We’re kicking off a new Wednesday series this week and in honour of the fact that a statue of Millicent Fawcett became the first commemorating a female to be erected in Parliament Square earlier this year, we’re looking at 10 other memorials – lesser known ones – to women in London. 

First up, it’s a Grade II-listed monument in Tavistock Square Gardens commemorating Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake (1865-1925), the first female surgeon in Britain and pioneer of new surgical methods treating cancers of the cervix and rectum. She was also dean of the London School Of Medicine For Women.

This double-sided monument, which sits above a curved seat, features two busts of Dame Aldrich-Blake, both holding a book. On the sides of the monument are the depictions of the Rod of Asclepius – an intertwined staff and serpent long used as a symbol for the medical profession.

The base and seat were designed by Edwin Lutyens – the man behind the Cenotaph – and the identical bronze busts were the work of Arthur George Walker.

The monument was apparently erected in 1926, a year after Dame Aldrich-Blake’s death, in a rather fitting location, Tavistock Square is the location of the headquarters of the British Medical Association in BMA House.

As well as listing her achievements in the world of medicine, the monument bears the rather uplifting inscription: “The path of the just is as the shining light”.

PICTURE: Top – Stu’s Images (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0); Right – Robin Sones (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)  

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RAF-Memorial
Aerial combat probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the fighting in World War I but, as the Royal Air Force Memorial on Victoria Embankment records, air crew played a vital role.

The memorial features a bronze eagle perched on an orb girded with a belt depicting the signs of the zodiac which sits atop a Portland stone pylon. It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with the eagle, inspired by the RAF’s badge, sculpted by William Reid Dick. Along with the dedication, it carries an inscription from the Bible (Exodus 19:4) –  “I bare you on eagles wings and brought you unto myself” (sic).

Various other sites were apparently considered for the memorial before the location – amid a string of other memorials between Westminster and Hungerford Bridge – was settled upon (as were other designers including the renowned Edwin Lutyens).

Unveiled on 13th July, 1923, by the Prince of Wales, the memorial was dedicated to the memory of all those who gave their lives in the ranks of the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service  and the Royal Air Force  (formed through the amalgamation of the RFC and RNAS at a hotel in Strand in 1918) during World War I, along with those who had died while serving in air forces from across the British Empire.

A further dedication was later unveiled in 1946 on Battle of Britain Sunday remembering the men and women of air forces from across the Commonwealth and Empire who died during World War II.

A simple, yet still evocative, memorial.

A quiet square at the heart of the area known as St James, the square’s origins go back to the 1660s when King Charles II granted what was initially a lease (and later the freehold) over a section of St James’s Field to Henry Jermyn, a favourite of King Charles I’s queen Henrietta Maria who was created the 1st Earl of St Alban.

William-IIIThe earl began developing the residential square (the original design had houses on the south-side fronting onto Pall Mall) and, thanks to its proximity to Whitehall and St James’s Palace, quickly attracted some of the who’s who of London to live there.

Indeed it’s said that by the 1720s, seven dukes and seven earls were in residence in the square – other residents included PMs William Pitt the Elder and William Gladstone (both lived in Chatham House, at numbers 9 and 10, albeit at different times) as well as two of James II’s mistresses, Arabella Churchill and Catherine Sedley, who apparently lived at number 21 in the late 1600s.

Among the architects who designed houses around the square were Robert Adam, Sir John Soane, and, in more recent times, Edwin Lutyens.

The square – which reached its final layout, designed by John Nash, around 1854 – remained a desirable place to live even as in the 19th century, some of the houses gave way to financial institutions, private clubs, offices and even lodging houses. These days it’s dominated by business and other institutional organisations.

Organisations located in the square today include the Naval and Military Club (number four – former home of Nancy Astor), the East India Club (number 16) and the London Library (located at number 14, it was founded by Thomas Carlyle in 1841) as well as the international headquarters of BP.

The gardens feature an equestrian statue of King William III at their centre (the work of John Bacon Sr and Jr, it was installed in 1808 and is pictured above). Other monuments include The Stag (located in the south-west corner, it is the work of Marcus Cornish and was installed in 2001) and, just outside the garden railings in the north-east corner, a memorial to WPC Yvonne Fletcher who was killed when a gun was fired from the Libyan Embassy (known as the Libyan People’s Bureau, it was located at number 5) during a demonstration on 17th April, 1984. The pavilion on the south side was designed by John Nash.

The gardens are private – managed by the St James’s Square Trust – but open to the public on weekdays from 10am to 4.30pm.