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Edwardian London: I Queen Victoria Memorial
Posted on May 19, 2005 - 04:55 AM by Bill McCann

In 1905 the Pall Mall Magazine published a "little book [which] will appeal to all who wish to possess what is really a portfolio, in a handy form, of beautiful drawings and photographs of the marvellous New LONDON which is rising up around them day by day." The first part of the guide was effectively a guide book for the Londoner and the visitor alike, but a guide book with a difference, as it includes architect's drawings of the many new buildings and streets which were still at the planning stage. Not all of these grand conceptions made it into bricks and mortar in the precise form envisaged by the architects, a prime example being the Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace!



Buckingham Palace

THE MEMORIAL OF THE GREAT QUEEN

HERE IS THE HEART OF THE BITISH EMPIRE, AND TO THIS SPOT WE TAKE IT EVERY TOURIST WILL MAKE HIS FIRST VISIT. ALL ROADS LEAD TO THE KING'S PALACE, AND THE FIRST BUSINESS OF THE GUIDE IS TO GIVE SOME ACCOUNT OF THE CHANGES WHICH HAVE ALREADY BEEN MADE THERE, AND OF THE VAST ONES THAT ARE IN CONTEMPLATION. THE BEAUTIFUL DRAWINGS GIVE AN ADMIRABLE IDEA OF THE TRANSFORMATION WHICH WILL BE EFFECTED WHEN THESE SCHEMES ARE FULLY CARRIED OUT.

Webb's scheme as seen from Buckingham Palace.The proposed new roadway around Buckingham Palace.

When Queen Victoria died, it was felt a first that she needed no memorial; then came the second thought a People's gratitude must find material expression. It was therefore determined that there should be raised in London in the neighbourhood most of all associated with the sovereign's presence, and with functions of exceptional state a monument ornamental in any case, and at the same time useful: an immense memorial which should be of public utility and an artistic improvement as well. Wisely planned and solidly wrought- vast and noble if that might be, but at all events dignified a scheme of harmony, and not an assemblage of compromises, a chance muddle that monument would remind the folk of the other lands and of late epochs of one whom her country gave itself the sad relief, allowed itself, even in its sorrow, the proud pleasure, of honouring.

Some representative men were invited to submit schemes, and of these the central monument itself, with the statue of the Queen for its principal feature, was entrusted to Mr. Thomas Brock. Webb's scheme as seen from St James's Park.

A prospective view from the Lake in St James's Park.

The general design selected for the architectural treatment of he immense space was that of Mr. Aston Webb. Mr. Aston Webb's scheme and Mr. Brock's great central monument are wedded together, as they should be, in the final model, and promise to endow us with a noble, memorable addition to the architectural glories of our London Town. That is good; but more than that is good: it is a relief and a delight to feel assured that nobly worthy of the great Queen herself will be the great Queen's monument.

In the first plan for that part of Mr. Aston Webb's scheme which provides for the ornamental barrier against he front of Buckingham Palace, there was greater use of grille work than in the revised version. The greater appearance of solidity and volume which is obtained by the increased employment of stone has somehow been obtained without the sacrifice of elegance, without a suggestion of undue heaviness. We will conclude with a passage from a description of the scheme which the accomplished art critic, Mr. Frederick Wedmore, contributed to the Pall Mall Magazine:

"I do not know I do not remember whether this particular change was suggested in any way by the thought of due provision for Mr. Brock's part of the undertaking; but, at least, another change was, and I am now referring to the admirable bend, the studied curve, just at the central point of the long line of arcade shall one say? that is to stretch in front of the Palace, near to where the railings now are; but of course much farther to the north, and farther to the south, too, than they stretch. It is a welcome relief, completing that beauty of proportion which is one of the charms of the design selected. Proportion, breadth, width, unity: these are he high virtues in any work of Art; rare always, and rare especially where the work is, of necessity, complicated and intricate, as this is.

"The great point now is the scheme be carried out in its entirety that, not to-day, indeed, nor tomorrow, but in some Future not very remote, there shall stretch a great and stately avenue from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar-Square itself [the road itself is already made] statues and supporting arches down the long Processional Road; the greater arch at the far end; and all in recognition, and in reverent memory, of the Sovereign benefactress England knew. Competing artists have done their best to elaborate their plans of dignified beauty. One such plan the best, I think, by common consent has been chosen. And now that all is wisely ordered, no son of England should allow himself to be behindhand in making fitting contribution to the attainment of a worthy end."
The view from the Mall.
The proposed scheme as seen from the Mall. Compare this with the modern traffic-laden roundabout.


 

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