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Group of Six Statues 270m South of Wrest Park House

A Grade II Listed Building in Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.0054 / 52°0'19"N

Longitude: -0.4116 / 0°24'41"W

OS Eastings: 509126

OS Northings: 235297

OS Grid: TL091352

Mapcode National: GBR G3S.BR8

Mapcode Global: VHFQV.TV8J

Entry Name: Group of Six Statues 270m South of Wrest Park House

Listing Date: 10 January 1985

Last Amended: 18 May 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1321796

English Heritage Legacy ID: 37734

Location: Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire, MK45

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Silsoe

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Silsoe

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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Summary

A group of six mid C19 statues on C18 pedestals.

Description

MATERIALS: carved from Italian Carrara white marble and placed on Ketton stone pedestals.

DESCRIPTION: the group of statues is situated approximately 270m south of Wrest Park House around a sundial (Grade II). The statue of Hebe is the north eastern of the group, and is a slightly larger sized copy of an original by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) who together with Canova was the leading sculptor operating in Rome in the early C19. Hebe was the youthful cup bearer to the gods and is portrayed in classical dress holding a dish in the left hand and ewer in her right.

The easternmost statue of the group is of a dancing bacchante who is one of three provocatively and partially dressed figures. She is wearing an animal skin tunic with the fur on the inside which is tied with a bow at her waist. The skin hangs down on her right side, exposing her breast, and with her right hand she holds a fold away from her legs. Her left arm is raised holding a bunch of grapes which are now quite weathered. Her hair is tied back in a bun and she wears a garland of vine leaves in her hair. Between her feet are two cymbals.

The statue to the south-east of the group is also of a female bacchante and is again classically dressed in an animal skin tunic with the fur on the inside. The tunic is tied across the waist and she is wearing sandals. Her right leg is elevated from the ground in a dancing pose. Her head is tilted to the right and her untied hair is decorated in a garland of leaves and grapes. In her left hand she holds a tambourine which she is beating with her right hand. The statue is supported to the rear by a tree stump.

The statue to the south-west of the group depicts a Victorian subject portrayed in the manner of much mid C19 romantic sculpture; she is wearing a cloth cap and her head is tilted to her right as she looks upon a bird which is perched on her shoulder. She is lifting up her left arm in an effort to feed the bird. Her right hand lifts her tunic to the centre and this may contain seeds. Her left leg is straight, the right slightly bent and the whole is structurally re-enforced by a tree stump behind her left leg.

The statue to the west of the group is the third of the female bacchante, provocatively dressed in an animal skin tunic, with the fur on the inside and a belt across her waist. Her left arm is held out and she is holding a drinking vessel while her right hand clasps a ewer to her side. Her right leg is slightly forward as if walking. Her hair is decorated with grapes and hangs down her shoulder to her bared right breast.

The north western statue in the group depicts Minerva, the figure is again dressed in classical dress but wearing a helmet and breast-plate bearing the medusa head. Her right arm is raised probably originally holding a spear with a serpent at her heels. This is a copy of the Giustiniani original which is now in the Vatican Museum.


History

Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. In 1833, Thomas Phillip Weddell, later Earl de Grey, inherited Wrest, having already spent much time there as a young man demonstrating his early abilities as an amateur architect in the design of the two lodges at Silsoe in 1826 (both Grade II). Although he had great respect for the gardens this did not extend to the house, which he demolished. The present house was constructed approximately 200m north of the old house in 1834-9 by the Earl with the assistance of James Clephan. The stable buildings to the east (Grade II) and the walled gardens (Grade II) to the west were also added between 1834 and 1839. The site of the former house was laid out to include the present parterres and south lawns. The Earl's appreciation of the existing garden’s qualities meant that little else was done to diminish its former appearance. In 1856 'le Petit Trianon' was built for his children and in 1857 an 'American Garden' was laid out north of the bowling green.

Earl de Grey died in 1859 succeeded by his daughter Anne Florence and her husband George, 6th Earl Cowper. They showed some interest in Wrest, adding statuary and replacing the Chinese Bridge with the present stone and brick structure (Grade II).

These statues were described by William Treacher in 1899 (as quoted by Davies) as being within the grounds, copied from the Vatican at Rome and bought from the Exhibition of 1862. It is thought that the pedestals are survivors from the Duke of Kent's gardens, but their original location is unclear. Several of the group are located close to where original statues from the Duke of Kent's gardens were placed, as illustrated in an engraving by Roque in 1735.

Reasons for Listing

The group of six statues located approximately 270m south of Wrest House is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: for the quality of execution of the individual sculptures and the cohesion of the group as a whole;
* Artistic interest: in the apparent abstract subjects of the group which was designed to provide aesthetic detail to a very prominent part of the designed landscape;
* Group Value: for the group's contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and its association with many other listed structures.

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