The Noble Statues of Salford Crescent
Mid-Victorian Manchester developed into a centre of sculptural patronage, helping to establish the reputation of artists such as Matthew Noble. Prominent examples of his work still stand in Manchester, with thousands of people walking past them everyday. These include the Town Hall monument of Oliver Cromwell, the Albert memorial in Albert Square, and the Duke of Wellington monument in Piccadilly Gardens. A number of his works once existed in Peel Park but were removed and relocated shortly after their assembly, including the statues of Sir Robert Peel, and Richard Cobden.
Situated in front of Salford Museum and Art Gallery there are two of his famed works, the statue of Queen Victoria and his statue of Prince Albert, which still stand in their original setting and represent the surviving examples of Salford's noble history of statues. The statue of Queen Victoria was erected in commemoration of her royal visit to Salford in 1851, which turned into a spectacle that gained national recognition after 80,000 children, from all over Salford's Sunday schools, sang to the visiting royals. At the time, it was considered by some as the most 'original and striking spectacle ever presented to do honour to Royalty in any age', with The Guardian at the time declaring the event belonged 'rather to national than local history'. Considering their role in this momentous occasion, the 80,000 children were chosen to be the primary contributors in the commissioning of the memorial, where they collectively contributed pennies and raised a considerable amount of the 1,000 guineas required.
The statue of Queen Victoria was on of the earliest to be erected during her reign and after its completion in 1857, Prince Albert visited Salford for the unveiling ceremony. He also took time to visit what was then the Salford Royal Museum and Library, also visiting an exhibition on Salford's local art scene. In 1861, the Prince prematurely passed away and it was decided a statue was to be erected in his honour, which was inaugurated in 1864 and placed facing the statue of his wife. This was paid for through public contributions, with Salford's working class donations and Sunday school collections contributing to the commission which saw all of Salford coming together to commemorate the Prince's death.
Both statues are larger than life size, made from Sicilian Marble, and place on granite pedestals. The Queen is represented in typical regal fashion, wearing a coronet and robes, whilst leaning on the Imperial crown which sits on a cushion atop a pillar. The inscription pays homage to 'the visit of her most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria to this Park' and the reception she was given by the local Sunday school teachers and students.
With the statue of Prince Albert commemorating the man rather than any of his specific visits, he is given an academic personality that does not necessarily correspond with his relation to Salford, but as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge his statue now stands on the campus of Salford University, becoming an intellectual beacon for the area. He is associated with numerous scholarly symbols: wearing the Chancellors robes, holding a scroll in one hand and a university cap in the other, which rests on a globe and a pile of books.
Being situated within the academic heart of Salford, once the Museum and Library but now on the University campus itself, it is in the more modern context that the statue of Prince Albert comes to life as a link between the local history and the ways in which the area has thrived since.
For more information on Public Monuments in Salford and Manchester, or on Queen Victoria's visit see:
- 'Memorial Statues and Royal Free Museum and Library: Peel Park, Salford' by John Plant
- 'Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester' by Terry Wake with Harry Cocks
- The Bulletin: Summer 69 (No 2, Vol 1)
- Queen Victoria's Visit to Lancashire 1851 (Illustrated London News: Supplement)
For more information on statues and monuments near you visit: