Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Supreme Court, Parliament Square SW1

The main entrance of the old Middlesex Guildhall is marked by three friezes by Henry Fehr. Over the arch is Henry III granting a charter to Westminster Abbey - the king stands at the left next to the Abbot, who I like to think is Philip de Lewisham (Abott in 1258) purely because his name is so unlikely. A Benedictine monk (Westminster was a Benedictine house), a cardinal and the Archbishop of Canterbury also appear.
On the left, the scene is the signing of Magna Carta by King John. He is backed by a couple of bishops (no fewer than eight bishops were there, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton), a couple of monks and assorted Barons. Curiously, neither of the blazons on the shields correspond to those of any of the twenty-five barons at the event - perhaps they are members of the royal household.
The frieze on the right shows Lady Jane Grey accepting the crown of England on the death of her cousin, Edward VI in 1553. Her husband, Lord Guilford Dudley, stands behind her, and I think that must be her horrible mother, Lady Frances Brandon, behind the crown. The crowd of men presumably represent the Protestant nobility who pushed her onto the throne, including John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Guilford's dad.
Unfortunately, the conspiritors underestimated the power of Edward's elder sister Mary, who mounted a counter-coup. By the end of the year all had been executed. Lady Jane was still in her teens.
I find it difficult to understand why these two last events were chosen for a building designed to celebrate Middlesex. Runnymede is in Surrey, and Lady Jane Grey had no links with the county at all. It seems to be simply Edwardian romanticisation of the past.
Right in the middle is a small panel depicting the Great Hall at Hampton Court, for some reason, with a tiny figure of Law on each side. To left and right of the central frieze are statues of Prudence and Justice, under ornate canopies.

3 comments:

Trog said...

I enjoy looking at ornamentals. I believe they give a building character. These ornamentals on the Supreme Court are exceptional in my opinion. Thanks for sharing them. Trog

Anonymous said...

Supreme Court, Parliament Square SW1 you state in your blog at the very end and which is of interest to a friend of mine "To left and right of the central frieze are statues of Prudence and Justice, under ornate canopies." Can you site a reference that confirms these are what Henry Charles Fehr stated they were called?

Chris Partridge said...

Can't remember now, I'm afraid. There are some very detailed lists of the sculptures online.