A Closer Look at the Buxton Memorial
Sitting pretty in Victoria Tower Gardens, the Buxton Memorial is – literally – overshadowed by its more famous neighbour, The Houses of Parliament.
But this jewel-like monument is a reminder of the darker side of Britain’s history; slavery. It remembers a group of people who fought against it.
Officially it’s a fountain, although no water flows from it today, and its stands as a memorial to Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton. It was erected by his son, the MP Charles Buxton, in 1865*
*A plaque on the memorial says 1835. Just proves just can’t trust everything you read!
Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton
Born 1786, Thomas was an MP and social reformer. However he started his career in brewing and there’s a blue plaque to him on Brick Lane.
In 1808 he started work at what was then the Truman, Hanbury & Company Brewery, probably getting the job from his family connection (his mother was Anna Hanbury, sister to the owners).
Later he became a partner and the brewery was known as Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Company.
Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons
Although the slave trade had been abolished in 1807, slavery was still ongoing and in 1823 Thomas helped found the Anti-Slavery Society and took over the majority of campaigning work and leadership of abolition from William Wilberforce after his health had started to deteriorate and he retired in 1825.
In 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act was passed, emancipating all slaves in the British Empire.
The Buxton Memorial
Designed as a joint effort by Charles Buxton and Samual Sanders Teulon, the water fountain is topped with an elaborate, multi-coloured, enamelled roof.
It was originally intended for Parliament Square and did stand there until 1949. It was moved to Victoria Tower Gardens in 1957.
It’s absolutely covered with decoration and since the Royal Parks restored it in 2007, the tiles positively glowing with their brightness.
But it wasn’t always so.
By 1971 all 8 of the little figurative bronze statues that once embellished the fountain had been nicked! They were replaced in 1980 but again, don’t survive today.
What you can see though is a selection of mosaics, most depict animals and Bob Speel says they are meant to shows some of Aesop’s Fables.
However one is worth closer attention;
It depicts a slave in the act of emancipation, chains being broken off him.
So next time you’re in Westminster, it’s worth pausing to admire this lovely memorial.
Each Wednesday morning I send out a new blog and YouTube video, packed with London’s hidden history. It’s also the best way to hear about my upcoming walking tours and virtual tours. Just add your email in the box below!
More London Inspiration
In Devonshire Square, a fairly uninspiring square by Liverpool Street Station, you can uncover some remarkable layers of London history - stretching right back to the 16th century!...
If you’ve walked along the Strand recently, there’s been a wonderful improvement. The surrounding area of St Mary Le Strand has been pedestrianised and this 300 year-old church can be fully appreciated. I was recently invited to have a look inside (and go behind-the-scenes!) of......