A statue in St James Square in London shows William
on his trusted steed, sweeping cloak behind him. It has been commented
that the mane and tail of William's horse has been superbly modelled.
While working as a chef in a pub in Fulham I met a young lad known as
Serge. Quite a character was Serge. His main interest was the paranormal,
especially ghost walks.
One day Serge was telling me about a recent ghost walk he'd been on
in the Piccadilly area of London. He showed me brief details of his
recent ghost walk, in a book about ghost walking in the London area.
While flicking through the book I noticed it mentioned a statue of King
William III. The statue was to be found in St. James's Square Gardens.
I decided to investigate. So, off I went..
Upon arriving at St. James's Square I was greeted by the gates of the
gardens being locked. I looked around and found a notice which informed
me that the gardens were shut until early June for restoration; they
were due to re-open on June 19. However, I did manage to get a glimpse
of the statue, all be it from a distance. A very splendid statue of
William in equestrian form.
I contacted Hodnett Martin Smith, who was the trustees of the squares
representatives. The information they supplied me with was very useful.
According to Narcissus Luttrell, in December 1697 a statue of the King
was "ordered to be set up in St. James's Square, with several mottoes
and devices, trampling down Popery, breaking the chains of bondage,
slavery, etc.". The statue was to be cast in bronze.
Nothing materialized until 1712 when Richard Jones, 1st Earl of Ranelagh
(Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland 1668-74), in the final clause
of his will said that if no private debts remained and there was nothing
outstanding on his public accounts then anything left over should go
to the "erecting in St. James's Square the statue of my dear master
King William on horseback in brass". This request was not met.
The turning point for the erection of a statue of King William came
about in the will of Samuel Travers, M.P., (Surveyor-General for the
construction of Blenheim Palace). His will provided for a statue to
be erected in St. James's Square or Cheapside Conduit "to the glorious
memory of my master King William the Third". Samuel Travers passed
away in the October of 1725. In March 1727 the trustees of St. James's
square asked Lord Palmerston to apply to the executors of Samuel Travers
will in relation to the building of a statue of King William III. What
ensued was a long pause; this was due to the will of Samuel Travers
being contested. Then on April 17 1794, sixty seven years after the
death of Samuel Travers, the St. James's Square trustees called a meeting
to be held on the 30th of that month, "for the purpose of settling
the business of the statue". The minutes of the meeting reading:
"April 30 1794. The trustees present at the board, having taken
the opinion of several absent trustees respecting the erection of the
statue of the late King William III, find a majority of them in concurrence
with themselves present, and are for having the same placed in St. James's
Square. Ordered that Mr. Saunders write to Mr. Moberley to inform him
that the trustees do assent to erecting the statue".
On April 06 1795 the Squares trustees' summoned Mr. Moberley and Mr.
John Bacon snr to a meeting, this was to discuss the erection of a statue
to King William III. At this meeting the trustees emphasized that they
were only "suffering" the erection of a statue and could not
be held responsible for any expenses.
There is still some vagueness surrounding the actual commissioning,
and execution of the statue. Records dating back to February 1804, which
were found preserved amongst archives at Christ's Hospital, record that
the job of building the statue was transferred to John Bacon jnr in
1799. This was after the death of his father who had designed the statue.
The same records show that an advanced fee of £1500.00 was given
to John Bacon jnr, and estimated cost of the statue being £5000.00.
The actual cost of the statue was £3275 3s 9d.
The casting of the statue was done at the Bacon's premises in Newman
Street, it is reported that John Bacon jnr had a helping hand from his
younger brother, Thomas. The was erected in 1808, and unlike today,
there was no unveiling ceremony.
The statue which shows William in equestrian form stands on a pedestal
of, from a distance looks like, white marble. It has three inscriptions
in brass. On each of the long faces (north and south) the inscription
On the east side carved in smaller letters is the inscription:-
I. BACON, IVN, 1807
Over the years the statue started to be neglected. In December 1910,
after an application to the Treasury, it was agreed that repairs should
be made to the statue, costs not to exceed £125.00. Upon transporting
the statue to the workshops of A.B. Burton, at Thames Ditton, it was
discovered that William's cloak and his horse's tail would need extensive
repairs, and one of the horse's hind legs would have to be replaced
completely. One requirement of the grant being given was that the trustees
should keep the gardens in better condition and that the layout of the
gardens should be re-arranged so that the statue of King William III
could be viewed from "the various roads converging on the Square".
Due to World War II and the possibility of damage it was decided by
the Ministry of Works to remove the statue of King William. For safekeeping
the statue was moved to berkhamstead Castle on February 14 1941. The
statue returned to the square in April 1946 were it now stands in all
it's glory. Finally, it must be pointed out that the statue is classified
as Grade 1.
I recommend that any Orangeman visiting London takes time out of his
schedule and visits St. James's Square Gardens and see a statue of King
William III in fine pose. The bronze statue by John Bacon portrays the
king as a Roman General on horseback and was placed in the square in
1808. Under the horse's hooves is the molehill which indirectly led
to William's death. His enemies toasted the 'Gentleman in Black Velvet'
(c) Robbie Gallimore 2003