Statue: Public Record Office - Empress Matilda
Erection date: 1867
Ward-Jackson refers to this statue twice as 'Empress Mathilda' and once as 'Empress Maud' which confused us at first but we discovered that they are the same person.
Site: Old Public Record Office - 4 queens (5 memorials)
WC2, Chancery Lane, Maughan Library of King's College, ex-PRO
The first buildings to occupy this site were built in 1232 by Henry III. The building was known as the Domus Conversorum (the House of Converts) and was intended to provide a refuge for Jews who had converted to Christianity. It provided them with somewhere to live and a Chapel in which to worship, and was run by the Master of the Converts. In 1377 the office of Master of the Converts was amalgamated with that of Master of the Rolls, and the site was named the Rolls Estate. The Rolls Chapel was used both for worship and for storing records – the Rolls were the parchment records of the Court of Chancery. Following the fire in the Palace of Westminster, the Public Record Office was built here, in 1851-8, as a repository for parliamentary records.
The Medieval Chapel was demolished in 1895, with only one arch preserved and mounted on the garden elevation of the Chancery Lane wing, and a new Chapel was built within the configuration of the Public Record Office. The rescued arch can be seen near the bike shelter but there is nothing there to identify it. Stained glass windows from the 17th and 18th centuries which incorporated the Coats of Arms of previous Masters of the Rolls were preserved and installed in the Chapel, together with new windows added in 1899. Three monuments were also retained: the terracotta figure of Dr Yonge, Master of the Rolls and Dean of York (died 1516) by Pietro Torrigiano; a monument to Richard Allington (1561); and one to Lord Bruce of Kinloss (Master of the Rolls, died 1616).
The information above is mainly from a modern plaque in the Weston Room, the same room in which the PRO WW1 memorial is to be found. 1977-97 the PRO moved its papers out to Kew where the collection became known as the National Archive. The Old PRO building was then taken over by King's College London for their Maughan Library. In 1891 an archway was added with statues of 2 kings.
But before that, in 1867, the tower above the main entrance was added, to house a water tank. Its summit is adorned with statues of 4 queens. Victoria was the reigning monarch and the other 3 are a selection from the 6 previous queens (or almost queens) of England. Often what's excluded is as interesting as what's included so here are the rejected queens with possible reasons for exclusion: Lady Jane Grey (short-lived), Tudor Mary I (seldom commemorated), Queen Mary (joint monarch with William).
All the statues are in Portland stone, 2.4m high and placed so high as to make photography a challenge. Locations: Queen Victoria - south above main entrance, Empress Matilda - east, Queen Anne - west, Elizabeth - north.