A belated return to my blog

by The Curious Scribbler

Who writes a blog when there's a baby to play with?

Who writes a blog when there’s a baby to play with?

Where have I been and what have I been doing since mid November, my regular readers may well ask?   Well nothing really out of the ordinary: a very busy Christmas with the house bursting with guests, a daughter moving house to Bristol, an enchanting one year old grandchild to play with, a nasty bronchial cold, and the fallout from the collapse of a fellow local historian’s book on the very brink of its publication by a small Trust.  This last event occurred as if in illustration of an article by Matthew Parris in the Spectator entitled “Why are volunteers so mean to one another?”  Parris wrote ” What is it about voluntarism, what is it about organisations composed of public spirited people giving of their own time and money for some purpose larger and nobler than themselves, that breeds the poisonous atmosphere that so often chokes their deliberations?” .  In an attempt to answer this question he posits a new explanation.  When people ‘give up their own free time’  for no remuneration, they become very difficult to command. Volunteers consider themselves released from the usual rules of the workplace.  In the case in question, a volunteer steering committee, having engaged a volunteer author, decided, two years later, that they wanted a different book.  Had the publication been driven for profit, the outcome might have been very different. As Parris remarks – the pursuit of principle is an infinitely more corrupting thing.

My own last regular printed output has also come to an end in January  but it was a bloodless end, the death of the magazine Cambria came because it simply could not afford to continue without Welsh Books Council grant aid.  And committees  don’t wish to fund ‘more of the same’ indefinitely.  Cambria has existed for 18 years and for most of them I have been its garden correspondent.  It seldom could afford to pay me, but I was rewarded in other ways;  my copy was never hacked about by an insensitive editor, my pictures were reproduced handsomely, my picture captions emerged correct.  These are virtues which cannot be taken for granted in the world of magazines.  The choice of topics was invariably mine, and my final piece was an account of a visit to the immaculately restored and recreated Allt-y-bela.  The story had first appeared on this blog, in July 2014.  As a final bonus, the magazine has long enjoyed a special status in the catalogues of the National Library of Wales.  So for every article in Cambria, I have been awarded an author-indexed entry in their catalogue, as I would be for articles in more heavy-duty scholarly publications about Wales.

The last issues of Cambria magazine

The last issues of Cambria magazine

But blogs too may earn their immortality and I was gratified to be asked by the NLW for permission to copy and index my blogs relating to the remarkable sculpture by Mario Rutelli on the Aberystwyth war memorial.  This topic continues to develop, leading blog readers to make the pilgrimage to Via Quattro Fontane in Rome to verify the identity of the original bronze, and report back their findings.  Keeping a foot in both the electronic and the printed camps, I propose to write up the story of Aberystwyth’s ‘Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War’ for a printed journal this year.

Letter from Aberystwyth will continue, for the most part as a vehicle for overlooked or long forgotten fragments of our local history.

Share Button

Rutelli’s naked lady at Aberystwyth

by The Curious Scribbler

There have been several developments in the story of ‘Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War’,  the somewhat unexpected sculpture at the foot of Aberystwyth’s war memorial. ( search ‘Rutelli’ in earlier blogs to follow the story).  Through internet searches I had located an apparently identical sculpture, in Rome, which, according to Marco Demmelbauer, the restorer who had worked on her some twenty years ago, was called Verità esce dai rovi ( Truth emerges from the bushes).

Recently I had a message from Rome-based historian Nicholas Stanley Price who went in search of her at Via delle Quattro Fontane 18.  He reported instead that she is now to be found at Via delle Quattro Fontane 15,  next door to the Palazzo Barberini, home of the National Gallery of Art.   She is indoors now, in a hallway, and the context of the pictures reveal that rather than being a precise duplicate, Truth is half the size of Aberystwyth’s lusty Humanity.  Moreover there are some discernible differences, especially in the twiggy foliage from which the figure emerges.

Truth emerging from the Bushes, in the hallway of Via Quattro Fontane 18

Truth emerging from the Bushes, in the hallway of Via Quattro Fontane 15, Rome Photo Nicholas Stanley Price




Rutelli Truth emerging from the bushes 3

Truth emerging from the bushes. Rome. Photo by Nicholas Stanley Price

Now I have another correspondent, Alan Wynne Davies, who is off to Rome shortly to have a look at her.  I hope he may be able to throw light on that sculpture’s history.  I believe she was taken for restoration from an outdoor situation in the courtyard of a block of flats at No 15.  It would be nice to find out when she was actually commissioned, and whether the design follows or pre-dates the Aberystwyth nude which records show was being cast in Rome in April 1922 and shipped by Thomas Cook to Liverpool in  October 1922.

And in a separate strand, I was given the chance to follow up on a recurrent urban legend: that the Aberystwyth sculpture was modelled upon the wife of the proprietor of Ernie’s Fish bar in this town! The trail led to Nora James of Trefechan, a handsome elderly lady who is a local matriarch and daughter of the alleged model.  Mrs James’ mother  Maria Pelizza was married in Italy to Ernest Carpanini, an Italian who had worked in the restaurant and ice cream business in South Wales before the first world war.  Moving first to Llanelli, the young bride found herself by 1922 in Aberystwyth where her husband Ernest and his partner Joe Chiappa opened a chipshop called ‘Ernie’s’ by the town clock.  Maria spoke very little English and mainly worked in the kitchen, but both she, and the massive sculpture on the memorial were new to town, beautiful and Italian. Thus, I believe, the myth was born, perhaps as a tease by the customers.

Nora recollects that her mother always dismissed the allegation, and no member of the family supported the outrageous suggestion that she had ever modelled in the nude.  However the the myth was accommodated with the vague suggestion that someone “had got hold of a photo of her face” and that this likeness was reproduced.  More prosaically I think that the likeness was a coincidence born of the Italian features of Maria Pelizza and the Italian model in Rome.

Nora James, daughter of Maria Carpanini the alleged model for the Aberystwyth war memorial

Nora James, daughter of Maria Carpanini the alleged model for the Aberystwyth war memorial

Ernesto and Maria Carpanini founded an extensive Welsh family and most of  their grandchildren work in or around Aberystwyth.  It is a sad note that Nora recollects that her father, who was on account of his nationality interned on the Isle of Man for the entire second world war, returned home a shadow of his former self in 1945 and never fully regained his former spirits.

Share Button

Remembering Tabernacle Chapel

It is not often you see a listed building smashed to dust in front of your very eyes.

The 11th of July 2008 was such a day though, on which we stood and watched with disbelief as the largest demolition crane ever seen in Aberystwyth methodically chomped its way through the burnt shell of this landmark chapel crammed into the sloping plot between Mill Street and Powell Street.

The chapel was a huge building, its curved gallery of pitch pine seating supported by elegantly fluted  iron columns.  It had long lost a viable congregation, though I remember attending a big school carol service there in the 1980s. While an undeniable hulk dominating the town, its fine interior, and the portentious facade at the Powell Street end had contributed to its listed status and its eventual downfall.  Saving these features and creating a sympathetic conversion to flats at the same time would have been a considerable challenge. Planning permission for such a scheme was granted, but work never began.

On the preceding Friday in July the empty building had caught fire, and although only metres from the fire station its roof was soon well alight. By morning, the smoke scarred windows and collapsing roof ridge caused the closure of the nearby roads to traffic.

The fire damaged building

The Calvinistic Methodist Tabernacle Chapel, built in 1878 and gutted by fire 130 years later

The following Friday the gigantic crane began at the Mill Street end reaching great clawfuls of masonry with the grab on its telescopic arm and advancing inexorably through the building.  The tiers of seating, the elegant metal pillars, the pitch pine interior were all soon reduced to a tangled mass under the caterpillar tracks of the machine.

The Powell Street facade was especially grand, and almost independent of the rest of the barn-like structure.  Here it was not rendered but built of dressed local stone, with pillars, balusters, and seven tall round-topped windows and lintels of Cefn Sandstone from Ruabon  stone.  It seemed untouched by the fire.  By the early afternoon, only this facade, and the return walls built in the same material still stood.  Naively we assumed this would remain and could still front the eventual conversion and retain a little historic character in this part of the town. To the side of this facade, and enclosed by substantial arrow headed iron railings was a tiny shady patch of grass, barely a garden.  This had been one of Aberystwyth’s secret spaces. For in the centre of the little lawn was a plinth on which stood a bronze statue of a  winged youth, with a laurel wreath on his curls and a bundle of ragged palm leaves cradled on his arm.  His foot balanced on a sphere of bronze and on this sphere are engraved in bold capitals the names of fourteen men.  These were the members of Tabernacle chapel killed in the First World War.  Like the monumental town memorial, this graceful piece was also the work of Mario Rutelli.  By the morning of 11 July 2008 it had been removed from the site.

The demolition crane just kept on working its way through the building.  Effortlessly it reached up from the old chapel floor to grasp the towering pediment of the Powell Street entrance and casually brought it crashing to the ground.  Methodically it tugged off the coping stones of the parapet. The immaculate turned stone balusters snapped like so many broken teeth.  Then it chomped up the chimneys at the two corners, the seven elegant first floor windows, the little balcony over the sturdy pillared portico.  The massive freestone quoins of the corners were the hardest to shift and among the last stones standing.  Supported on the inside by the two chimneys these massive corners would surely have braced the facade.  Finally there was just the ground floor with its three tall doorways and four windows standing.  And when these crashed to dust the workmen carried away the white-lettered Tabernacle board and gave it to a neighbour as a souvenir.

For a brief period we thought the Powell Street Facade would be retained


The demoliton crane soon nibbled away the facade

The massive quoins and chimney corners were difficult to demolish

A new view opened up towards Penparcau. The railings of the little War Memorial garden remained.

Finally the Tabernacle board is given away as a souvenir

That night the crane left town, and a great gap allowed a view from Powell Street out to the hills of Penparcau.  The site was soon surrounded by high fencing and the wreckage was gradually carried away.  The little garden is a forlorn tangle of brambles now.

Rutelli’s pretty monument eventually found a refuge in the Ceredigion Museum, eight sturdy volunteers carried it up the stairs and strapped it to a pillar of the Coliseum where it can be admired today amongst the varied exhibits.   The accompanying information sheet states that the developers, Merlin Homes, intend to eventually restore him to his little garden at the corner of the site.  But there has so far been no development, and this summer will be five years since the fire.

Rutelli’s statue now resides in the  Ceredigion Museum

For Ceredigion Museum visit   http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=197




Share Button

More on Rutelli’s sculptures

by The Curious Scribbler

I’ve had a lot of interesting comments arising from the blogs on Rutelli’s Aberystwyth war memorial sculptures. In this town we like our handsome nude woman, and people often stop to take her photograph.  She is more eyecatching than the traditional assemblage of weapons or the lone and gloomy soldier of so many other towns.

It was a real find to discover she also exists in a garden in Rome ( see Truth comes out of the Bushes) .  But as correspondent ‘dredwina’ points out, it is not unusual in the 20th century  to make five or six editions of a bronze, declaring them at the outset, but not actually creating them all until buyers turn up.  Just as there are at least three Rutelli winged victories in the world, there are, for example, two locations where Churchill and Roosevelt chat upon a bench. Spotting the duplicates could become an absorbing hobby.

The original model, however, was a one-off and  sources have come up with several  oral histories on the subject.  Helen Palmer  writes:- I had a story that the model for the busty lass was a Belgian girl who – as a very elderly lady – visited Aberystwyth some time in the 1980s, but I cannot remember the source and maybe it was all baloney!

While historian Gerald Morgan had a slightly different version – When showing a group around Aberystwyth I was told that the naked lady had been modelled on the wife of a local shopman, Ernie’s Chips or some such, and that as an old lady she had returned to Aberystwyth in the ?1990s and been interviewed by the Cambrian News! Again, I’ve never checked it out!!

Possibly these are both spurious claims.  More likely the girl in question was in Rome, and since she would have been  at least 16 when she modelled she must have been extremely old by the 1990s!

By contrast ‘Tone’s account of repairing the part-severed head of Edward Prince of Wales on the seafront stands up to robust scrutiny. ” At the time when I was employed as a Art/Ceramics technician at the then Visual Art Dept. Llanbadarn Road, on more than one occasion I had to travel to the “Old College” to repair Edward’s neck as an attempt was made to remove his head at the end of the academic year by, it was said, students from Pantycelyn Halls of Residence.
He wasn’t a tall prince, though could be described as handsome, It was an easy to repair as I could reach the damaged area without the aid of steps.
Although as you say “seldom remarked upon” he is certainly marked upon by the use of the hacksaw!

I climbed up the plinth to verify, and established both that Tone is a good deal taller than myself, and that the repaired hacksaw groove on the back of the neck is plain to see.

The green line of corrosion marks the repair to the Prince’s neck

I don’t think we will find other editions of this sculpture tucked away incognito.  It is generally understood to be the only life-size bronze of Edward VIII anywhere.  His abdication in favour of marrying Wallis Simpson put paid to what might otherwise have beena lustrous career in commemorative statuary.

Statue of Edward Prince of Wales at Old College Aberystwyth

Edward Prince of Wales, Chancellor of the University College of Wales 1922, by Mario Rutelli

Arthur Chater also comments  “And I believe that students once sawed off, or tried to saw off, his head. There is certainly a nasty scar on the side and back of his neck. The statue as a whole is rather good I think, with a nice art nouveau trail to his gown, but the face is appallingly weak – maybe though this is in fact a perceptive insight into Edward’s character on the part of Rutelli?”

His gown is indeed very fine, and richly ornamented.  His face looks strangely faun like, though it is true that in photos as a young man his tip tilted nose and and boyish look is indeed apparent.  If this was modelled in 1922 he was less than 28 when the likeness was taken.

A close up of Edward's face

Detail of Edward Prince of Wales, a likeness from or before 1922

The Prince of Wales photographed by Hugh Cecil Saunders in 1925

Speaking of fauns, Mary Burdett Jones has reminded me that I have so far neglected Rutelli’s first commission in Aberystwyth, the war memorial to 10 members of the Tabernacle chapel who died in the First World War.  Tabernacle Chapel?  Yes, that is another story…

Share Button

An Image of Multi-tasking Womanhood

By The Curious Scribbler

Cruising the works of Italian sculptor Mario Rutelli, I came across another work of his, the memorial to Anita Garibaldi on the Juniculum Hill in Rome, which was created in 1931.

If ever we need a monument to multi-tasking this must surely be it.  Poised upon a rearing steed, brandishing a pistol whilst breastfeeding her infant son, the Brazilian wife of Guiseppe Garibaldi is represented as a heroine of mythic proportions. Fashioned 83 years after her death, to embellish the seventh and final resting place of her mortal remains, there is no reason to consider this an accurate portrayal of the woman, but of an ideal.

Rutelli’s Anita is the stuff of legends – mounted on a rearing horse (an exceptional feat of engineering) she brandishes a pistol in one hand while holding her nursing son close in the other arm. Photo: Will Hobbs

Garibaldi was an active Republican dedicated to the liberation and unification of Italy.  Finding it politic to depart for South America, he soon became involved in fighting for  independence in Brazil.  During this swashbuckling existence he acquired an 18 year old  Brazilian wife, Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro, who often fought at his side, dressed as a man, and is credited with greatly improving his horsemanship. During a five year lull in revolutionary activity in Montevideo he worked as a schoolteacher and fathered four children with her.

He and his family returned to Italy to join the conflict between the revolutionary army and the invading forces of Napoleon III.  Briefly the revolutionary army won the battle of the Juniculum Hill in 1849 and repelled the French.  However two months later the Roman Republic was defeated, and he and Anita were fugitives.  Four months pregnant with their fifth child and ill with malaria, Anita died, at a farmhouse near Ravenna, in her husband’s arms, and was hurriedly buried in an unmarked grave.  She was just short of her 29th birthday.

Monument to Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro di Garibaldi, best known as Anita Garibaldi, on the Juniculum Hill, Rome.  Photo Will Hobbs

Oddly, when I studied History O level many years ago, the examiners had determined that we should study this period of Italian history.  So I used to know quite a lot about Count Cavour, Victor Emmanuel II, Mazzini, and Garibaldi.  At  an age when I had learnt  almost nothing about 19th century British history it seemed an irrelevant and isolated bit of knowledge, most of which I promptly forgot.

However everything forms connections eventually.  And the connection with Aberystwyth?  Well, it confirms my suspicion that the sculptor Mario Rutelli was in his element with an imaginative brief, and his female figures are rarely sedate in their bearing.  By contrast how bored must he have been with his commission for the bronze full figure sculpture of Edward Prince of Wales ( Edward VIII) in the robes of Chancellor of the University College of Wales in 1922.  It too survives, seldom remarked upon, in the narrow strip between the Old College and the sea.

I am grateful for permisison to reproduce the photographs of Anita’s monument, see http://willyorwonthe.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/beside-every-great-man.html


Share Button

Truth comes out of the Bushes

by The Curious Scribbler

Just occasionally, life imitates fiction with the well-turned symmetry of a good short story.

When I started writing about the Aberystwyth’s war memorial I drew only upon my own imagination in describing the striking nude at the foot of the column as “a naked woman emerging from a thicket”.

Since then I have searched the internet for similar images using various search engines and search terms, and at last my quest bore results, in the form of pictures on the website of a professional conservationist and restorer in Rome.  Here was the self same girl! http://www.art-conservation.it/rutelli.html

Two views of Rutelli’s sculpture  “Verità esce dai Rovi” which stands in a courtyard in Rome. Photo: Marco Demmelbauer, before restoration

Marco Demmelbauer  tells me that he worked on this Rutelli sculpture many years ago. It is privately owned and can be seen in the courtyard of an apartment block, at Via Quattro Fontane n.18  in Rome.  The sculpture has a name too!  Not quite “Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War”, but  “Verità esce dai rovi”,   which translates as “Truth comes out of the bushes”.  I feel vindicated indeed!

It now seems clear that our Aberystwyth war memorial sculptures are from re-used moulds, and have elder sisters elsewhere in Europe.   In my last blog I pointed out that the Winged Victory by Rutelli on top of our memorial had already been poised on a monument in Palermo since 1911.  I am grateful to Marco Demmelbauer for pointing out that she also stands on the right hand column in front of the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II in  Rome.  This also dates from 1911.

The same Winged vistory as we have in Aberystwyth

Winged Victory by Rutelli on a column in front of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome
Photo: Marco Demmelbauer

Winged Victories were not however the sole preserve of a single artist.  The original Victory ( the Goddess Nike) was discovered in 1863 in Samothrace, and is one of the great treasures of the Louvre.  She was fashioned in Parian marble about 190 BC.  A few extra fragments of her, the right hand, a finger tip and thumb have turned up, but her arms and head being missing has left scope for the re-interpretation of the figure in the late 19th and 20th centuries.  Rather remarkably the two tall Roman columns bear two different Winged Victories, one by Mario Rutelli and the other by another sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi.

Winged Victory by Zocchi on the other column in front of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome.
Photo: Marco Demmelbauer

It seems that there were certain criteria for these turn-of-the-century Nikes.   Unlike Truth/Humanity, a Winged Victory is modest, her long draperies rippling in a strong breeze, and she holds aloft the laurel wreath of victory.  She stands upon a sphere, and carries some kind of object in her other hand. Here the interpretations vary, Zocchi provides a sheathed weapon, Rutelli some kind of foliage.

Winged Victories by Rutelli and by Zocchi on columns in front of the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome.
Photo: Marco Demmelbauer

Exactly whose influence led to Rutelli tendering a design for a war memorial  utilising two of his pre-existing works for the Borough of Aberystwyth has yet to be revealed, but my guess is that Lord Ystwyth had a good deal to do with it.


Share Button

More on the memorial

by The Curious Scribbler

A number of readers of my last blog have commented that 1923 is not especially tardy for the erection of a war memorial. The Royal Artillery memorial by CS Jagger in Hyde Park was not unveiled until 1925, and my fellow historical  blogger in the Essex village of Great Dunmow reports that their much less elaborate memorial was unveiled in 1921.http://www.essexvoicespast.com/war-and-remembrance-the-making-of-a-war-memorial/

In search of more background I spent a pleasant hour in the Ceredigion Archives http://archifdy-ceredigion.org.uk/  which afforded me the joy of inhaling the fragrance of a bound volume of 52 issues of the Cambrian News for 1923.  An experience far more evocative than scrutinising the screen of a microfiche reader.  Also, an envelope of world war I Aberystwyth miscellanea revealed several choice ephemera: an estimate and appeal for funds from the War Memorial Committee in 1921, the programme for a three day fund raising bazaar in 1923, and the programme of the actual unveiling ceremony held on Friday 14 September 1923.   I also had a trawl round the internet.


The war memorial committee handbill, flanked by the programmmes for the three day bazaar and the unveiling on 14 September 1923

The War Memorial Committee, put out a hand bill in November 1921 with an artist’s impression of the Rutelli monument.  It informs the reader that “the bronze statues, palms and dragon is being executed at Rome and is already far advanced”, while the “65 foot column and base will be composed of local stone, a gift of the Corporation of Aberystwyth”.  Actually some or all of the bronze statuary may have pre- existed the commission.  A trawl of the internet finds the identical twin of our Winged Victory in the Piazza Vittorio Veneto in Palermo, on a column designed by Ernesto Basile, erected to commemorate the unification of Sicily and Italy. It was unveiled in 1911.  She balances on the same ball as Aberystwyth’s figure, but is sited on a more ornately carved 28 metre plinth.

Victory by Mario Rutelli, on the monumento ai Caduti in palermo

The monument at the end of the Piazza Vittorio Veneto was designed by Ernesto Basile, to commemorate the unification of Sicily and Italy. After world war I,  Victory, by Mario Rutelli was set upon the the top.

The winged Victory in Palermo

The Piazza Vittorio Veneto, Palermo

Rutelli’s Winged Victory for Aberystwyth must have been a later commission, years after Palermo’s monument was updated.This sets one thinking about our buxom Aberystwyth wench, Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War.

Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War, Aberystwyth

She bears a close resemblance to the girls who can be found wrestling with sundry water monsters in Rutelli’s Fountain of the Naiads in the Piazza della Republica, Rome.  When these four figures were installed in 1902 their realism and saucy image created a considerable storm.  Representing the oceans, the rivers, the lakes  and the underground waters each embraced an allegorical animal: horse, snake, swan, and strangely finned fish and they were felt to be doing so with excessive languor and or enthusiasm.The guide books assert than an additional challenge to the public morals of Rome was that the naiads were modelled upon twin sisters, high price Roman prostitutes of the day.  A fence was erected around the fountain to curtail the view from ladies who might be offended, or prevent incursions by lewd young men.

Fontana delle Naiadi, The Naiad of the Oceans –                                                                                    Photo © Benedetto Dell’Ariccia

Compare the faces of the Naiad of the Oceans, the reclining naiaid of underground waters and of Aberystwyth’s Humanity.  I suspect she is one and the same girl.

Naiad of the underground waters Photographed by Massimo Merlini

River naiad by Rutelli, in an abandoned pose

To return, though to the Aberystwyth documents:

On their handbill in November 1921 the War Memorial Committee stated that the estimate for the memorial was £5,000 of which £2,000 had been subscribed so far. The rest was slow in coming in.

The Cambrian News of 1923 shows feverish fundraising activity – for the monument was nearing completion and more than £2600 had still to be raised.  In spring there were a series of Fund-raising teas given by members of the local gentry, – in March Lord Ystwyth’s tea raised £4-14-0d, and a week later John Williams’ tea raised £4-10-0d.  But much more money was needed.

Alderman J Barclay Jenkins had, in his then capacity as mayor of Aberystwyth, cut had the first sod on the castle ground in January 1922, and remained chairman of the Memorial Committee. When the new mayor, Councillor Captain Edward Llewellin took on the post the following November he remarked that  “he was taking on a job” and would have to do his share to clear the deficit, “ for the memorial was there now, and the debt had to be cleared”.

The solution was the Three-day bazaar, held in the College Buildings, the former railway hotel which had become the home of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.  Lord Ystwyth, a founder of the College, presided. Daily it was opened by a different local dignitary, ( from each of whom tradition would have required a substantial donation) and the townswomen strove mightily with stalls devoted to cakes, needlework, handicrafts, knitting, flowers, and games including Finger Football. By close of business on Friday 14th September, the bazaar had raised £2,300, and with a small shortfall the unveiling took place the same day with a printed programme to mark the event. Hymns were sung in both Welsh and English.

The Cambrian News reported the facts and figures the following Friday.  One hundred and eleven names from the Borough appear on the plaques. Lord Ystwyth, “aged though sprightly, slowly mounted the steps to pay tribute to our glorious dead”.  The Cambrian News, though thorough in its reporting, expresses no opinion on the monument itself, confining itself to a series of facts and figures: the total cost of the monument had been over £7000, the 65 foot column was of stone from Ystrad Meurig Quarry, the palm leaves on its shaft each 13 foot long.  The figure of Ball and Victory was 15 foot tall, and the figure at the base 14 foot high.  No adjectives at all encompass the description.

The Italian sculptor Rutelli did not attend.  I wonder whether Humanity was actually a refugee from a pre-war ornamental commission, possibly one as a naiad?   If so, her creator may not have wished to be present to fully justify her re-assignment to so much less frivolous a purpose.







Share Button

Aberystwyth’s raunchy war memorial

by The Curious Scribbler

There is a very chilly naked woman emerging from a thicket on the sea front at Aberystwyth.   She faces the sea, in the teeth of every westerly gale, on the margin of the ground once occupied by the Norman castle.  She is, to say the least, a well built girl, larger than life and fashioned in bronze.  No wispy maiden she, but a flesh and blood woman with strong thighs, pert, full breasts, large capable hands and a purposeful expression.


The bronze figure at the base of Aberystwyth war memorial


As the authors of the recent Pevsner sedately remark, “ Unexpectedly sensual for a Non-conformist country”.

For this huge empowered woman is the lower ornament on the Aberystwyth War Memorial, erected to commemorate the dead of the First World War.  Rising from her octagonal plinth is a  tapered shaft of stone, and on top of it a pretty, rather fey angel with billowing dress and an elegant pair of wings.  She appears to be about to lob a wreath of laurel, hoop-la style, onto the head of her companion below.


The Winged Victory atop the column throws a wreath of laurel


The memorial is the work of an Italian sculptor, Mario Rutelli, and was erected fairly long after the close of war, in 1923.  The angel above is, apparently, the Winged Victory, whilst the powerful nude represents Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War.  The bronze thicket from which she strains to escape is thought by some to be seaweed, by others to be rifles transmuted back into bushes.

Later tablets on the plinth commemorate the Aberystwyth dead of the Second World War, and the monument is the final destination of the Poppy day parade.


The memorial stands in the full blast of the westerlies off Cardigan Bay


The memorial stands in the full blast of the westerlies off Cardigan Bay

The winter sun goes down over Cardigan Bay

The winter sun goes down over Cardigan Bay

This western extremity of the headland north of the harbour is a place of great beauty, commanding views along the coast southward to the sharply truncated cliff of Alltwen.   Framed by woodland a little inland from the sea squats a grey stone mansion, recently released by its new owner from a dense surrounding of self-seeded sycamore and ash.  This was the home of Matthew Lewis Vaughan Davies, later Lord Ystwyth, Liberal MP for Aberystwyth from 1895 to 1921.  Lord Ystwyth was a bit of a philanderer in his life and died at the great age of 94.   Posthumously, historians have judged him harshly.  However he was undoubtedly a mover and shaker in his time, founder among other organisations, of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, and in 1923 he was made Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Aberystwyth.  It appears that it was his influence which provided his home town with what is surely the least sombre war memorial in the land.

War memorial sculpture by Mario Rutelli

A handsome girl, Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War, Aberystwyth

Share Button