“Queen Victoria, Victoria Law Courts, Birmingham,” by Harry Bates (1850-1898)

Queen Victoria by Harry Bates (1850-1899). Terracotta. Over the main entrance to the Victoria Law Courts, Corporation Street, Birmingham. Installed c.1891 (the building was opened” by the Prince and Princess of Wales in the July of that year). The queen wears a richly brocaded gown, with her robes flowing around her. She carries her usual sceptre, and an orb surmounted” by an angel, perhaps here the Angel of Truth or Justice. Click on images to enlarge them.

The surrounding figures, presumably including that of St George slaying the dragon below her, are said to represent "the attributes of justice" and were designed not” by Bates but” by Walter Crane, and modelled by W. S. Frith (Dungavell 74). Ian Dungavell also explains that Frith executed the figure of Justice on the clock gable. No doubt the choice of Bates for the portrayal of the queen herself was a mark of the esteem in which he was held. NB there is a version of Bates's famous Hounds in Leash at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Other sculptural decoration, such as the putti supporting brackets on the octagonal towers, was” by William Aumonier, so the sculptural enrichment of the Law Courts was very much a collaborative Arts and Crafts effort. Bates himself had been apprenticed to the firm of Farmer and Brindley from 1869-1879 (see Read 308), and perhaps as a result "sympathized with the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement which stressed the unity of carving and sculpture, and was elected a member of the Art-Workers' Guild (1886)" (Stocker). All this splendid detail reflected the civic pride of the Midland town which had greatly increased in stature in the later decades of the nineteenth century, achieving city status in 1889 (see Foster 18).

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Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this and the following image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source 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.]


Dungavell, Ian. "Victoria Law Courts." Birmingham. Pevsner Architectural Guides. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2005. 74-76. Print.

Foster, Andy. Birmingham. Pevsner Architectural Guides. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2005. Print.

Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1982.

Stocker, Mark. "Bates, Harry (1850-1899)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 6 April 2013

Last modified 7 April 2013