An occasional series featuring London statues to cherish, not to rubbish.
This statue in a playground off Old Gloucester Road, Bloomsbury is the only work ever produced by its sculptor. Marcia Solway, a student at the nearby Mary Ward Centre, created a permanent tribute to Humphry, the Centre’s long term cat-in-residence1Humphry was named after the Mary Ward Centre’s founder, who as ‘Mrs Humphry Ward’ enjoyed a distinguished career as a writer of religious literature and improver of educational opportunities for the poor, but was also a vehement opponent of womens’ suffrage.
The statue was unveiled twice – originally in Queen Square Garden, and for the second time in the Alf Barrett Playground in 2003, where it remains2Alf Barrett was a campaigner for tenants’ rights in the area during the 1970s and 1980s. The playground is scheduled for a revamp. Let’s hope they don’t remove the statue.The Trustees of Queen Square Garden seemed to come to the conclusion that it was inappropriate for such a statue to be located opposite one of Queen Charlotte, forgetting the old maxim that ‘a cat may look at a king’.
Marcia suffered from epilepsy, and died in 1992, aged only 34. Humphry caught his last mouse in the same year. The statue, donated by Marcia’s mother Carole, is a tender tribute to cat and creator3See also:Hilda Kean, ‘Traces and Representations: Animal Pasts in London’s Present’. The London Journal, Vol. 36 No. 1, March 2011, 54–71. Ian Visits: London’s Pocket Parks: Alf Barrett Playground (ianvisits.co.uk), 6 June 2019.