Wednesday 11 February 2009

Former City of London School for Boys, Victoria Embankment EC4

Between the statues of giants of poetry, drama and science, the arches of the City of London School were filled with allegorical figures by G. W. Seale, a member of the Seale dynasty of architectural sculptors that included Gilbert Seale who carved the merfolk in Kingsway.
The figures represent the areas of knowledge that the unfortunate boys were expected to study, and their positions form an interesting commentary on the prestige the various subjects enjoyed in Victorian education.
In the prime position, at the centre over the main entrance, are Classics and Poetry. Classics wears a crown and holds a laurel wreath in her hand, presumably ready to bestow on the boy who got the Classics Prize on speech day. Her right hand rests on volumes of Virgil, Ovid and Homer.
Poetry sits beneath a tree and holds a shepherdess's staff, to indicate her pastoral inclinations. In her lap is the gaping mask of tragedy.
On either side are the arts and history.
But relegated to the outside arches are the subjects that would actually have been most use to the students in the rapidly changing technological world of the 1880s, mathematics and science. It took more than a century for the pecking order to change in British education.
I will post pictures of these in the next few days.

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