Thursday, 22 January 2009

Prudential Assurance, Holborn Bars WC1

Prudential Assurance built their headquarters at Holborn Bars in installments from 1876 to 1901, to designs by Alfred Waterhouse that set a house style that was used for mini-Prus up and down the country.
Over the entrance is a figure of a solemn girl with a mirror. I thought what a lark it would be if she was the original Prudence. So I looked her up and indeed, she is Prudence herself, one of the Cardinal Virtues embodied in terracotta.
The statue was designed in 1893 by Frederick W. Pomeroy RA, the man who created the figure of Justice on the Old Bailey. It was made by Burmantofts of Leeds.
Prudence is pictured with her mirror of self-knowledge in one hand and what looks like a pen or stylus in the other.
Waterhouse himself also created a figure of Prudence which is rather alarming - she not only has the mirror but brandishes a snake, another symbol of wisdom. And she has eyes in the back of her head, in a wierd re-jigging of the classical convention which showed her with faces looking in both directions.
Gordon Brown famously worships Prudence. I wonder if he comes round at dawn and sacrifices a few chickens every time his ratings plummet?


CarolineLD said...

One of my favourite London buildings, although I never knew who the statue was. I shall be looking at Prudence more carefully next time I pass. (And smiling at the image of Gordon Brown with a couple of disgruntled chickens!)

Anonymous said...

This building is bonkers, but it's one of my favourites too. Cheers me up a little when I walk past it.