Progress of the Prince Consort Memorial in Hyde Park

Progress of the Prince Consort Memorial in Hyde Park. Source: The Illustrated London News 46 (21 January 1865): 49. [Click on this image to enlarge it.]

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The substructure of that magnificent edifice which Mr. Gilbert Scott has designed for the shrine or tabernacle of a statue of Prince Albert, in Hyde Park, is now so far advanced towards completion that we have thought it opportune to publish an Illustration of the progress of this great work on the frontpage of our present Number. The contractor, Mr. Kelk, has been engaged during the past four or live mouths in building up the mighty pile of brickwork on which, at each of its four sides, a noble flight of granite steps will lead to the platform around the base of the monumental edifice. It is expected that, if the weather he favourable, two or three weeks longer may suffice to finish the brickwork, which will hereafter be concealed from view by the stone slabs to be laid upon it; and, since this part of the structure is worthy of remark for the architectural skill with which it has been framed, to support the immense weight of the intended monument at a considerable height above the ground, we shall limit our notice on this occasion to the brickwork alone, as shown in our Engraving. Its form, in general, is that of a truncated pyramid, about 130 ft. square and 30 ft. or 10 ft. high, surmounted by the solid podium or basement of the central edifice. The four walls of this basement, which are each 11 ft. in height and 23 ft. in length, without reckoning the angular projection of each of the four corners, will be covered with sculptures in relief. A platform or landing, which passes all round the basement at the top of the steps, will admit the visitor to a close inspection of these sculptures, while a larger platform, halfway up the steps, gives case to the ascent and increased breadth to the substructure below. The massive skeleton of this huge building up to the summit of the pyramid, 30ft. square, on which the polished granite columns of Mr. Scott’s beautiful design will lift the superb canopy to a height of 100ft. above the seated effigy of the lamented Prince, may now be seen, at least on its western side, almost complete. The Queen — who possesses, we hear, a model of the perfect monument as designed by Mr. Scott — has taken care to be informed, from time to time, of the progress of the work by means of photographs which have been sent to her Majesty; and she came in person about a month ago to see what had been done, climbing the pile to its very summit, at the part which appears in our Illustration — the finished western side. In order to comprehend the interior plan of if its construction it must be observed that the broad stairs which are to be laid all over its slopes, with the upper and lower platforms at two different levels, will rest upon repeated series of brick arches, from the exterior lines of the square occupied by this pyramid to the huge quadrilateral shaft which forms its heart and core. The outermost and lowest arches have a span of 6ft. 6in., the next of 9 ft., and the next to that of 8 ft.: they are crowned with vertical walls of solid masonry, the upper surfaces of which, sloping towards the summit of the pyramid, will support the granite slabs of the stair; and these walls at the same time, bearing inwards towards the centre of the whole building, serve most powerfully as fying buttresses to uphold the gigantic shaft in the middle destined to bear the vertical pressure of the superior edifice. In our Engraving the arches are concealed by those sloping lines of brickwork, and it is only by going beneath them, into the labyrinthine vaults of the building, that we can perceive how skilfully they are planned, with a just economy of material for the necessary distribution of strength. The four groups of colossal bronze statues, which will be placed at the four corners of the great external square, at the bottom of the steps, have basements of solid brickwork, 13 ft. square, to he covered with the immense blocks of granite just received at Limehouse from the quarries of the Scottish Granite Company in the Isle of Mull. In like manner, the four superior groups of statuary, which are to stand upon the four granite pedestals above, projecting from the angles of the sculptured basement outside the pillars of the tabernacle, will rest upon the solid brickwork of the square central shaft, the walls of which are space, which is 8 ft. 3 in. thick; while its interior hollow space which is but 4 ft. 6 in. in diameter, is groined over so thickly as to render it not less substantial than a solid pile. Practically, it may he well presumed, the stability of that of an Egyptian pyramid, and there is no reason why it should not endure for as many centuries, whatever may be the fate of the towering superstructure, with its clustered columns, its Gothic arches, its sculptured pediments, its pinnacles, and loftiest cross. Apart from all questions of taste in the Fine Arts, it must be acknowledged that the Englishmen of this age, like the ancient Romans, know how to build with bricks more strongly than any other people in the world. The quantity of bricks—best stock bricks, homemade by Messrs. Richardson, of Acton—used in this grand piece of work is about one million and a half. We believe that seventeen or eighteen millions were used in the Great Exhibition building. The manner in which Mr. Kelk’s contract has thus far been executed is most creditable to himself; and it may not improper to mention also the names of Mr. Cross, the general foreman ; and of Mr. William Jacobs, the foreman of bricklayers; who, as a veteran of his craft, having laid the bricks of the Great Exhibition building, and helped to build the Victoria Tower of Westminster, as well as the basement of the Nelson Monument in Trafalgar-Square, has had a hand in some of the most famous national jobs of this kind.

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Last modified 25 November 2015