Dogs of Alcibiades - plaque


{On the front of the southern plinth:}
The Dogs of Alcibiades, presented to the Park in 1912 by Lady Regnart
Bow Heritage Trail

Site: Dogs of Alcibiades (3 memorials)

E9, Victoria Park, Bonner Gate

Lady Regnart donated these statues in 1912 and her husband died in 1912 so, call us reckless, but we are assuming that the donation was in memory of her husband Horatio, even though we can find no documented evidence. Alternatively, perhaps the dogs were Horatio's much loved possession but his wife hated them and took the earliest opportunity to get rid of them.

What's odd is that the Regnarts had strong connections with St Pancras (now Camden) and none, that we can discover, with Tower Hamlets.

Some sources say that the dogs were "donated by Lady Aignarth" but we can find no evidence that this lady ever existed so believe this to be a mistake.

The background to these dogs:
The ancient Romans had made copies of a Greek bronze sculpture of a dog (now lost). The Uffizi Gallery has had a pair on display since at least 1912, assumed to be one of these early copies.

Visiting Rome in the 1750s Henry Constantine Jennings (1831-19) acquired another one. He brought it back to Britain where it became well-known and a number of replicas were made, in pairs for installation at stately homes: Basildon Park and Newby Hall; another pair were sold at auction in 2005. Due to the docked tail Jennings named it after a dog in Plutarch's life of Alcibiades, and he in turn was thereafter often known as 'Dog' Jennings.

In 1778 ownership of the Jennings original passed to Rt. Hon Charles Duncombe and it stood in the entrance hall at Duncombe Park Yorkshire even after 1925 when this house was rented out as a girls' school. (Much of this story is told in the Berkshire Archaeological Journal.) In 2001 the statue was acquired by the British Museum.

By the early 19th century copies in Coade stone were being made for gardens by Austin and Seeley, still in business in 1872. The dog can be seen in their catalogue of 1844.

Tracing the copies:
Trying to track the provenance of the Victoria Park dogs we went in hunt of the copies known to be made prior to 1912. The Basildon Park ones are still there, that was easy. The Newby Hall pair were more difficult. With the help of the archivist there (many thanks, Kate Bankier) we learnt that the dogs are no longer at Newby Hall, if they were ever there at all. It's possible that there has been some confusion with nearby Newby Park (now Baldersby Park). Whichever, the dogs left Newby in 1845 and settled at Wrest Park, Bedfordshire. So we failed to discover the provenance of the Victoria Park dogs.

The Victoria Park dogs were restored in 1991 but by 2009 they were in such a bad state that the council removed them and in June 2010 erected these replicas in their place. Is it possible that these replicas are the pair auctioned in 2005? The Hackney Gazette quotes a council spokesperson: "“We’ll put them {the original pair} back in the park when a new community facility is built at the other end of the park, ready for the 2012 Olympics." That may have been the plan but we can find no information about the whereabouts of the originals now (2019).

In conclusion: we don't know where the original pair came from, nor where they are now. But we had fun finding out.

April 2024: We are grateful to Molly Hawes who wrote to say that one of these dogs had been spotted in Oxford at the Malthouse. She sent us a photo of the dog and the nearby information board. That confirmed our understanding of the early origins of these dogs, but also added the information (given above) about the Austin and Seeley copies. These were being made before the dogs were donated to Victoria Park so it is very likely that the two VP dogs are A&S copies rather than those made during Jennings' time.

The board also gives some information about the Oxford dog, summarised as follows: It is probably one of these A&S copies that was first recorded in 1912 in the Oxford Botanic Garden at the Magdalen College end of a path. It is thought to have been installed during the tenure of Charles Daubeny as Professor of Botany (1834-67). In 1962 the dog was moved and was, until shortly before December 2012, on a wall in Malthouse Yard, overlooking the Mill Stream.  To protect the dog from further weather damage it was moved inside and is now, 2024, in the foyer overlooking Tidmarsh Lane.

Molly has also sent us a photo of "a copy which stands outside Osborne House, East Cowes, Isle of Wight".  And we've found photos of dogs at various locations in the States. It's a widely distributed pack.

Wikipedia has a page for Jennings Dog, also known as Molossian hound/dog.

This section lists the subjects commemorated on the memorial on this page:
Dogs of Alcibiades - plaque

Subjects commemorated i

Lady Regnart

Wife of Sir Horatio Regnart. Lady Regnart was an active member of the Managin...

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This section lists the subjects who helped to create/erect the memorial on this page:
Dogs of Alcibiades - plaque

Created by i

Tower Hamlets Council

The name was originally applied to the Tower division of the county of Middle...

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This section lists the other memorials at the same location as the memorial on this page:
Dogs of Alcibiades - plaque

Also at this site i

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