The Lord Byron Statue
Restoration of the statue
Lord Byron (1788 – 1824) was an English romantic poet and one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement. In early 1824 he joined the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire and died leading a campaign during that war, at the age of 36. Byron was opponent of Lord Elgin's removal of the Parthenon marbles from Athens and is revered by Greece. One of the world’s most famous poets, the cultural concept of a ‘Byronic hero’ is an idealised but flawed character with talent, passion, a distaste for society and social institutions, lack of respect for rank and privilege, rebellion, an unsavoury secret past, arrogance and a self-destructive manner. The UK Byron Society was re-established in 1971 and 36 Byron Societies exist throughout the world, with an international conference annually.
The statue was created in 1880 by sculptor Richard Belt, on an inscribed Greek red and white marble pedestal donated by the Greek Government. Byron is depicted with his Newfoundland dog Boatswain (Bo’sun), at his side. This is the only public statue to Lord Byron in England and Queen Victoria granted permission for the statue to be erected in Hamilton Gardens, then within the south-east corner of Hyde Park. In the 1960s the three-lane dual carriageway extended Park Lane over the whole length of Hyde Park’s east carriage drive and the Park’s eastern boundary moved westwards. The statue was isolated on the southernmost traffic island surrounded on three sides by barriers and fast moving traffic, inaccessible to the public and no longer in a garden setting. 2024 marks the bicentenary of Byron's death and the Byron Society and its President, Lord Byron, is campaigning for its relocation and move.
The marble pedestal comprises three courses and has two inscriptions: BYRON and ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION. The surface of the marble is covered in tiny wavy grooves, there is damage to the roll mould, cyma recta profile and lower string course, as well as the top of the corner block, below and the bottom of the splayed base at the north east corner. The marble repairs are however reasonably straightforward and can be carried out using marble cut from the inside of the structure.
The bronze statue is sound but heavily corroded with varying amounts of old wax, grime, detritus and guano. The pigmented wax coating has failed across the surface and serves no protective function. There are zones of moisture between the bronze and the plinth. Some water is entering inside the sculpture and leeching out where the pointing has failed. The HOLT supported restoration will include removal of all dirt, grease, grime, detritus, and guano, thinning of the corrosion in readiness for re-patination, re-patination of the bronze to match the original finish as closely as possible, application of traditional protective coating, small holes or apertures filled with hard wax or a tinted epoxy-putty for larger holes.
The statue will be relocated to Hyde Park in a new landscaped new location at a key entry and exit point to the park, location already approved by the Royal Parks. Planning permission to move it is currently with Westminster Council.