The oldest freestanding statue in London is thought to be of King Alfred the Great – the mighty monarch who defeated the Vikings.
It now resides in leafy Trinity Church Square, Southwark.
Most theories date the figure to the late 14th century, where it was one of a group of eight ordered by Richard II for Westminster Hall in 1395 – five of which were rather inconveniently lost by Sir John Soane whilst clearing the front in 1825.
- Michael Wood | “These ‘history wars’ over statues are really about something bigger: about different views of the past, and who controls it”
If, as some scholars claim, Alfred dates only to the 18th century, the crown goes to a round-faced, sweetly-smiling Queen Elizabeth I, erected outside St Dunstan-in-the-West on Fleet Street, which was removed from the City’s old Lud Gate in 1760. With ‘1586’ carved into the base, it is the only remaining statue of the Queen carved in her lifetime.
London does, however, have sculptures dating much further back. At the entrance to Sotheby’s auction house in New Bond Street, the Ancient Egyptian Sekhmet surveys all who enter.
Sold in the 1880s for £40 but never collected, the bust, carved in black basalt and depicting the goddess as a lioness, dates to around 1320 BC.
This article was answered by one of our Q&A experts, Sandra Lawrence.