Hertford War Memorial stag, by Alfred Drury

Hertford War Memorial, by Alfred Drury.

This sculpture of a stag in Hertford, ancient county town of Hertfordshire, to the north of London, is unusual in two respects. Firstly, to have a stag as the sculptural feature on a war memorial, which is explained by the animal being a feature of the coat of arms of Hertfordshire. And secondly by stags, indeed animals in general, being such an unusual subject for the important sculptor of the monument, Alfred Drury.

The overall design was by Maurice Webb, of Aston Webb and his company, with a tall plinth of white stone with the familiar crowned wreaths with dates within, and with an inscription 'to the men of Hertford who gave their lives in the Great War 1914-1919', with an added inscription to the fallen of the Second World War.

Hertford Stag, by Alfred Drury, different views.

The stag, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1923 (picture at top of page) before being emplaced, is a noble enough beast, yet looks rather small compared to the plinth, a necessary feature of a four-footed creature atop what is effectively a short tower, and a similar issue for other war memorials, for example bearing sphinxes. Aston Webb inclined the sides of the plinth a fair degree, but even so, the stag feels like an embellishment rather than an integral part of the composition. Still, as indicated, it has a dignified appearance, with a grandly curving neck, and large but not excessive antlers. From close by, looking up at the monument, it has the appearance of climbing, with forelegs higher than the hindquarters, but it is not so, as can be seen by the level back when viewed from a distance. It stands in a small square, called Parliament Square, and is one of the more familiar views of the town.

Alfred Drury, the sculptor, is a favourite of mine, being of the New Sculptors, working in a French, naturalistic manner but with an English cast. He made much beautiful figure sculpture, much of it around the turn of the 19th Century.

So far as sculpture of stags, and deer more generally go, this one in Hertford is likely the best known in the UK, though by no means the biggest. There is a page on this website on stag and deer sculpture.

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This page was previously part of a sequence of Sculptures of the Month; if you want to follow that sequence, then go back to Sculpture of the month for Jan. 2018 or onward to Mar 2018, and continue the sequence at the bottom of each page.

Also in Hertfordshire: monuments in other Hertfordshire churches, including Tring Church // Aldbury Church // Abbots Langley Church // Wheathampstead Church // Cheslyn Gardens statue, Watford


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