19th Century monument makers - Bedford of Oxford Street

Hibbert C Binney (active 1901-1913)

Cleopatra et al, Marconi House, by Binney.

The sculptor Hibbert C Binney is rather obscure, but notable for two rather good architectural works in London. The former Gaiety Theatre, later Marconi House (an extension of the BBC building Bush House) is on Aldwych, next to India House, with the rear onto the Strand, opposite Somerset House. The building has been completely redone in the last few years, but part of the facade has been retained. High up, too high up to appreciate the detail without binoculars, are stone frieze panels showing heroines, angels and allegorical girls in high relief, some in profile, some facing forward. More of them are on the Strand side. The figures are heavily draped, with wide sleeves, in arts and crafts style with their hair arranged so as to show their long necks. Ideal, rather hard-looking faces, expressionless and staring. The date of the building is 1901-3. A free-standing massive figure of an angel by Binney belonging to the summit of this building is in storage at the V&A.

Binney’s other London work which I have seen is in Piccadilly, on the corner of St James Street. Again very high up, it consists of a bronze group of Justice with two crouched or seated figures at her feet. Again, there is a direct stare and hardness to the faces, particularly Justice herself, who looks almost masculine. She is heavily draped, while the girl at her feet on the left has an off-the shoulder garment that still manages a heaviness, and the young man on the right is unclad but for a strategically draped cloth. Justice carries her scales and unsheathed sword (in fact Binney has a rather different Justice on the Gaiety building too). This was an insurance company, and the man is looking ahead into the future, while the girl, later on, reaps the reward from her premiums in the form of a small sheaf of wheat in each hand. A satisfying work.

Outside of London, in Reydon, Southwold, Suffolk, is a statue of an elderly woman apparently by Binney entitled Rest, dated 1914. An unremarkable thing.

I have not been able to find out anything about Binney’s life: he exhibited a few works at the Royal Academy from 1894 intermittently through to 1913, mostly portrait busts. His address was first in Essex, and then from 1894, a series of locations in London, suggesting a rather itinerant, unsettled and so perhaps less than sparklingly successful career.

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