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Author Topic: Gordon Memorial, Brompton Barracks  (Read 4558 times)

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Offline Leofwine

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    • Brompton History Research Group
Gordon Memorial, Brompton Barracks
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2012, 23:14:55 »

Morning Post - Friday 13 July 1900
We have great pleasure in announcing that it has now been definitely fixed that the empty pedestal in Khartoum shall be occupied by a replica in bronze of the famous statue of General Gordon which was executed in 1890 by Mr. E. Onslow Ford, R.A. The Royal Engineers, desiring to do honour to Gordon, had organised a subscription with the object of erecting a statue to his memory at the Brompton Barracks, Chatham, and it was at first thought best that the statue should show him on foot. General Sir Andrew Clarke was president and Colonel Vetch the secretary of the committee; and eventually it approached Mr. Onslow Ford with a view to getting him to design a statue. Being warned of the conditions, he designed a statue of the kind suggested, but it appeared to him that the representation of Gordon mounted on a camel would be exceedingly appropriate, and so he made a second design, and awaited the visit of the committee. On the day when the members were to see the suggestions of the sculptor most of them learned for the first time of the idea that he had thus independently conceived, and they afterwards confessed that up to the time of their reaching his studio they were unanimously opposed to its being accepted. However, they came, they saw and Mr. Onslow Ford conquered.
It was immediately agreed that the statue should show General Gordon dressed in the uniform of an Egyptian General, and the sculptor straightway set to work on a difficult task. He confessed recently to a representative of the Morning Post that several of his artistic friends were extremely derisive when first he told them of his intentions. They did not and would not believe that the camel could be used as a model without compelling a grotesqueness of effect that would rob the statue of all dignity. The sculptor, however, took to making frequent studies at "the Zoo," which then, by a lucky chance, contained a camel of particularly fine breed, such as a man of General Gordon's eminence would naturally be given to ride. It had been captured after one of the many engagements which have at last resulted in the pacification of the Soudan, and had been eventually presented to "the Zoo "by an officer. Mr. Onslow Ford found it an arduous task to make his studies under the eye of an inquisitive public, and did his best to get the animal sent for occasional visits to his studio. This was found to be an impossible concession; and so it was not until after five months of hard work that he succeeded in producing a miniature model of the camel. At this period there happened what was for him a most fortunate accident. Early one morning he was aroused by a keeper from "the Zoo," who brought the news that a camel not the one which he had been especially studying had died during the night. Losing no time, he went down and took casts of various parts of the body, and these were of the utmost value to him when it came to producing the actual statue, for the first model of the camel is little over a foot in height, while the completed statue measures thirteen feet.
The model was finished at last, and despatched with all possible speed to the foundry. It returned in time to be exhibited at the Royal Academy in the summer of 1890, and they must be young who are unable to remember how universally it was applauded. The ordinary man even though he be moderately fond of pictures is apt to find a difficulty in properly appreciating the work of the sculptor, but Mr. Onslow Ford won an immediate success, alike with the critics and with the public.
The statue had been cast in bronze, and was duly erected at Chatham. On May 19, 1890, it was unveiled by the Prince of Wales. Among those present were General Gordon's sister and the Duke of Cambridge, Colonel of the Royal Engineers. After saying how pleased he was to be associated with such an event the Prince added: "The name of Charles George Gordon is one not likely ever to be forgotten, and it is one which not only his own comrades like to honour, but it is a name which will be honoured and esteemed for ever by Englishmen, as it deserves to be." After the unveiling of the statue the band played Gordon's favourite hymn, "For ever with the Lord."
Time has proved that the Prince of Wales spoke truly, for there is still at Chatham a constant pilgrimage up the hill that leads to the barracks, made up of people all of whom remember and honour Gordon. It has also brought the realisation of a hope that was fervently expressed by some of the officers of the Royal Engineers on the same day. "Ah," they said, "if only a replica of the statue stood in a New Khartoum!" It may be added that the Royal Engineers also secured from Mr. Onslow Ford two busts of General Gordon. One of these was placed in the mess-room at Chatham, and the other is at Woolwich. A third was presented by the sculptor to the Gordon Boys' Home, and he executed a silver shield for presentation to Miss Gordon.
The original model of the statue, after it had left Burlington House, was presented by Mr. Ford to the Crystal Palace, with the understanding that it should be placed at his disposal if ever there should be need of a replica. It is from this model which, from the accident of its position, is probably much more widely known than the bronze at Chatham that the casting for Khartoum will be made. Mr. Onslow Ford, questioned by the representative of the Morning Post, said that the work was to be started immediately, but that the completed statue could hardly in the best of circumstances be ready for despatch to Khartoum within a space of ten or twelve months from the present time.
We are extremely glad that, through the generosity of our readers, the Englishmen of whom the Prince of Wales spoke ten years ago are to honour Gordon in Khartoum precisely as his ancient comrades honoured him at Chatham. They will rejoice to know that in sending out this statue they are fulfilling what is known to have been one of the dearest ambitions of Lord Kitchener ever since he entered Khartoum and set about the work of restoration. We may even venture to congratulate the artist on being thus doubly associated with the name of a man whom all Britons delight to reverence, and on being able to give tangible form to their lasting admiration.

Brompton History Research Group


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