Buckinghamshire Church Monuments

Charles Frohman memorial statue, Marlow, Bucks

In the Thames-side town of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, stands the Charles Frohman memorial statue, a nice nude girl carved in white marble on a plinth. She is a slight, slender figure, seated informally, leaning slightly on her right arm, her left one being somewhat backwards and holding the plinth for balance. Her legs are crossed at the ankle, and her feet swing free, adding to the sense of casualness. She looks a little upwards and to the right, so that her figure as a whole gives a slight undulation - head to her left (our right as we view her), body slightly to her right, and forward leg on her left again. From the front there is something of an impression she is tilted forwards, but the view from the side shows this is not so.

Her shortish, tied at the back hair and the modelling of her face gives us a date no earlier than the Arts and Crafts period, and the pose puts her into the early 20th Century sculpture; a few years later and she would have been Art Deco with a less rounded physique and likely a hardness of feature. Anyway, the statue was erected in 1924. An earlier version, seated on a rock, had been exhibited at the Royal Academy three years previously, under the title 'Nymph for a fountain', and that statue is presumably the one in Chelsea Town Hall Library on the King's Road, London - being indoors, that one has not had the wear and tear of the Marlow one.

Different views of L.S. Merrifield's statue.

The statue is seated with a cornucopia or horn of plenty to each side of her seat, and below that, the broader plinth with semicircular fountain to the front. The inscription reads 'In ha[ppy] memory of Charles Frohman; born 1860, died 1915'. He died in the sinking of the ship Lusitania, and his birth date was previously inscribed mistakenly as 1860, but corrected, presumably in a restoration and cleaning in 2009. A quote below is from Sappho's last words to her daughter.

Charles Frohman was an American theatrical producer of great fame and prodigious output, who would visit Marlow once a year, apparently deeming it the best place in the world. A female nude feels entirely appropriate for a monument to someone connected with the theatre, and we might think of a London example in the Arthur Sullivan monument of two decades earlier on the Victoria Embankment, with a rather more melodramatically posed semi-nude figure.

The sculptor, Leonard S. Merrifield, made a number of public sculptures, mostly war memorials, an important historical figure in the statue of Pantycelyn for Cardiff City Hall, and rather fewer ideal female figures such as that in Marlow. As Frohman died in WW1, so did Merrifield die from an air raid in WW2. More information on him on this page.

The Frohman memorial is located on the Causeway, which is the end of the High Street leading to Marlow Bridge. Adjacent to the statue is a war memorial, in the form of a tall cross with wreath, and close by is the grand Marlow Church, wherein are some interesting monuments.

Marlow War Memorial, with the Church behind.