King Alfred in Winchester

In Winchester so I had to walk down through the city to the statue of King Alfred which I first saw on a boyhood visit.  It is reassuring to see him still in place.  The King of Wessex was a fifth son so was never expected to rule the kingdom; he became an active student instead and devoted his time to learning.  He earned the title ‘great’ because he had a unique combination of statesmanship, scholarship and military skill.

The statue looking up the main street of the city shows him holding his sword in a gesture of victory or authority or both.  He stands at 17 feet from the plinth so is an imposing figure.  The artist Hamo Thorneycroft was a member of the Royal Academy.  His statue of Alfred was erected in 1899 to mark a thousand years since his death.

Despite being clean shaven in most other depictions of Alfred, including coinage from his reign, this sculpture has him with a full beard; the type of beard those late Victorians thought befitted a King!BlogKingAlfredWinchester

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Casuals

In Manchester so off to find the sculpture called ‘Casuals’.  It is on the canal side on land that used to be industrial when the Manchester Ship Canal was at its height.  Designed by the artist Broadbent, it is a representation of the union cards dock workers needed to be able to gain employment.  The conditions were harsh, though, and the men were not guaranteed work.  They needed to line up every day to see if they would be taken on. The casual nature of this employment made it very difficult for people to know if they could support their families. It also led to conflict when the same group of men were competing for the places on a job.

Names and photographs of some of the workers are included in the artwork which now sits on the walkway along the canal near to the regenerated Salford Quays.

 

 

 

 

Alan Turing

In Manchester so I went to find the statue of Alan Turing which acts as a memorial to the great man who was instrumental in the Bletchley Park code breaking programme in the second world war and the development of computers.  He worked at Manchester University after the war and it was while living in the city that he was arrested for gross indecency since he was homosexual at a time when it was against the law.

His statue is in Sackville Park near Canal Street, the centre of Manchester’s gay village.  It is fitting that he is here.  The artist Glyn Hughes shows him sitting on a bench in a slightly ill-fitting suit.  He is eating an apple, a significant addition since he committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide in 1954 just before his 42nd birthday.  His conviction in 1952 resulted in chemical castration as an alternative to imprisonment.

So, here his memorial sits.  It is possible to sit next to him, should you choose.  It isn’t possible to undo the harm done by unjust laws.  The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, issued an apology on behalf of the British Government in 2009 for the way Alan Turing was treated.  His conviction must have seemed harsh to a man who is credited for playing a significant part in the allied victory of World War Two.

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Steve Ovett Statue

In Brighton, so I headed off to find the statue of Olympian runner Steve Ovett.  This sculpture was made by locally based artist, Peter Webster and was unveiled in 2012 as part of the nation wide celebrations of the London Olympics.

The statue replaced one that was previously placed in the city’s Preston Park but which was stolen in 2007.  The location of this one, on Brighton’s sea front, is more prominent and is a worthy tribute to the athlete who was born and educated in Brighton.

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Heart’s Content

As it is Thanksgiving in Canada today, it is a good time to remember the achievement of connecting Europe with North America through cable technology.  The small Newfoundland town of Hearts’s Content was the location of the emergence of the cable from under the sea all the way across the Atlantic from Ireland.

The cable was laid in 1866 and in arriving in this small place on Bay de Verde, Newfoundland it turned the village into a unique community.  Most places along the coast were fishing villages but the people who came to work and live here worked in communications.  People came from across Canada and England to work in the hub on the route from Britain to the United States of America.

In 2017, artist Padraig Tarrant created twin sculptures, one for Valentia Island, Ireland where the cable entered the sea and the other for Heart’s Content in Newfoundland, Canada.  I got to see the Canadian version weeks after it was unveiled but still need to make it to Valentia Island to see the companion piece.

Osborne House is a Treasure House

The rooms may have been elegant, full of beautiful objects and of huge historical importance but I was most impressed by the corridors of Osborne House.  The bronze statues were great with Fredinand Barbedienne’s statue of Silenus and the infant Bacchus a favourite.  This was a gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria.

The head of Prince Alemayehu of Abyssinia fascinated me.  I read Elizabeth Laird’s fictionalised life of the young boy who was taken into exile by the British when the empire was at its height.  Yet again we have a young man, supposedly taken under the wing of the Queen when he should have been ruling in his own country.  In this case the bronze by Francis John Williamson was commissioned by Victoria after the death of the prince at a young age.

To be surrounded with such opulence must be an assault on the senses but maybe you stop seeing them after a while.