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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Parliament Square, London

View across Parliament Square with Westminster Abbey on the right.
Watercolour by Pete Scully,
Tower Bridge and The Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben are the two most iconic images of London. Big Ben is the name of the bell, not the building. It has a crack which has been there since it was cast and gives it the distinctive sound which is heard all over the world with the BBC time signal. The UK Houses of Parliament are still sometimes referred to as The Palace of Westminster because since the early eleventh century various royal palaces have stood on the site.  
William I had a castle there after the eleventh century Norman invasion.
Westminster Abbey: In the early eighth century a Saxon Church dedicated to St Peter was constructed on the site. The church became known as the West Minster ('west monastery'), while St Paul's, a few miles to the east was known as the East Minster ('east monastery').

Winston Churchill's Statue in Parliament Square
The modern square was laid out in 1868 by Sir Charles Barry and is famous as the site of London’s first traffic lights.  It is home to 11 statues of British, Commonwealth, and foreign statesmen. In anti-clockwise order starting with Churchill: This 12-foot bronze by Ivor Roberts-Jones shows him wearing a Navy overcoat. HIs 88-year-old widow Lady Clementine unveiled it in 1973, with the help of the Queen. Churchill chose the location himself in 1950. A mild electric current stops pigeons perching and snow forming on Churchill’s bald head!  
Jan Smuts in Parliament Square
Jan Smuts also has a statute, by Jacob Epstein, in the square. Smuts was the South African leader who fought the British in the Boer War but he was on Britain's side as a staunch ally in both World wars and is the only person whose signature is on the German surrender documents at the end of both wars. The other statues are of various British and foreign statesmen; Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are all represented.
However, my favourite statues are both just off the square in Victoria Tower Gardens. Firstly is the suffragette, Emeline Pankhurst, the only female in sight!
Emeline Pankhurst in Victoria Tower Gardens
Her statue was erected in 1930 just two years after her death, which is very quick by any standards. Her right hand seems to be indicated the way to the Parliament building at her side.
1908 cast of Rodin's Burghers of Calais
The second statue is a cast of Rodin's Burghers of Calais. This one was cast in 1908. The French Government strictly limits the number of casts that can be made of any of Rodin works. This one is the third. The maximum allowed would be 12.
View across the square toward the Houses of Parliament,aka The Palace of Westminster.
You can just see Churchill in front of the red bus.
And on another side of the square is Westminster Abbey......
but that's a story for another time!
I'm listening to Amoureuse by Kiki Dee. This version, on You Tube, has the beautiful lyrics displayed ("When I am far away, I feel the rainfall on another planet"). Helen Reddy's song Emotion is the same tune with different lyrics. That's because they are both new English lyrics added to an original French song.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - wonderful bits of information - of which I knew little - also some different and interesting views of that part of London .. thanks for sharing with us - cheers Hilary

bazza said...

Hello Hilary. The square is often overlooked among the many historic ones in London. I learned a lot myself!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I was surprised to read that famous foreign statesmen also are displayed on the square. How very nice that is.

bazza said...

Hi Arleen: I hadn't thought of that. It seems perfectly natural to honour great statesmen in that way although I think Gandhi is a bit controversial.

Sherry Ellis said...

I had no idea there was a limit to the number of casts that could be made of Rodin's work. I had the pleasure of seeing the Rodin museum when I visited Paris. Quite an impressive collection of sculptures!

bazza said...

Hello Sherry. Until recently I didn't know this one was in London!

klahanie said...

Hey bazza!

With your comprehensive musings, it was almost like I was there. Thank you for this post. I shall now gather up a spare 4 billion pounds and fix up the Palace of Westminster...


bazza said...

Hi Gazza: I think £4 billion wouldn't quite cover it. Mind you, they charge £20 to visit Westminster Abbey so they may raise that much soon!
Have a great weekend Gary.

John said...

Hi Bazza!
The Palace of Westminster has been on the news a lot just recently and a lot of negative press is surrounding the proposed restoration. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not the biggest fan of politicians, but if we look at the building(s) just purely at an historic angle I think they definitely need saving for future generations. The politicians will just have to pay normal prices for their booze whilst the place is shut!

bazza said...

Hi John. I would have thought that the humble taxpayer is shelling out for MP's booze!
I believe it requires a lot of spending but, yes, it's important enough to justify.

Hels said...

Since the modern square was laid out in 1868 by Sir Charles Barry, there were plenty of modern, important and effective women that might have been included. Yet you note that the square is home to 11 statues of British, Commonwealth and foreign statesmen, almost entirely male. Is there enough space to add newer figures eg Florence Nightingale, one or all of the Pankhursts, Marie Curie, Annie Besant, Elizabeth Browning etc?

bazza said...

Hi Hels. Yes there is plenty of room in the square. Emeline Pankhurst is just a short distance from the square in Victoria Tower Gardens (where there will soon be a Holocaust Memorial) so there are NO women in the square.
Madame Curie would never be there because it's all statesmen; she deserves to have a statue somewhere in London though. There is a bust in the Institute for Cancer Research I think.
As for Annie Besant - secularists have a tough time recognition wise!
My 'politcal' candidates would be: Nancy Astor and Betty Boothrotd but I bet Margaret Thatcher is there first.
I also think Rosalind Franklin has been badly treated by history!