1 Queen Square - Africa
2 Corn Street
3 Queen Square - Asia
4 Corn Street
5 Corn Street
6 Corn Street
7 The Exchange - Corn Street
8 Corn Street
9 The Exchange - Corn Street
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A selection of the most distinctive statues on buildings in Corn Street and Queen Square in the historic centre of Bristol.
53 & 55 Corn Street were originally the West of England and South Wales Bank built by Bristol architects Bruce Gingell (1819–1899) and T.R. Lysaght in 1854. Gingell was one of the most progressive Bristol architects of the latter part of the nineteenth century. Gingell is said to have used St Mark’s library in Venice as a starting point for this building. Spend a few moments viewing the sumptuous friezes by John Thomas (1813–1862). On the ground floor the crests of Newport, Bath, Bristol, Exeter, and Cardiff are shown – the main towns from where the bank operated. On the first floor the ‘elements and sources of wealth’ are symbolised by life-size figures. They include: justice and integrity; education and charity; peace and plenty; art and science; commerce, navigation and commerce. And above this chubby cherubs depict the activities of the bank: receiving, paying, storing, coining money, engraving and printing, and trading with Africa and America. The adornment was intended to emphasize the wealth, and therefore financial stability, of the bank. It didn’t stop the bank going bust, however, twenty years later in 1878.
The Exchange was built in 1741–43 by John Wood the Elder, with carvings by Thomas Paty. It is the only surviving 18th-century exchange building in England.
The front of the building has Corinthian columns in the centre and pilasters to the sides.. A frieze with human and animal heads symbolises trade, and a Royal Coat of Arms is displayed in the tympanum. It was intended for merchants of all types, and a number directly involved in the Guinea and West Indian slave trade used it for business transactions. Inside the Corn Exchange the plasterwork in the main hall represents the four corners of the world, including Africa and America, the latter wearing a headdress of tobacco leaves. On the outside of the building are carvings of African, American, Asian and European figures and animals, again symbols of Bristol's foreign trade including the Bristol slave trade. There is evidence of the wealth brought by the slave trade and also several significant links to the abolitionists. Bristol's Hannah More was an influential member of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the African Slave Trade.
Queen Square is a garden square 5.9 acres in the centre of Bristol. It was originally a fashionable residential address. The Square was planned in 1699 and building finished in 1727 as a fashionable residential district. Its houses were among the first wave of brick (rather than timber-framed) houses in the city It was named in honour of Queen Anne. The north side and much of the west were damaged in the Bristol Riots of 1831 and rebuilt.
Queen Square House, has four free-standing allegorical statues of the Continents. Each is a standing girl in white stone representing the four Continents.
Africa is of the Egyptian type, with headdress at the back and sides in front of the ears, with some protrusion over the forehead which may have been a bird’s head, and combed and stiffened hair falling over her shoulders. Her skirt falls to her ankles, with diagonal folds diagonally from waist across the thigh. Her upper torso is bare, and she wears a triple necklace with a pendant between the breasts. In one hand she carries a palm frond, and in the other, the remains of a tiny sphinx.
Asia is semi-nude, wearing only a thin garment falling from a cowl over her head, and with drapery loosely sweeping across the front at thigh level being held by one hand; it seems she was also carrying something else. We can see the remains of a pendant between her breasts.
Europe is fully dressed in a classical robe over a short-sleeved shirt, the drapery being clasped below the neck, falling behind, and then being gathered round from the side and across the stomach, an elegant sweep. She is crowned, and carries in her hand a globe, as in ‘Europe bestriding the world’.
America is considered semi-civilised, is a little more dressed. She wears a long skirt down to the ground, and her cloak, clasped at the neck, covers her shoulders more demurely and hangs down in graceful folds to the sides; underneath, a strap is tied across her chest. She wears a feather headdress. Her hands are empty now, but bits of bronze indicate she once held something.
The Commercial Rooms are in Corn Street, Bristol. Built in 1810 by Charles Busby, the building has sculpture by JG Bubb. Originally it housed a club for mercantile interests.