Sculpture Journal

‘Bare in the open air’: a statue of Lord Derby and the political origins of the outdoors statue in nineteenth-century Britain

Sculpture Journal (2014), 23, (3), 307–316.

Abstract

Nineteenth-century Britain witnessed an enormous growth in the number of statues of contemporary political leaders in streets and squares. This development was at least in part caused by the widening political franchise. These statues were designed to appeal to the new working-class voters who could admire their political heroes more easily in streets and in the new public parks than in town halls, law courts or cathedrals. It was through working-class pressure that Matthew Noble’s statue of the fourteenth Earl of Derby was placed in 1873 in a Preston public park. Most of the statesmen commemorated by these propagandist statues were broadly left wing, Liberal or Radical, reflecting their working-class support. The Earl of Derby was, however, a Conservative, although a supporter of many Liberal ideals, and even more paradoxically the political cause that most immediately inspired the statue, and its working-class support, was the defence of the reactionary established Protestant Church of Ireland.

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Author details

Morris, Edward