The legacy of fame – statues on picture postcards

I’m talking statues today. On postcards, obviously. Those edifices that we walk past all the time (well, in normal times, anyway) without giving much of a thought to who they  represent. Most are pretty old, anyway. The Victorians loved erecting thes tributes to local heroes, but sometimes they become an embarrassment to generations that follow. Edward Colston, who made his fortune from the slave trade, was accorded a statue because he was a local benefactor, funding all kinds of public buildings and works from the money he made. Now he’s been unceremoniously dumped after years of campaigning for his statue to be removed because he’s been judged to have made his money from an horrendous trade. Sadly, I couldn’t find a postcard of the statue. To be fair, Bristol became a pretty wealthy city on the back of that trade, so the whole of the area was implicated. We are judging all that from the moral perspective of 2020. If we apply that judgement to most of the one-time great and good who were accorded the statue honour, we could finds a good reason to get rid of them – preferably to a place where their story could be put in context, rather than leaving them in public places without any educational commentary. But back to postcards, a great source of pictures of these edifices, cards that can generally be picked up cheaply. As usual, you can learn an amazing amount of stuff from these photographs, and as a collection they would look magnificent. In Nottingham there are relatively few statues of personalities, perhaps because the city is landlocked and didn’t spawn many sea captains or indeed generals. Perhaps there should be one of Charles I, who raised his standard near Nottingham Castle at the start of the Civil War.  Nottingham does have Robin Hood and Brian Clough, two very different characters (or maybe not!), General Booth of Salvation Army fame (hidden away), Chartist leader Feargus O’Connor , First World War ace Albert Ball, and Queen Victoria. Nobody really controversial, then.  I might even start a postcard collection.


  1. Queen Victoria’s statue in Nottingham unveiled on 28th July 1905, pictured on a postcard published by local firm Blakey Bros. The statue ws removed from the Market Square in 1953 because it became a traffic hazard, and was relocated to the Trent Embankment Memorial Gardens, where she now rests in relative obscurity.
  2. Perhaps Britain’s most famous statue atop Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, decorated here for the Trafalgar Centenary on 21st October 1905. Nelson’s reputation has survived pretty well.
  3. So has F.D. Roosevelt’s – the American President’s statue was unveiled by his widow in April 1948. Postcard published by Raphael Tuck.
  4. Robert Blake is the hero of Bridgwater’s Cornhill, though now in a slightly different part of it to the location seen on this Tuck postcard of c.1905. Blake was the most famous sea captain of the 17th century, credited with establishing the supremacy of Britain’s sea power. He probably did a few bad things in the pursuit of that.
  5. Prince Albert in Tenby. Royal statues tend to be less controversial than military ones, and there are certainly plenty of Victoria and Albert around the country. This postcard was published by W.H. Smith and posted to Grimsby in June 1905.
  6. In Swansea’s Castle Square stands this statue to Hussey Vivian, a cavalry leader who fought in the Peninsular War and later became a politician. Card published by Tuck and posted to Llandrindod Wells in July 1905.
  7. Oliver Cromwell had plenty of blood on his hands, including Charles I and a host of Irishmen. This statue in Manchester, seen on a Misch & Stock postcard, was moved in the 1970s because of traffic issues (see no. 1!), put into storage for a while, and then resited to Wythenshawe Park.
  8. Five statues for the price of one postcard on a recent publication from Reflections of a Bygone Age.01 02 03 04 05 06 07 09