Saturday, 18 May 2013

St George's Gardens WC1

I always assumed that St George's Gardens was the graveyard of a long-demolished church, but the other day I actually read the info board at the entrance and it is much more interesting.
The site one of the first cemeteries to be located not round a church but in remote fields. London churches could no longer afford the luxury of extensive churchyards, and the dangers to health of crowded graves in the crowded city had become apparent.
The land was bought in 1713 to serve two churches, St George Queen Square and St George Bloomsbury, the latter yet to be built. 
It was some time before the idea of being buried away from the protection of the church took off, and matters cannot have been helped by the cemetery being the site of the very first case of bodysnatching for anatomists, in 1777.
Eventually, the cemetery filled and in 1855 it was closed. Thirty years later it was turned into the gardens we see today.
This terracotta statue is much later and interesting in itself. Dating from 1898, it was part of a set representing the nine muses modelled by John Broad and made by Doultons in Lambeth. They used to stand on the Apollo Inn in Tottenham Court Road, designed by the Russell Estate's favourite architect C. Fitzroy Doll. The pub was demolished in 1961 for an extension to Heals, the department store. Ambrose Heal presented this one, Euterpe, the Muse of Instrumental Music, to the borough who placed it in the gardens.
Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, the architectural historian, got rather peeved about the demolition as he had only just gone to the trouble of researching the Apollo for his famous guide. He more or less forced Heal to sell him the statue of Clio, Muse of History, for the knock-down price of a fiver and put it up in his garden in Hampstead.
Euterpe seems to have been a bit of a favourite subject for Broad - he modelled her again for the noted theatre architect Frank Matcham, who placed Doulton copies on the Richmond Theatre and the Hackney Empire.

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