Statue (lost): Whittington statue - Archway - lost
For other almshouse statues that have moved see the Fishmongers James Hulbert statue and Aske's Hospital and Robert Bentley Todd at the old King's College Hospital.
Site: Whittington statue - Archway - lost (1 memorial)
N19, Archway Road
We were alerted to this lost statue by an article in The Islington Gazette, 10 April 2015, reporting on a campaign to have a statue of Richard Whittington, or a copy, returned to Archway. A photo shows the statue to be of a young, seated Whittington. Felbridge History confirms that the statue was moved from Archway to Felbridge in the 1960s. In brief, the story of these almshouses and their Whittington statue, is as follows:
Whittington built a “college” (almshouse and hospital) next door to St Michael Paternoster Royal in the City. In 1822 this was demolished and a new college was built in Highgate at the foot of Archway Road, on the east side. A statue of him was erected on the front lawn. The almshouses were demolished in 1966 to make way for the widening of Archway Road. They were close to the area now labelled Archway Park. See this c.1900 map. (Don’t be confused by the Victorian Whittington Hospital which remains, on the west side of the road, though much changed.) We remember the almshouses (in unfashionable Gothic) with affection but cannot remember the statue. The almshouses were built a third time in Felbridge near East Grinstead where they still provide charitable homes, run by The Mercers/Charity of Sir Richard Whittington as Whittington College and the statue was relocated there.
Our images, an 1827 engraving from the British Museum and an 1836 painting from the Tate, both show the statue on the lawn but from a distance. We cannot find an early image of the statue that gives enough detail even to be able to identify the pose. A photograph from 1942 shows the plinth of a statue which is itself hiding modestly in the shrubbery. An undated painting at Intriguing History shows what looks like the same plinth supporting a seated figure. This is signed “ARQ”, that’s Alfred Robert Quinton (1853–1934). This painting comes from page 29 of Ditchfield’s ‘The City Companies of London and their Good Works’, 1904, which can be seen in its entirety at Archive. It looks to be a watercolour a medium which Quinton apparently adopted in about 1874 so the best date we can give for this painting is 1874 - 1904.
Having visited Felbridge Whittington College we can add: they hold the statue as photographed in the Islington Gazette (see it here) and a charming terracotta statuette with Whittington in the same pose. For clarity we will hereafter refer to these two items as the ‘Felbridge statue’ and the 'Felbridge statuette'.
Let’s get one problem out the way: The Felbridge History page names the sculptor of the Felbridge statue as “Joseph Carew”. We believe this is a mistake and that it should read “John Carew”, the sculptor of the Royal Exchange (RE) statue of the mature Whittington. This RE statue was one of a pair, the other (Myddelton) by Samuel Joseph. So we think Felbridge History confused the Felbridge Whittington statue with the RE Whittington statue and also conflated the two surnames of the Royal Exchange sculptors into one.
But here’s a trickier problem: Investigating the RE statue we checked the detailed and reliable ‘Public Sculpture of the City of London’ by Philip Ward-Jackson. To our delight this refers to a second statue of Whittington by Carew: having worked on the Royal Exchange in 1844 “He would go on to create an image of the younger Whittington. His statue of the future Lord Mayor listening to Bow Bells, was exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851.” Consideration was given to the acquisition of this statue by the Corporation of the City of London but this did not happen, “because it had already been exhibited and copies of it had already been made.” The Ward-Jackson description of Carew’s second statue could refer to the Felbridge statue. But the dates are a problem. As detailed above, images exist showing a statue on the lawn in 1827 and Carew did not create (either of) his statues until 1844.
But Ward-Jackson refers to the Great Exhibition which gave us another lead. We found, in the Official Catalogue of the exhibition, page 155, "Class 30. Sculpture, Models, and Plastic Art, Mosaics, Enamels, etc." item 10, “Whittington, original model. – Carew” and this item is illustrated in the catalogue with a drawing. This shows Whittington in the same pose as in both the Felbridge statue and the Felbridge statuette (though examined in detail, it is not a careful copy of either of them). But since the catalogue describes item 10 as a 'model' we think it must have been the statuette. This image does however provide a strong link between the Felbridge statue and the one described by Ward-Jackson as having been sculpted by Carew after 1844.
Putting all this together we can propose one story which fits all the facts: Two statues of Whittington have sat on the lawn in front of the almshouses. The first (for which we have no sculptor and no useful image), dates from c.1827 and is truly lost; perhaps it got damaged or badly weather-worn. Then a benefactor either commissioned Carew to create his second statue, or saw it, possibly the statuette, at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and acquired a copy and had it installed on the lawn in time for Quinton’s painting, sometime before 1904. And this is the one that was taken in the 1960s to Felbridge.
2019 Post-script: Spitalfields Life shows a photograph taken c.1900 of a c.6-year old boy posing as Whittington, and he clearly is imitating the pose of the Felbridge statue, holding a stick in one hand and the other with finger raised. The boy had lived in the Dalston and Spitalfields areas, neither of which is close to Archway. Perhaps he had visited someone in the almshouses, or perhaps the sculptor took the pose from a source which the boy also knew.