Plumbers’ Apprentice statue missing!
Ha, that got your attention didn’t it!
No, it’s not the one at Cannon Street Station, it’s the original one.
Did you even know there was an original one?
The “original” Plumbers’ Apprentice Statue
Firstly, can I say a big thank you to David Creasey, a former plumber and retired consulting engineer, who undertook his plumbing apprenticeship in London and who emigrated to Australia 60 years ago. He follows our website and sent us this fascinating item.
David says he last saw this “original” lead cast plumbers’ apprentice statue in 1956 when it was then nearly 200 years old. It was in the workshop of the sanitary manufacturing and engineering firm Dent & Hellyer, then in Ormond Close, Holborn, where he was serving his apprenticeship. In his words “I can recall it being repaired by Bill Cox an aged but very skilled lead burning tradesman, deftly manipulating a micro sized oxy torch and repairing the onslaught of time.”
The statue is believed to have been cast for Lancelot Burton in 1796, a predecessor of Mr Stevens Hellyer, a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, in the workshops of L. Burton, as Dent & Hellyer was originally called when it started business in 1730. The company was first based in Newcastle Street off The Strand, but the street was removed and its buildings, including a number of theatres, were demolished in 1903 during the redevelopment of the Aldwych area. The statue stood in the company shop verandah.
After that, the next recorded sighting of the statue is in 1906 when the Worshipful Company of Plumbers laid on a performance of George Peale’s pageant “The Masque of Lovely London” in the Old Charterhouse Hall. The apprentice in the pageant was dressed like the statue, which was moved to the Hall for the performance. George Peale, sometimes spelt Peele, was an Elizabethan poet and playwright and a contemporary of William Shakespeare, who has himself a fascinating history; he is claimed by some to be the real author of some of Shakespeare’s works! The pageant “The Masque of Lovely London” had laid dormant since its first performance to the Lord Mayor in 1585.
The statue is also mentioned in the book “English Leadwork its Art and History” by Lawrence Weaver first published in 1909.
So where is this Plumbers’ Apprentice statue now? Has it survived? Is there an historical sleuth who would like to take on the challenge and try to find out what has happened to it? Please contact the webmaster if you do.