War Memorial by Richard Reginald Goulden (1876-1932). 1920. Bronze group on a granite plinth with metal panels carrying the names of the dead. There is a wide base with three steps up to the memorial. War Memorial Gardens, Union Street, in the town centre of the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, London.
This is an impressive group by Goulden, who had won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship to the Royal College of Art, and was awarded prizes there in both architecture and sculpture. He designed many war memorials, having been invalided out of the Royal Engineers in World War I. He had fought in France in 1915 and been mentioned in despatches, but continued to serve on the home front.
The Kingston memorial is a Grade II listed structure. The main figure is a man of heroic appearance, one hand holding "a flaming torch of freedom" (Mee 192), its flame blown back by the wind, and the other hand holding a sword that pierces the great serpent wreathed and writhing underfoot. Two little children complete the group: one stands close against him, looking up at him open-mouthed; the other crouches behind him, for protection, shrinking from the fearful snake. These are very touchingly depicted. On the front of the plinth, the dedication was changed to include the fallen of World War II: "In honour of the men of this town who gave their lives in the great wars 1914-1919 1939-1945." Familiar lines from Laurence Binyon's poem, "For the Fallen" (1914) are quoted around the bottom of the sculpture: "At the going down of the sun and in the morning / We will remember them."
It is hard to see the crouching child from any distance (Arthur Mee, for example, notices only one child) and then the man's figure seems to rise from a rather over-complicated and heavy base. But, seen close up, the memorial gains much from the addition of the helpless children and the ferocity of the serpent, as well as the strenuously victorious pose of the man himself. Goulden was particularly good at depicting children, as shown especially in his lovely sculptural group above the memorial seat to the social reformer, socialist and feminist Margaret MacDonald at Lincoln's Inn Fields. He had two children of his own, and died suddenly at the age of only 55.
Photographs, text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Victorian Web and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Mee, Arthur, ed. Surrey: London's Southern Neighbour (The King's England series). London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1938. Print.
"Mr. R. R. Goulden" (obituary). The Times. 8 August 1932: 12. Times Digital Archive. Web. 5 January 2014.
"Richard R. Goulden." The Studio International. Vol. 105 (1933): 315. Google Books, but only in very partial view. Web. 5 January 2014.
"Richard Reginald Goulden: The Sculptor of Dover War Memorial." The Dover War Memorial Project. Web. 5 January 2014.
"Showcase Result: Kingston-upon-Thames." War Memorials Trust. Web. 5 January 2014.
"War Memorial, Kingston upon Thames." British Listed Buildings. Web. 5 January 2014.
5 January 2013