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-residence. The statue was unveiled twice – originally in Queen Square Garden, and for the second time in the Alf Barrett Playground in 2003, where it remains. The Trustees of the 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 creator.
Notes and Sources
- Humphry 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.
- Alf 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.
- 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, 6 June 2019.
- Photo by me.