Statues in Bradford – Queen Victoria, Bradford War Memorial, and J. B. Priestley

Across Centenary Square from Bradford's Town Hall, on the other side of the Pool, and on the opposite side of the busy road (Godwin Street, the continuation of Prince’s Way), is Victoria Square, and here and adjacent is a small group of sculpture. It consists of a Queen Victoria memorial, a World War 1 Cenotaph (and a modern memorial), and, across the road, a modern statue of J. B. Priestley.

Bradford's Queen Victoria Memorial, by Alfred Drury.

The bronze statue of Queen Victoria shows her standing, in a voluminous robe, holding orb and sceptre, on the former of which stands a little winged Victory. Grand and severe. Alfred Drury was the sculptor, and this statue is very similar – but not identical – to his statue of Queen Victoria in Portsmouth, the lines of the drapery, for example, being rather different. The statue stands on a bulky stone plinth, with the front bearing the inscription ‘Victoria 1837-1901’, together with a ribbon border with the Royal motto of ‘Dieu et mon droit’ Above, a carved cartouche, more ribbon and a crown, all in stone. Around the whole block is a string course of carved leaves, with hanging bunches of oak leaves and acorns on the sides; even in their rather worn present day state the quality of carving and composition is clear. To the sides, smaller plinths bear a pair of lions, seated upright (‘lion sejant’ in the heraldic sense), rather noble in the dignity of their countenance, depth of their manes and solidity of their front legs, but with peculiarly sad expressions. (For lots of lion statues, see this page).

Acorns and oakleaves, and lion statue from the Victoria memorial.

The War Memorial, somewhat in front of and lower down than the Victoria memorial, is a roughly pyramidal cenotaph, with inscription, crucifix and carved wreath on the front (this repeated on the rear face), and to the sides, two bronze figures, a soldier on the left as we look at the monument, a sailor on the right, both in attitudes of active advance. The monument started as Bradford’s World War I memorial, and had the inscription altered to encompass the Second World War; not an uncommon practice. It was put up in 1922, and the two statues date from this time, though they have been altered by the removal of their bayonets. Who made the statues? Unfortunately, I did not look for a signature. They are rather unconventional in pose and manner, and may be the works of a younger, more avant garde sculptor rather than one of the older generation who flourished before the war. Skillful work though, by someone who still remained interested in the folds of drapery, and the fine, detailed modelling of face and hands.

Bradford War Memorial, 1922.

The statue of J. B. Priestley, the writer, dates from 1986, and is by the sculptor Ian Judd. The figure wears a cloak which is blown backwards, giving a distinctive profile. However, only the face is of interest, the rest being simplified to a rough sketch.

Modern statue of J.B. Priestley, by Ian Judd, 1984.

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