10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…8.  King Alfred the Great…

Long thought to have been London’s oldest public statue (and certainly the oldest of a monarch), this statue of Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great stands in a quiet location in Trinity Church Square in Southwark.

The statue prior to conservation work in 2009. PICTURE: Svitapeneela/Wikipedia

The statue – which depicts the bearded king robed and wearing a crown – was believed to have medieval origins with some suggesting it was among those which north face of Westminster Hall since the 14th century and were removed by Sir John Soane in 1825.

But recent conservation work has shown that half of the statue is actually much older. In fact, it’s believed that the lower half of the figure was recycled from a statue dedicated to the Roman goddess Minerva and is typical of the sort of work dating from the mid-second century.

Measurements of the leg of the lower half indicate the older statue stood some three metres in height, according to the Heritage of London Trust. It is made of Bath Stone and was likely carved by a stone worker located on the continent. It probably came from a temple.

The top half, meanwhile is made of Coade stone and, given that wasn’t invented by Eleanor Coade until around 1770, the creation of the statue as it appears today is obviously much later than was originally suspected which may give credence to theory that it was one of a pair – the other representing Edward the Black Prince – made for the garden of Carlton House in the late 18th century.

Putting the two parts of the statue together would have required some specialised skills.

The Grade II-listed statue has stood in the square since at least 1826. Much about who created it still remains a mystery. The fact it incorporates a much older statue means the question of whether it is in fact London’s oldest outdoor public statue remains a matter of some debate.

Where’s London’s oldest…outdoor statue?

It’s generally believed that London’s oldest outdoor statue is that of King Alfred the Great which stands in Trinity Church Square in Southwark but there are a few others worth mentioning for their age.

But first, to the statue of Alfred the Great. Located now in Trinity Church Square, it is thought to have been made in the late 14th century (although it’s also suggested it could be much younger) in honor of the man who ruled Wessex in the 9th century and is often credited as being the first “king of the English”.

The statue (right) was apparently located at the Palace of Westminster before it was brought to its present location in 1823 at about the time the square was being laid out.

Others among London’s oldest statues is that of King Charles I sitting astride his horse and looking from Whitehall from its position on the southern side of Trafalgar Square.

Credited as being London’s “oldest equestrian bronze”, this statue is the work of French sculptor Hubert Le Sueur and was cast in 1633 (during King Charles I’s rule) at the behest of Richard Weston, one of the king’s favorites, who that year became the 1st Earl of Portland.

It was removed during the Civil War but later reacquired by the Portland family and, following the Restoration, was reinstalled on its current site – once that of the Charing Cross (see our previous entry for more details) – in 1675 by King Charles II.

Another of London’s oldest statues is that of Queen Elizabeth I which stands on the facade of the church St Dunstan-in-the-West in Fleet Street. This statue, which has been attributed to William Kerwin although other names have also been suggested, dates from 1586 (created during her reign) and decorated the west side of Ludgate until its demolition in 1760, after which it was apparently put into storage until being brought to the church in the 19th century.

Standing nearby in the vestry porch as statues of the legendary pre-Roman British king, Lud, and his sons, Androgeus and Tenvantius, which were also removed from Ludgate and probably date from the same period (about 1586).