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Bates, Harry (1850-1899), Sculptor

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Files WORK 20/136 and WORK 20/364 held at The National Archives give us some background information on the statue of Lord Roberts on Horse Guards’ Parade, which was a replica of the statue by Harry Bates which is in Calcutta, India.

Harry Bates (1850-1899) trained at the Lambeth School of Art, the Royal Academy Schools, London, and worked with Rodin in Paris. He was born in Stevenage and elected to the Royal Academy as an Associate in 1892.

His 30 feet high bronze of Field Marshal Lord Roberts (1832-1914) was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1896 and was highly acclaimed. It was then erected in Calcutta, where it still stands, and the statue in Horse Guards Parade is produced from a cast of the original bronze, which had been stored at the Crystal Palace. It was Henry Poole who produced the Horse Guards Parade replica, and another which stands in Glasgow. Poole was a former assistant of Bates and worked on both the Glasgow and London replica’s. The replica in Glasgow came first (many experts regard the Glasgow version of the Calcutta statue as one of the finest equestrian statues in Britain). The Horse Guards Parade statue involved a reduction in size from the original cast in order that it should not clash with the statue of Lord Wolseley which was already in position on Horse Guards Parade (WORK 20/105 and WORK 20/213)

Bates also produced a statue of Queen Victoria, which stands in Dundee and worked alongside Sir W. Hamo Thornycroft on the carved decorations for the Institute of Chartered Accountants building in the City of London.

One of Bates’ best known works, “Mors januae vitae” can be seen at the Sudley Art Gallery in Liverpool. This is an allegorical sculpture on the theme of death, which was, ironically, exhibited after his early death.

Bates died in poverty, having drained his finances by his insistence on financing the Calcutta statue of Lord Roberts from his own pocket.

Henry Poole (1873-1928) was born into a family of masons, and trained at the Lambeth School of Art and at the Royal Academy of Arts. He worked with both Harry Bates and George Frederick Watts who produced “Physical Energy” in Kensington Gardens, a copy of Watt’s “Cecil Rhodes Memorial” in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Poole also worked with Edwin Alfred Rickards on the “King Edward VII” monument in Bristol, and the statue “Captain Albert Ball VC” in Nottingham.

WORK 20/136 opens with a letter from Office of Works to the then Prime Minister, Lloyd George, dated 17th December 1919, advising that a committee was to be set up to deal with the erection of a statue of Lord Roberts, which had been approved by the House of Commons. The statue was to be erected at public expense. The members of the committee were The First Commissioner of Works, The Earl of Plymouth, Sir Martin Conway, and Field Marshal Earl Haig. The final letter on the file is dated 26th January 1926.

The correspondence between the above two dates deals with the choice of sculptor and site, and involves various parties including the Lord Roberts’ Memorial Committee, Office of Works, Earl Haig, the Earl of Plymouth, Sir Alfred Mond, Lord Robert’s daughter, Henry Poole, the Treasury ,Holloway Brothers who were charged with making the pedestal and Bates’ widow.

Initially the proposal from Earl Haig was that John Tweed be appointed as sculptor, but it was Robert’s daughter who brought attention to the statue of Roberts in Calcutta, advising that a replica had been successfully made for Glasgow. She explained that the Calcutta sculpture had been done from life, and also made the point that the little grey arab in the Calcutta statue was the horse which Lord Roberts had ridden for many years.

In August 1920 we see a letter from the sculptor Adrian Jones offering his services as a sculptor and in the same month Haig writes that he is in a favour of a replica of the Calcutta statue.

On 1st November 1920, the committee agreed that the statue should be a replica of the Calcutta statue but slightly reduced in size in order not to clash with the Wolseley statue. It was agreed that the commission should go to Mrs.Bates who held the copyright. An agreement was drawn up with Mrs Bates on the 12th December, 1921.

On 9th May 1924 the statue was unveiled by Field Marshal, the Duke of Connaught, but in the intervening period there are numerous exchanges concerning the amount which should be paid to Mrs.Bates and Henry Poole. The amount claimed was in dispute and it is interesting to note that the committee asked Goscombe John for his opinion. Finally a figure was agreed by Poole on behalf of Mrs.Bates. The amount was £3,800.which was paid in installments

Then in the file there is correspondence about the lettering and various letters dealing with a reconciliation of the accounts.

At the back of the file is a copy of the agreement with Mrs.Bates, some drawings and plans and black and while photographs of the unveiling ceremony.

WORK 20/364 covers cleaning and maintenance matters and also correspondence with F. Osborne who were asked to carry out the lettering. There is also further correspondence and opinions on the amount which should be paid to Mrs. Bates.

This file also contains a drawing by Henry Poole of his scaled down model.

Below are some recent photographs of the statue in Horse Guards Parade.