A statue of King William III which is believed to date from the 1730s and be from the workshop of John Cheere.
Reasons for Designation
The statue of William III, 30m north of the Archer Pavilion, Wrest Park is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: the statue is an early survival which commemorates a late C17 English monarch;
* Artistic interest: the statue by John Cheere, an C18 sculptor of note, is a finely-crafted work with a high standard of detailing to both the lead figure and the pedestal, giving the piece an overall elegant sculptural quality that is particularly befitting of its formal setting;
* Group Value: the special interest of this statue is further enhanced by its visual and spatial association with other structures within the estate, in particular the Archer Pavilion (Grade I). The statue also makes a contribution of its own to the wider structural and aesthetic composition of the Grade I registered landscape.
Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. In 1702, Wrest became the property of Henry de Grey who, by 1710, had become the Duke of Kent. Henry was determined to improve the status of Wrest. At this time the gardens to the south were enlarged, alterations made to the water courses, and a number of garden buildings were constructed. A summer house was placed by the mill pond and a greenhouse was added to the Orange Garden. The architect Thomas Archer was responsible for many of these structures including the Pavilion (Grade I) which marked the southern limit of the garden as defined by the Old Brook. The alignment of the Old Brook is still maintained as the boundary between the parishes of Silsoe and Gravenhurst. Cain Hill was incorporated into the landscape as an eye catcher, its presence emphasised by the geometric axis which, eventually, led east from the house and north-east from the Archer Pavilion partly in the form of avenues.
In the 1720s additional land was acquired, various alterations to the canals were carried out and several garden buildings were commissioned, from the Italian architects Filippo Juvarra and Giacomo Leoni, but also from others, predominantly Nicholas Hawksmoor, William Kent and James Gibbs. Of these the Temple of Diana (now demolished), the West Half House (Grade II) and the East Half House (Grade II) were built. The allees (avenues) and squares, either side of the Great Canal, were also created by 1726 marking the peak of the formal garden at Wrest. Two plans drawn by Rocque in 1735 and 1737 illustrate some of these changes. In 1729 work resumed with additions including an amphitheatre to the north of the bowling green and the creation of the serpentine canal. A greenhouse (on the site of the current Orangery) and the addition to, and enlargement of Bowling Green House (Grade II*) were also completed, both by Batty Langley.
The Statue of William III is thought to have been introduced to Wrest sometime after 1737 as it is not shown on the 1737 Rocque views of the gardens, and the majority of figures commemorating William III generally date from around the 1730s. This particular statue is first recorded as an image in 1831 in 'Views of Wrest'. It is thought to be the work of John Cheere (1709-1787) as the detailing of the leadwork and also the chased work bear close comparison to other work by him, such as the statue of Jemima (Grade II*).
MATERIALS: the figure is cast in lead and is mounted upon a pedestal of Ketton stone with Portland stone plinth.
DESCRIPTION: the pedestal has four projecting faces of panel form. The base of a fascia surmounted by a small torus, cymatium and to the top a Cavetto mould. The die has four projecting panels, three of which are rebated out with an oblong panel to the face. The fourth has an inset white, Italian marble panel, into which is cut the inscription: KING WILLIAM/ the 3/of GLORIOUS/ and/ Immortell Memory.
The panels are surmounted by an astragel mould with a plain band or fascia above. The whole is surmounted by a cap formed from six pieces of stone. This is moulded to the edge with a drip and ogee mould beneath. The pedestal's cap is surmounted by a Portland stone plinth to which the statue is attached. Its form follows the projecting of the pedestal beneath, but it has a moulded extension to the rear and left hand side rear which has been introduced to support the flow of the statue's cloak. The pedestal is placed on a concrete foundation.
The statue is heroically posed with his head raised and looking to his left, his right leg forward, his left hand held on his hip and holding in his right hand a baton. He is dressed in the garbs of a Roman Emperor with a tunic over which is laid armour. His breast plate is decorated with a diamond pattern detail and to the bottom is a prominent relief of a shell. The apron straps below are attached with alternating reliefs of a raised thistle on a square cut, and a raised rose on a pointed cut: the symbols of Scotland and England. Over William's shoulder is a cloak held with a brooch on his right hand side. The folds spread over his left upper arm and fall down his back, a section is grasped in his left hand, the rest trails on the ground behind him. He is crowned with a wreath of laurels, the Roman symbol of victory, recalling his military successes.