Marble mills and sculptures around Waterloo Station

I took this photo in Waterloo Station. I love the way the sculpture looks down at the shop name and seems to be looking at the people going in.

Today’s Waterloo Station built on the site of a previous one, dates from 1922. It took many years to plan and construct because of the complicated network of rail track it serves. Trains from Waterloo go to suburbs and towns south and west London. It was built by the London & South Western Railway Company. Their engineer John Wykeham Jacomb-Hood began it. After his death in 1914 the project was taken over by the company’s new chief engineer, Alfred Weeks  Szlumper. Scottish architect James Robb Scott designed the Victory Arch at the main entrance as a memorial of WWI.

My sculpture is inside the station is near the Victory Arch entrance. This is where the rail company offices were. According to the imperial War Museum archives, Brindley & Farmer and Charles Whiffen were commissioned to produce the sculptures.  

Brindley & Farmer

William Brindley (1832-1919) had a company specialising in sculptures for buildings in Westminster Bridge Road. In 1860 he made one of his employees, William Farmer (1825-79) a partner. The company worked in wood, stone, marble and terracotta. They worked with Alfred Waterhouse on the terracotta figures of the Natural History Museum and for George Gilbert Scott on the Albert Memorial.

One of the sculptors they employed in the 1890s was Leon-Joseph Chauvalliaud. He was the sculptor of the Sarah Siddons statue on Paddington Green which I talked about in my blog of 27th February. Here is the link. Chauvalliaud carved eight sculptures of famous naturalists at the Palm House at Sefton Park, Liverpool for Brindley & Farmer.

By 1905 the firm was run by a nephew of Brindley with his son-in-law. Their C20th commissions apart from Waterloo Station include the V&A and Westminster Cathedral. I couldn’t find any names of sculptors they employed. We don’t know for sure who carved my face above the Pure shop but it may have been Charles Whiffen (1867-1929). He was the main sculptor on the arch project. Whiffen regularly exhibited sculptures at the Royal Academy summer exhibition. He lived a Altenburg Gardens, Battersea.

Marble cutting mills south of the river

By shear co-incidence, I was on a walk-about with a group of Blue Badge guide friends a couple of days after I took the picture in Waterloo Station. One of them showed us a secret garden near Vauxhall Bridge. It was created by the people living locally on a site that had been flattened by a WWII bomb and had lain waste for years.

Mid 1990s they installed a water wheel dating from 1860s. It would have kept marble wet while it was being cut. The wheel came from a local marble cutting works that was being demolished. Could it have been from the old Brindley and Farmer factory? The company folded in 1929 but was taken over by another, so maybe marble cutting continued there. The answer to my question is probably not. Vauxhall had its own marble cutting mills that had been founded in C17th. Its amazing to think that there was semi- heavy industry in London right up to 1990s.

About the author: Gail Jones

Tourist Guide

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