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Statues in Victoria Square

The Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington died in 1852, and the leading citizens of Leeds decided to erect a statue of the Duke in front of the New Town Hall, then in the early stages of construction. Queen Victoria's favourite sculptor, Baron Carlo Marochetti was commissioned to sculpt the bronze statue. There was some controversy over the choice of sculptor; Marochetti was Sardinian by birth, and some people thought a foreigner should not have been chosen to sculpt the statue of so important a national figure. Despite this, £1,500 was raised, and the statue was finished, and erected in the square in front of the Town Hall in 1855. It was boarded up until the Hall was opened by Queen Victoria in 1858. The statue was removed to Woodhouse Moor in 1937, when the layout of the square was altered.

Sir Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel was a popular Prime Minister, and his death in 1850, 'caused the most intense and widespread grief throughout the kingdom'. A month after his death, a Leeds borough meeting, appointed a committee to raise a public subscription for a statue of Sir Robert Peel. Lists were posted in banks, factories, and the public newsroom, and a total of £1500 guineas was raised in subscriptions ranging from £100 to 1 penny. A competition for the commission was won by William Behnes. It was suggested by the Art Journal that the statue should be sculpted in antique style, with Sir Robert wearing a toga, but the town council wanted the statue in modern dress. The statue is eight feet six inches in height and stands on a pedestal of Scottish granite. It shows Sir Robert in a typical pose, addressing the House of Commons. The bronze figure was cast by F. Robinson of the Statue Foundry, Pimlico, London, and was the first large statue to be cast in one piece in Britain. The statue was erected in front of the Post Office in Park Row, and the inauguration ceremony took place at noon on the 20th August 1852 in front of a large crowd. In the 1890s the statue was moved to Victoria Square, in front of the Town Hall. It was moved again in 1937 to Woodhouse Moor.

The Fountain
Between the statues of Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington was a large stone fountain. Kelly's Directory of 1888 describes it as: 'a great fountain, elaborately wrought in iron and stone, consisting of three superimposed basins, the lowermost of which, constructed of stone, has a diameter of 40 feet………………the whole structure reaches an altitude of 34 feet, but is very seldom in action.' The fountain originally stood in the market in Vicar's Croft, but was removed  to Victoria Square about 1880. It remained there until June 1902 when it was taken down.

Queen Victoria Memorial.
After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 a Memorial Committee was formed, and a subscription fund launched to raise money for a statue of the Queen. Nearly £8000 was raised, and George J. Frampton was commissioned to redesign Victoria Square. His scheme would have meant raising the level of the square, surrounding it with a balustrade, and planting trees round a statue of the Queen in the centre. There were to be broad carriage drives on each side. It was also planned to demolish properties opposite the Town Hall to create a vista across to the station. Buying up the properties for demolition was too costly, and this part of the scheme was abandoned. The design for the statue was approved, and Frampton's 30ft high bronze figure of Queen Victoria was placed in the centre of Victoria Square. The seated figure stands on a base of Portland stone, and there are bronze figures of Peace and Industry on either side.  The statue was unveiled by the Lord Mayor, Edwin Woodhouse, on 27th November 1905. As a photograph of 1905 shows, a large crowd gathered to watch the proceedings.

In 1937 Victoria Square was remodelled. A terrace was built, approached by steps from the road (then Park Lane), and the curved steps in front of the Town Hall replaced by straight ones, to allow a carriageway and car park to be built in front of the Hall. The statues of Wellington, Peel and Queen Victoria were removed to Woodhouse Moor.
Click images to enlarge
Statue of the Duke of Wellington
Statue of the Duke of Wellington
Statue of the Sir Robert Peel
Statue of the Sir Robert Peel
Fountain
Fountain
Queen Victoria Memorial
Queen Victoria Memorial
Unveiling the Queen Victoria Memorial
Unveiling the Queen Victoria Memorial




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003