Sculpture in Croydon

Croydon comes in two parts those who have had the misfortune to visit the station at East Croydon, where the Home Office thoughtfully locates its Immigration department, will be convinced they have reached hell on earth. But there is another Croydon too, to the west, with a vast shopping centre, a market atmosphere, the remnants of an older townscape amongst the newer buildings and the modern trams, and for the readers of this page, a very few good works of sculpture, clustered around the Town Hall.

Panel from Town Hall, by Roscoe Mullins

The Town Hall itself, an appropriately large edifice with a very lofty tower, dates from 1892 and is to the design of the architect Charles Henman. On the front, stone panels show Health (shown on this page), Study, Religion, Recreation (on this page) and Music, all associated with the contribution of local government to the community. Each has a central allegorical female figure, and groups on either side. Edwin Roscoe Mullins was the sculptor. Superior work, with careful drapery, calm, sombre faces, and a certain classical stillness to otherwise very Victorian figures. Health and Recreation are the pick of the allegorical figures, with beautiful ideal faces and ambitious, complex drapery. The various accompanying figures have a certain family resemblance, and bear a close look - I like particularly a certain rebelliousness in the seated child to the right of Study, and the lounging boy to the left of Religion.

The seated figure of Whitgift, in a corner position, also in stone, is by J. Wenlock Rollins, but it is much worn, especially the face, so seems not particularly characteristic of his work (at least not to me). Also by him is the pediment relief above the 'Public Library' sign, which is part of the Town Hall complex, and shows two boys with scrolls, representing Poetry and Prose, with a decorated background of Acanthus leaves and a vessel filled with fruit, perhaps to show the cornucopia of fruitfulness which arises from proper literary study.

In front of the Town Hall are a statue of Queen Victoria, and the war memorial. The bronze Queen Victoria is one of several versions of the monarch by F. J. Williamson, here seated (others in Hastings and Rangoon are standing), emphasising forcefulness and imperiousness of character. The Queen wears a heavily decorated robe.

The war memorial, a blocky stone obelisk bearing a cross, has two flanking figures in bronze by P. R. Montford. To the left, a soldier binding his own arm with a long bandage; to the right, a grieving mother with child. Both with much feeling, and very much of the early 20th century.

Finally, close by, Nat West Bank on the corner of High Street, by Allders, has a lunette in metal depicting Truth and Justice as children, naturalistic and finely done by William Reynolds-Stephens. As ever, his composition is harmonious, based on various swirling and curving lines based on the drapery and limbs of the youthful subjects.

War Memorial figure by P. R. Montford.

It may be worth mentioning in passing two painters associated with Croydon: the society portrait painter of many sweet young things, James Sant, was born there in 1820, and a few years previously, the Boston-trained painter J. S. Copley was buried there.

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