Friday, 18 March 2011

56 Vincent Square SW1

To celebrate the bicentenary of the enclosure of Vincent Square as playing fields for Westminster School in 1810, the residents association put up a rather jolly half-relief portrait of the man who got it done, William Vincent, Dean of Westminster and former headmaster of the school.
At the time, the whole area was a boggy place owned by the Abbey, known as Tothill Fields. Dean Vincent saw it was being developed piecemeal and the school risked losing the area it had always used for recreation. He paid a bloke called Jonathan Green £3 to mark out ten acres of land, plus £2 4s for a horse and a plough to dig a deep furrough round it.
Vincent was a respected headmaster, known for his cry of ‘Eloquere, puer, eloquere’ (‘Speak out, boy!, speak out!’), though his vigorous use of corporal punishment would not be acceptable today. He expelled the future Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, for writing an article against the practice called The Flagellant.
The terracotta roundel is by Karen Newman, who based it on a portrait by William Owen, court painter to the Prince Regent. It livens up the corner of an extremely dull block of flats erected in 1994.

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