Tuesday 12 October 2010


After our Vietnamese lunch the other day, the Lovely Son asked, somewhat surprisingly, if we could have a look inside St Nicholas' Cathedral nearby. There was a service in progress, with someone in everyday dress speaking from the pulpit, so we didn't go in, but looked instead at the statue of Queen Victoria outside. 

Made of bronze and red granite, or pink marble, depending on which source material you choose to consult, and erected after her death, it shows a rather cross and tired-looking elderly Queen, perhaps despairing of the relentless traffic that now roars day and night through this part of the city.

There was a time, however, when men in caps could stroll nonchalantly past their late monarch without fear of being flattened by an omnibus or squashed between competing hackney carriages.

Sweet little faces appear at intervals around the base of the statue. They choose not to look up, and those facing the Bigg Market need not observe and be scandalised by the (extremely) drunken revelries that take place there each weekend. Euphemistically described as a 'lively' area, it is packed with pubs, clubs and fast food places, and mobs of determined drinkers, the girls scantily-clad even in the depths of winter. Legend has it that there are bouncers on the doors of the curry houses.

Every local news item concerning extreme drunkenness seems to include footage of the Bigg Market at chucking-out time; I must remember to ask the Lovely Son some time if and when he was last there on a night out. He is now old enough to draw in his chin and in an outraged tone deny ever having been anywhere near the place.

The Temperance Fountain, a monument to temperance reformer J.H. Rutherford, was moved from its position near the Cathedral and situated most incongruously in the Bigg Market in 1903.

Its message? "Water Is Best".

Wishful thinking at its most extreme.


jabblog said...

The statue of Queen Victoria in Reading has her facing away from the town in apparent distaste. I can understand why!

Fran Hill said...

I love all that old stuff. So elaborate. Who'd bother these days?

the veg artist said...

It's not just Newcastle. Our small local towns suffer at weekends in the way that most places seem to. Is it that they have too much money? Not enough self-pride? Or are they just so used to the NHS picking up the pieces?

"Sunshine" said...

Somehow the Kentucky Fried Chicken place is out of place..Don't you agree.

Otherwise an interesting post.
Queen Victoria was the mother of Queen Maud of Norway, their very first queen after the independence from Sweden.

Lucille said...

Sweet innocent and rather lifelike faces with closed eyes fortunately. I know that chin tucking gesture you described so well.

Anonymous said...

I guess when we were that age, we didn't have that sort of money to spend on drink .... but also, while I was still living at home I would have simply not have been allowed out if I had got in that state (even when I was 21 I had a midnight curfew!!) I love these old statues - but I found the little face unsettling....

rogern said...

that's my walk to work you've just documented there, all be it in a backwards manner :)

Anonymous said...

A timely post after a radio show here in Australia recently, interviewing young vibrant artists who are colourfully dressing up our stuffy statues in the name of public art.
Queen V. now looks most creative and glam in Sydney.
We were gifted our statue from Ireland as they no longer wanted it.
Built in 1904 there by Irish sculptor John Hughes, she was unceremoniously removed from a public place, dumped and neglected around 1947, until Australia went on the search for an "unwanted" statue of Queen Victoria in 1983.
Her statue turned up in the small town of Daingean in Ireland. The Irish were more than happy to offload ma'am and gifted her to us for Sydney's 200th anniversay in 1987!
Hope the make-over cheers her up. Doubt it!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

At that age , if my memory serves me right , one is immortal , greedy , impervious to cold and game for anything .
Hands up anyone who can remember Mods and Rockers running riot through Bournemouth , Woodstock , Beatnicks , Punks , Glastonbury , an early Rolling Stones concert , knowing everything .....

Marcheline said...

Water is best, that's right. Spring water. Just a little bit, added to one's whiskey!


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