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Adrian Jones, veterinary surgeon, sculptor – and Hyde Park, London

2014 August 31
Adrian Jones' Cavalry Memorial Hyde Park

Adrian Jones’ Cavalry Memorial Hyde Park

I have just been finalising the walk I am leading for participants at the World Veterinary History conference next month at London’s Imperial College (after I have delivered a keynote presentation on the changing animal-human relationship during the Second World War and the role of veterinary surgeons in this process.) The walk will take place in Hyde Park but instead of including the pet cemetery or horse stables as I have visited on earlier occasions (I am assuming that vets know what horses look like!) I want to visit the Cavalry Memorial sculpted by Adrian Jones. He was a sculptor of animals, particularly horses and is probably best known for the Quadriga on top of the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner. However, his first profession was veterinary surgeon and he studied at the Royal Veterinary College in London before serving in the army as a veterinary officer. Vets – or Londoners with ailing animals  seeking specialist attention – will have seen his monumental bronze Duncan’s Horses at the Royal Veterinary College at Potters Bar.

Close up of the Carabiniers memorial by Adrian Jones on the Chelsea Embankment

Close up of the Carabiniers memorial by Adrian Jones on the Chelsea Embankment

His memorial on the Chelsea Embankment is dedicated to the officers, non – commissioned officers and ranks of the sixth dragoon guards during the South African wars. The images are of horses carrying officers. In this class – defined memorial significantly ‘men’ as opposed to ‘officers’ are recalled. Although the role of horses is clearly captured on the frieze implicitly, by the absence of words, their value is even lower than that of soldiers serving in the ranks.

The Cavalry Memorial of 1924 in Hyde Park was not without controversy because of its siting (originally by Stanhope Gate). As Sir Lionel Earle, permanent secretary at the Office of Works wrote, ‘I have been inundated with requests from various regiments for sites for memorials in the parks …In my opinion the Parks should be kept free of statues except those of the highest artistic merit and beauty and of a sylvan character as statues like Peter Pan or fine fountains or allegorical subjects. I am convinced that the public would not stand sites being alienated from the public parks for war memorials’. He clearly did not succeed in his aims.

Part of the frieze by Rayner Hoff in the war memorial in Hyde Park -  in Sydney

Part of the frieze by Rayner Hoff in the war memorial in Hyde Park – in Sydney

Although Jones’ memorials do depict horses’ role in war we do not see images of dead or dying horses (or dead or dying men for that matter). This is rather different from the frieze found in Sydney’s memorial in its own Hyde Park by Rayner Hoff.

 Jones’  sculpture is only one of the many memorials in Hyde Park that merit attention. Others include the pet cemetery and the nearby Animals in War memorial.

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