Stories of ‘silent faces’ captured in book by local historian

Author Stuart Antrobus by his favourite statue outside the Swan Hotel in Bedford.
Author Stuart Antrobus by his favourite statue outside the Swan Hotel in Bedford.
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A former town guide has published a book compiling the history and location of public statues to be found around Bedford.

Stuart Antrobus, a retired history lecturer who lives in Bedford, decided the outstanding works commemorating people from all walks of life deserved to be documented - and discovered by the reader.

His booklet, Bedford Town Centre Statues: A self-guided walk with street map, reveals some colourful stories and hidden truths about the works of art that we pass by every day.

In his work, each of the sculptures is numbered and a town centre street map shows their location, providing the ideal guide to both adults and children who want to explore the history of some of Bedford’s most famous sons.

He reveals how philanthropist John Howard’s towering statue in St Paul’s Square was scuplted by Sir Alfred Gilbert whose other works include the famous Eros in London.

The statue of John Bunyan on St Peter’s Green is actually made from melted-down Chinese cannons, and the war memorial on the Embankment of a crusader figure is really a woman.

Stuart provides historical notes on each statue, details of the sculptor, and pictures include some detailed images.

His favourite is situated outside the Swan Hotel, where you will come across the South African (Boer) War Memorial dating from 1904 by French sculptor Leon J Chavalliaud.

Stuart said: “This is my favourite because I like the statue. It is romantic in the sense that it is presenting a rosy view of a soldier, whereas in reality many of them died from disease or in action. And also it is unusually a French sculptor over here.”

More modern works featured include Verso Domani (Towards Tomorrow) an Italian immigrants group sculpture created in 2009 and found on the Greyfriars roundabout, near the bus station. The semi-abstract group represents young families from Italy striding towards a new life abroad, and was created by Guiseppe Martignetti.

The book is priced £5 and is on sale at Bedford Tourist Information Centre in St Paul’s Square, The Higgins shop, and the John Bunyan Museum shop, with proceeds doing to the Hitchin British Schools Trust.

The book is dedicated to members of Bedford Association of Tour Guides who first devised the ‘Silent Faces’ walk around the town.