without binoculars, they include a good St George impaling a small toothy dragon, and recognisable allegorical figures of the Arts (bearded man with sculpture and palette), Victory (girl with wreath and sword), Comedy and Tragedy, Dance, Music and Literature.

A perambulation north of here leads to Nottingham Trent University. One of the buildings, once the University College, Nottingham, a Gothic minsterlike structure, bears four figures in stone - Shakespeare, Milton, Francis Bacon and Newton. Together with further figures which were bombed (Cuvier and James Watt), apparently they are the work of Farmer and Brindley, more familiar for their bronze cast work. Higher up than the figures are three roundels showing allegorical girls, simple but charming, representing the Sciences, Arts and Music, and a frieze showing artisans, artists and musicians bringing their wares and paying homage to some central authoritative figure, perhaps Government.

St Peter's Church

St Peter's Church is centrally placed in the town. The 19th Century memorials are close to the unfortunate lobby. By Albert Toft is the excellent small bronze statue of a girl with uplifted arms, in memory of Catherine Carey Wallis, d. 1884 - the work owes something to Rossetti's Beata Beatrix. Next to it is a bronze panel by George Frampton to Lawrence Wilkins, d. 1902, with sunburst, and arts and crafts trees in a style used by W. J. Neatby. Above the lobby door is a sculpture to the memory of Charlotte Elizabeth, d. 1811, a mourning woman holding a portrait image, babe in arms, with an older child clutching her knees. A bit further along the wall is a white marble panel in low relief commemorating first world war soldiers and dated 1920. A dead soldier on a bier is flanked by girlish angels at head and foot - good stuff in the mode of Harry Bates.

St Mary's Church

A bit out of the way in the south-east part of the town, St Mary's is worth a visit for the Henry Wilson South Porch door. It is in memory to Francis Morse, d. 1886. A complex work in bronze, the door contains 10 panels with New Testament scenes, and two door handles with cherubic heads. A further eight heads are on the cross pieces. Above, Christ and angel with doves. This is one of several such doors by Wilson.

Inside the church, we must also mention the well-preserved sculptures of Mayors of Nottingham dating from the 15th Century. That of John Samon, d. 1416, is particularly good, and the tomb of John de Tannesley is notable for the depiction of a potted plant.

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