Bust: Lenin - Holford Gardens - bust
Erection date: 13/3/1942
Lenin lived in the house opposite this site, 1902 - 1903.
This memorial was given to the people of Finsbury by the Russian Embassy in London. We understand that its display in the garden was a temporary arrangement and that the plan was to move it into the block of flats once that was complete. The memorial was visited respectfully by communists but was repeatedly vandalised by anti-communists. So in 1951, before the flats were completed, the council took the bust into protective storage and kept it, presumably expecting the vandalism would recur, were the bust displayed inside the flats. Indeed when the council put it on display in the 1970s it was vandalised again. The Islington Museum took it on in 1996 and it is now on permanent display, apparently without incident.
There are a number of stories about this bust that we find difficult to believe: that Lubetkin made the bust (he was not a sculptor, though he may have designed the frame in which it was displayed); that Lubetkin had mutiple copies made and replaced them as necessary (we don''t think it's the sort of object that could be copied cheaply at that time, but see below); that, in pique when the council refused to have the bust inside the building, he buried it under the staircase (the surrounding frame possibly, as rubble, but not the bust, since that survived).
Have a look at our picture of Ivan Maisky, the man who unveiled the plaque - he's photographed 'in his office' beside a half-made bust of Lenin that we think could be this bust. Our picture of the bust on site comes from a BBC article. More pictures on site here, and in the Islington Museum. On the hunt for the name of the sculptor we went to see the bust at the Museum. It's a fine bust with a very modernist feel, though we are unsure of the material; it could indeed be moulded (in which case multiple copies would be possible). We searched for the sculptor's name and, on the underneath of the back rim of the bust, we found "19-C Mo Daz. (A Kow) - 37" or "19-C Mo zar. (A Kow) - 37". The "37" might be "34" but the museum dates the bust as 1937 so we think that's the date. And "A. Kow" turns out to be an artist, born in Russia in 1901, with a very modernist style. He is mainly known for automobile advertisements but we read he also did some sculpting - he's our man!
Site: Lenin - Holford Gardens (2 memorials)
WC1, Holford Gardens, Bevin Court
Immediately following bomb damage to the houses here in the 1940 - 41 Blitz, Berthold Lubetkin was commissioned to build a block of flats, to be named in honour of Lenin, who in 1902 - 3 had stayed at 30 Holford Gardens. As a precursor to the building Lubetkin designed a memorial to Lenin, incorporating a bust, which was erected, in the Holford Square central garden, facing the remains of number 30, on which a plaque was erected. Both were unveiled in 1942 in the same ceremony, by Russian Ambassador Maisky and his wife.
The outbreak of the Cold War meant that the block of flats, finished in 1954, could no longer be named after Lenin so Ernest Bevin, who had died in 1951, was honoured instead. For other reasons neither the bust not the plaque survived on site.
For some very interesting detailed information about exactly this area: the bomb damage and the planning for redevelopment see LocalLocalHistory.
Lubetkin actually designed 2 residential buildings for this large plot: Holford House and Bevin Court. The central stair-well of the Y-shaped Bevin Court is a stunning space. It's not open to the public but we managed a visit one day and can't resist using one of our photos here. The lobby contains a plaque unveiled on 24 April 1954 by Florence Bevin, Ernest's wife, with the usual list of councillors, etc.
2017: IanVisits reports that a recreated Bevin bust is now back in place.