Sculpture in Belfast

Albert Memorial Clock, Belfast, and Prince Albert statue

The iconic Albert Clock, Belfast, was erected by local architect William Barr in the 1860s, and incorporates a fine statue of Prince Albert by the Belfast sculptor Samuel Ferris Lynn.

The Albert Clock, Queen’s Square is one of the most iconic structures in Belfast. The 113 ft high clocktower has something of a Big Ben look to Londoners – thus the clock face is in a square block, a touch broader than the shaft of the tower, with an intervening shelf; the portion above the clock, somewhat over twice the height of that block, receding towards a thin spike, and a variety of Gothic features. There the similarity ends. The Albert Clock has a contrast between the relatively simple shaft and the more decorated and ornate top and bottom, and the portion above the clock has two levels of pinnacles, and associated roofs and gables, and eight gargoyles. It is free-standing rather than attached to a building, and the base broadens out, with little flying buttresses over a roof, corners bearing lion statues sitting erect (sejant) and holding shields. And on the front, on a projection with a pointed roof, stands the statue of Prince Albert, in white marble contrasting nicely with the sand-coloured tower.

Details from upper part of Albert Clock.

The tower as a whole is towards the later end of mid-Victorian Gothic, as we can see by the style of the upper portion and carving, while the roof above Albert, and the support underneath with its three half-angels and clustered pillars, feels a more ornate early 1860s style in homage to Albert himself, who died in 1861; the tower was put up from 1865-69. The portrait statue is immediately recognisable, and the clothing is at the more ceremonial end, as the Prince wears the great cloak, short, kilt-like trousers, tassels over the chest, and chain of office of a Knight of the Garter. A similarly clad Albert statue is the bronze by the sculptor Joseph Durham in London by the Albert Hall – even the pose is similar, see this page – and a more mature version again in the Garter outfit is the Terra Cotta one above the door of the Victoria and Albert Museum, that statue being by Alfred Drury. The Belfast Albert statue is by Samuel Ferris Lynn, the Belfast sculptor whose work in the city also includes the statue of Henry Cooke (see this page), and, just a couple of hundred yards away from the Albert Clock, at the other end of Queen Square, the four angels on the façade below the pediment of the Custom House.

Albert statue and supporting angels.

The architect of the Albert Clock was William Joseph Barre, who also designed the Ulster Hall in Bedford Street, and a variety of other buildings in and around Belfast, mostly churches, in a rather short career before he died just 37 years old. With some settling, the tower is a little off true, leaning 4ft to the side, and while this is fairly slight, merely knowing that it is the case seems to make viewers lose all confidence in holding a camera straight, or even holding their heads quite straight when looking at it.

Lions old and new, Albert Clock.

Also on these pages, a note on Yorkshire House, Linenhall Street, and on the Henry Cooke statue, College Square East, and a bit out of town, Queen's University War Memorial and the Botanic Garden and the Kelvin statue.