Pimlico Gardens and the William Huskisson Statue; St George Square

William Huskisson, by John Gibson.

Just a few minutes walk west along Grosvenor Road along the river from Vauxhall Bridge lies Pimlico Gardens, a small green space with an important Victorian statue – it is a suitably short stroll for visitors to Tate Britain. The sculpture is the marble statue of William Huskisson (d.1830), by the eminent sculptor John Gibson, best known for his ‘Tinted Venus’. Gibson made Classical sculpture, always Classical, and the Huskisson statue is an excellent example of his work. The statesman stands rather informally on his plinth, one sandalled foot over the edge, wearing a classical drape wound around his body and legs, over one arm in toga fashion, and leaving his other arm and much of his chest exposed. His neck is bent, his gaze downwards, as if lost in some great thought. He is shown as a muscular figure, with short, slightly curly hair – again rather Roman, though the forehead is not, and in his right hand he holds a rolled up scroll. The overall effect is of unstudied nobility.

A later version of this statue is in Liverpool. We may note that there is another statue of Huskisson, by John Carew (who made one panel for the base of Nelson’s Column), in Chichester Cathedral, a rather more flamboyant portrait, with much more drapery, pacing forward, hand wide, head up, in oratorical mode – it dates from 1832. Also in that Cathedral is the monument to Eliza Huskisson, Huskisson’s widow (d.1856), and this is again by John Gibson, and consists of a frieze, with the deceased kneeling in front of a prayer desk, hands raised, as if surprised by the Angel descending to claim her.

Andrew Wallace's The Helmsman, 1996.

Also in Pimlico Gardens is a modern work, The Helmsman, by Andrew Wallace, donated by Berkely Homes (North London), emplaced 1996. A small stylised helmeted nude male figure in bronze, on a mass indicative of the shape of the helm of a boat, on a rather thin stalk.

A small hut in brick in the centre of the open space towards the water, with pitched roof, is presumably late 19th C, and gives some slight formal quality to the garden. We may also mention a fountain, rather humble, with coat of arms rudely carved upon each side. Looking across the water to the right, we have a good view of Battersea Power station.

Directly inland from Pimlico Gardens, on the other side of Grosvenor Road, is St George Square, an open area of grass. There is no statue here, just a small pool in the centre with a damaged Victorian fountain in a shell design, pleasant and modest. The aspect to the northern end of the Square is closed off by a Victorian Gothic church – St Saviour, by Thomas Cundy, put up in 1863-64, and built of some pleasantly coloured ragstone.

St Saviour's Church from St George's Square, by Thomas Cundy, mid-Victorian.

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