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Darwin Correspondence Project

2.24 Herbert Hampton statue, Lancaster

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The monument to Queen Victoria in Dalton Square, Lancaster, is one of many late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century public projects that featured Darwin among the great men of history – often, as here, in the context of patriotic celebration of the achievements of Victoria’s reign. It was commissioned by James Williamson, 1st Baron Ashton, and created by Herbert Hampton, who specialised in public memorials and portrait sculpture, exhibiting regularly at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers in London. Lord Ashton was immensely rich as a manufacturer of oilcloth and linoleum, and he lavished patronage on his native town, which, for nearly a decade (1886–1895), he represented in Parliament. He also paid for the construction of Lancaster Town Hall on Dalton Square, which is contemporary with the Victoria Memorial, and the two structures may be considered as an ensemble – rather like the relation between the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial in Kensington. The Queen looks towards E.W. Mountford’s ornate building, her orb surmounted by a winged victory, and on the back of her pedestal is an inscription: ‘Given to his native town by Lord Ashton A.D. 1906’. 

The monument to Victoria is in Portland stone, richly decorated with bronze figures and reliefs; it stands on a limestone base with granite steps. Below the regal figure of the Queen in ceremonial robes are four seated lions, which accent the high-relief sculptural groups on the angles of the base. There allegorical female figures optimistically represent ‘Truth’, ‘Justice’, ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Freedom’ as the virtues of Victoria’s Britain. Between them, on the sides of the memorial, are bronze reliefs showing fifty-one men and just two women (Florence Nightingale and George Eliot) whose life work epitomised those virtues – whether as statesmen, thinkers, philanthropists, scientists, authors, actors, musicians or artists; a few of them were actually still alive in 1906. Darwin appears on the west side, among the scientists and writers – William Turner, Edward Frankland, Joseph Lister, Richard Owen, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, George Eliot, William Makepeace Thackeray, George Stephenson, Charles Wheatstone, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), and Michael Faraday. Darwin is pushed into the background by Macaulay and Carlyle, and oddly sandwiched between Owen and Dickens. This miscellany of the great and good recalls the photographic albums and montages of the Victorian era itself, but even here the frontal view of Darwin’s abstracted, uncommunicative face suggests solitariness, such as one sees in the classic portraits executed during his lifetime. 

  • physical location Dalton Square, Lancaster 

  • accession or collection number not applicable (listed building grade 2, ref. no. 1290440) 

  • copyright holder Lancaster City Council  

  • originator of image Herbert Hampson 

  • date of creation 1904-1907 

  • computer-readable date 1904-01-01 to 1907-06-13 

  • medium and material Portland stone and bronze 

  • references and bibliography Clare Hartwell and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Lancashire: North (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 380–381. University of Glasgow, ‘Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland, 1851–1951’, online at David A. Cross and Peter Needham, Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017), pp. 66–69.  


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