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The Curious Statuary Of Kensington Gardens
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The Curious Statuary Of Kensington Gardens

Picture of Tania Spooner
Updated: 24 April 2017
Any artist commissioned to design and create a sculpture for a public park will have one important consideration above all else — to make something beautiful for passers-by to admire, whilst being big and heavy enough to prevent even the thought of theft. With this in mind, we take a stroll through Kensington Gardensin the heart of Hyde Park, noting the beautiful landmarks as we go.


Henry Moore Arch in Hyde Park | Courtesy of Molly Moody


Henry Moore’s Arch

This six-metre megalith weighs in at massive 37 tonnes and is constructed from seven travertine Roman stones. Erected in 1945, The Arch by Henry Moore was disassembled in 1996 due to a structural instability and provided with a new internal skeleton of stainless steel doweling. Henry Moore, a Yorkshire man and career sculptor, was known to have said that if he had been born as rich as he became, he would not have bothered painting or sculpting, but gone to the South of France and enjoyed the sun. Look for his signature Madonna shape in the mouth of the arch. This is definitely a beautiful sculpture to admire near the water.

The Arch By Henry Moore, Hyde Park, London



Ann’s Alcove |Courtesy of Molly Moody


Queen Ann’s Alcove

This habitable monument, made in 1705 by Sir Christopher Wren, was built against the park wall at Dial Walk, on the boundary of the Queen’s formal south garden. Queen Anne’s coat of arms can be seen just below the roof. However, in 1867, a London builder named Mr. Cowley had the entire Queen Ann’s Alcove monument moved at his own expense to its present position near Lancaster Gate, for he thought it unsightly and ‘a resort for undesirable persons’. Available to visit from dawn until dusk, the curved oak bench offers dependable rain cover for a daytime nap.

Queen Ann’s Alcove, Italian Gardens, London



Pan | Courtesy of Molly Moody


The Peter Pan Statue

Located to the west of the Long Water, this bronze statue features squirrels, rabbits, mice and fairies climbing up to a life-sized figurine of Peter Pan. J. M. Barrie, creator of the original Peter Pan, lived nearby and was lucky enough to have this park for his inspiration.  The statue is believed to stand on the exact spot where Barrie’s little white bird landed after flying out of Peter Pan’s nursery. Excitingly, you can swipe your phone on the nearby plaque to receive a personal call back from Peter Pan.

Peter Pan Statue, Kensington Gardens, London

Physical Energy | Courtesy of Molly Moody

Physical Energy | Courtesy of Molly Moody

Physical Energy

This massive monument of brass and rock was designed by C.G. Watts to commemorate Cecil Rhodes, the diamond miner and founder of old Rhodesia, after Kensington Gardens became something of a statue garden to commemorate the nation’s heroes. Watts says the Physical Energy statue is ‘a symbol of that restless physical impulse to seek the still unachieved’. Over the years, however, this larger than life statue has come to be known as the horse with no balls. Don’t believe us” Take a look for yourself! One theory about the missing vital parts is that balls of that size would have frightened Queen Victoria. Or perhaps we have a theft on our hands? 

Physical Energy, Hyde Park, London



Golden Albert | Courtesy of Molly Moody


Golden Albert

The Albert Memorial is located on Albert Memorial Road and commemorates the death of Prince Albert from typhoid fever at the age of 42. It is a typical example of high-Victorian, Gothic extravaganza, and a present-day dedication to the Queen’s love for her husband. Among Prince Albert’s enthusiasms, some of them celebrated on a frieze at the base of this statue, was a great passion for sex. In fact, it is thought that to prevent Victoria becoming too busy in her queenly duties, Albert got his wife frequently pregnant. Conceiving nineteen children has to be one of the highest of Victoria’s achievements.

The Albert Memorial, Kensington, London



Band Stand in Cloud | Courtesy of Molly Moody


The Band Stand

The Bandstand in Kensington Gardens is located to the south of the Round Pond. Of Regency style, it employs eight delicate iron columns to support an ogee roof, and looks something like a hat gathering up ribbons. In 1855, Queen Victoria gave permission for music to be played in the gardens. However, The Archbishop of Canterbury thought music in the gardens would be unseemly, and the Keeper of the Privy Purse believed working people could do without band concerts. Over the years, the band stand has remained empty and quiet more often than not; although one local resident remembers how in the sixties, a brass band from Knightsbridge barracks played here twice a day for fifteen minutes.

The Band Stand, Kensington Gardens, London


Creatures of the Oak | Courtesy of Molly Moody


Elfin Oak

The Elfin Oak sculpture, the last of the statues on this curious trail, was made from the trunk of an ancient oak tree, which had originally grown in Richmond Park. Neglected over the years, and perhaps damaged by all the children clambering up it, Spike Milligan worked to raise money for its restoration — and spent his Sunday afternoons repainting the red coats on the elves himself. In 1997 it was declared a Grade II listed structure and given a protective ring of metal railings.

The Elfin Oak, Hyde Park, London



By three generations