The Equestrian Statue of George I.
Wearing Modern Armour and Holding a Baton.
Formerly in the garden of Leicester Square.
Cast by John van Nost II.
Set up in 1747.
The Country Journal of Craftsmen, under the date of April 16, 1737, contains the following statement:—"Leicester field is going to be fitted up in a very elegant manner: a new wall and rails to be erected all round, and a basin in the middle, after the manner of Lincoln's Inn Fields."
Northouck, in 1773, writes:—"This is a handsome square, the inner part of which is enclosed by iron rails, and adorned with grass plats and gravel walks. In the centre is an equestrian statue of his present Majesty, gilt." This statue was really of George I., modelled by C. Buchard for the Duke of Chandos, and brought from Canons in 1747, when it was purchased by the inhabitants of the square. It was finely gilt, and in 1812 was re-gilt.
For an interesting discussion on the origins of the statue see -
NOTES AND QUERIES: MEDIUM OF INTER-COMMUNICATION FOR LITERARY MEN, ARTISTS, ANTIQUARIES, GENEALOGISTS, ETC. 1862 page 151.
Old and New London: Volume 3. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
On the removal of Wyld's "Great Globe," after occupying the square for about ten years, the enclosure became exposed once more in all its hideous nakedness. From that time down to the middle of the year 1874, its condition was simply a disgrace to the metropolis. Overgrown with rank and fetid vegetation, it was a public nuisance, both in an æsthetic and in a sanitary point of view; covered with the débris of tin pots and kettles, cast-off shoes, old clothes, and dead cats and dogs, it was an eye-sore to every one forced to pass by it.
As for the "golden horse and its rider," the effigy of George I., which had been set up in the centre of the enclosure when Leicester House was the "pouting place of princes," besides having suffered all the inclemencies of the weather for years, it had become the subject of every species of practical joke by almost every gamin in London.
The horse is said to have been modelled after that of Le Sœur at Charing Cross; whilst the statue of George I. was considered a great work of art in its day, and was one of the sights of London, until after a quarter of a century of humiliations, after being the standing butt of ribald caricaturists, and the easy mark of witlings, it gradually fell to pieces.
The effigy of his Majesty was the first to be assailed. His arms were first cut off; then his legs followed suit, and afterwards his head; when the iconoclasts, who had doomed him to destruction, at last dismounted him, propping up the mutilated torso against the remains of the once caracolling charger on which the statue had been mounted, and which was in nearly quite as dilapidated a plight.
It would be almost impossible to tell all the pranks that were played upon this ill-starred monument, and how Punch and his comic contemporaries made fun of it, whilst the more serious organs waxed indignant as they dilated on the unmerited insults to which it was subjected. One night a party of jovial spirits actually whitewashed it all over, and daubed it ignominiously with large black spots.
From Fun, 27th October 1866.
from Illustrated London News 11 March 1865.
Illustration from Punch 29 September 1866.
17 October 1866.
Illustrated London News - 11 January 1868.
Illustrated London News 10 February 1872.
The Last of the Old Horse, in Leicester Square, London; from the picture by J O'Connor in the Royal Academy, 1874. Published in Leicester Square; its associations and its worthies. By Tom Taylor; published by Bickers and Son, 1 Leicester Square, London, 1874.
All the above images lifted from