Photograph by Jacqueline Banerjee
In the little public square a few yards to the north of
St.Nicholas’ Cathedral sits an often overlooked bronze statue of Queen Newcastle . The monarch
sits amidst ornamental splendour facing west, so as not to turn her back to
either the cathedral itself or the old Town Hall which used to be situated a
few yards further north at the foot of the Bigg Market. Victoria
The controversial monument – often criticised for its ‘over-the-top’ embellishments – is the work of sculptor Sir Alfred Gilbert and was unveiled in 1903. It was a gift to the city from Sir William Haswell Stephenson, a company director and politician who was Newcastle’s mayor a total of seven times, and was intended to commemorate 500 years of the Shrievalty (the jurisdiction of a sheriff) of Newcastle.
The 500th anniversary itself was actually in April 1900 and, as we all know, Queen
died in 1901.
The slight delay in the statue’s unveiling was down to some temporary cash-flow
problems for the said Stephenson. As for the fanciful design, the artist was,
it seems, attempting to echo the architecture of the nearby cathedral. Victoria
Sculptor Alfred Gilbert is also responsible for a similar statue of the old queen in the Great Hall at
the fancy canopy), and also designed Eros (or, more properly, Anteros) of Winchester Piccadilly Circus fame. The commission must, however, have been
one of his last in the Newcastle ,
as he slipped into bankruptcy and began an extended exile in UK in 1901. Bruges