Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Lord Roberts Memorial
Details:

Sculptor: Harry Bates (1850-1899).
Location: Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow.
Date executed: 1916 (copied from original in Calcutta, India, 1894-8).
Executed by: Henry Poole (1873-1928)


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

Lord Frederick Sleigh Roberts, of Khandahar, Pretoria and Waterford (1832-1914), was the Wellington of the late Victorian era. The saviour of the British Empire and its honour on a number of occasions in the perpetual colonial wars fought throughout Queen Victoria's reign.

A national hero by the time he took Glasgow by storm on his first visit to the city in 1903, he had recently subdued the Boers in South Africa and had already become a legend with his epic retreat from Khabul to Khandahar during the Afghan War of 1878.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

Bobs, as he was popularly known, was immortalised in bronze in Calcutta by Harry Bates after a grateful empire decided to honour its greatest living hero and Commander-in-Chief of its Indian army (1885-93), in 1894.

Erected on the city's Maidan , Lady Robert's confirmed that the likeness was better than the real thing, and no less an authority than the celebrated artist George Frederick Watts declared it the finest equestrian statue of the age.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Calcutta, India

The monument was completed in 1898, after Bates had included a dramatic, narrative frieze illustrating the Afghan campaign at his own expense with the intention that the portrait should be viewed as the culmination of an aesthetic experience that should begin at the base of the pedestal, rather than being viewed as a horse and rider mounted on a convenient block of granite. The Baroque , silver-grey, granite pedestal was produced by the London architect Edwin Alfred Rickards.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

After Roberts' second visit to Glasgow in 1913, World War I became the cause for which the empire looked to Roberts to win. However, whilst visiting the troops in France after the equally celebrated retreat from the Marne in Augst 1914, he contracted pneumonia and died. Glasgow Corporation lost no time in opening a subscription fund for a public monument to him.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

Setting about the business in the usual fashion, a committee was formed to secure an eminent sculptor for the job and an open competition was considered as the means of securing him. They were saved the trouble, however, by Bates ' and Roberts' widows, who suggested that the most fitting tribute (and most convenient and inexpensive) would be to erect a copy of the Calcutta statue, and that the sculptor's former apprentice Henry Poole , who had assisted Bates on the original, and who was an eminent sculptor in his own right, should be given the job.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

Faithful in every detail (except the pedestal inscriptions) to its Calcutta model, Roberts is depicted wearing his favourite forage jacket and pith helmet, and mounted on Volonel, his Arabian charger.

Volonel had carried Robert's throughout his later campaigns and in Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee procession in 1897. The horse was accorded a burial with full military honours after his death in Dublin, in 1901.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow
Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow
Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

The figurative, processional frieze around the top of the pedestal illustrates Roberts' epic Khabul retreat and the Horse Artillery, Native Cavalry, Highland Regiments and Gurkhas who accompanied him.

A tour-de-force of expressive modelling and dramatic narrative in bronze, the frieze confirms Bates ' reputation as a consumate exponent of the New Sculpture style.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

Active and latent expressions of Victory and War are embodied in the 'book-end' figures seated at the east and west sides of the pedestal.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

Victory is represented by a Classical, laurel crowned maiden who raises the Union Flag towards Roberts, the Victorian Mars.

She is seated on the prow of an ancient galley which was originally crested with a tiny group of St George and the Dragon, until it was stolen in the 1970s. This miniature masterpiece can be seen in photographs published in Susan Beattie's The New Sculpture (1983) and James Drummond's Scots Magazine article about the monument, Has Glasgow Got The Best (April, 1983, pp. 92-5).


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

War is represented by a proud Moghul warrior, seated on a native cannon and dressed in traditional chain-mail tunic and helmet.

Homage is paid to the prowess of both armies in the Afghan War with representations of their headgear (pith helmet and chain-mail helmets) on the bronze capitals of the pedestal's columns. These surmount tiny shields inscribed Virtue and Valour.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

Roberts' African and eastern campaigns are enumerated on the south face of the pedestal, and his decorations illustrated with bronze replicas, including the VC which he won during the Indian Mutiny, 1858.

Also inscribed is an extract from a speech made during his last visit to Glasgow in May, 1913, in which he foretold the empire's dependence on an army of citizen soldiers for its survival; many of whom were in the audience and who would perish as volunteers and conscripts in the First and Second World Wars. The north face is inscribed with the dedicatory details and also includes replicas of his other decorations.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

The unveiling ceremony on 21st August 1916, was attended by 500 soldiers and sailors and a garde d'honneur of veterans from Roberts' campaigns. Also present were Lord Derby, the Under-Secretary for War, and Viscount French, of Ypres, as well as a multitude of civilians and invited dignitaries who crowded into Park Terrace to witness Roberts' daughter, Countess Roberts, perform the unveiling ceremony (Lady Roberts had been invited to do the honours but she was laid up with pneumonia and sciatica at the time). Throughout the ceremony a Royal Flying Corps biplane buzzed overhead.


Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow

A further copy of the statue was made by Poole for London in 1924, which stands on Horse Guards Parade. This is exact in every way except for the pedestal, which is much smaller and without the narrative frieze, the seated figures and the original inscriptions, the new pedestal being inscribed simply 'ROBERTS'.


Lord Roberts Memorial, London

Sources:

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Click here to return to the top.

All images and biographies are our copyright and may not be reproduced
in any form whatsoever without our express permission.

Home Page |  Sculpture Database |  Sculptors & Designers |  Architects, Builders & Foundries |  Quick Tour
Acronyms |  Glossary |  Bibliography |  Useful Links |  About Us |  Privacy Policy |  Copyright |  Contact Us
Our visitor count: from 1st Jan 2002
For sculpture and architecture: we have over 300 biographies of sculptors and architects connected with Glasgow, Scotland.

 
© 2001-2014 glasgowsculpture.com