Martin Jennings' acclaimed statue of John Betjeman is a thing of beauty. Paul Day's 9 meter high "Meeting Place" has been described less kindly. In the fourth photograph of Betjeman, The Meeting Place can be seen under the clock. The quotes are from the Guardian and the Evening Standard.
John Betjeman, who helped to save St Pancras station from demolition in the 1960s, has been honoured with a seven-foot high bronze statue on the main concourse of the new station next to the arrival point of the Eurostar. The statue, created by Martin Jennings and commissioned by London and Continental Railways, owes its existence to the daughter of the late poet laureate and the keeper of her father's flame, Candida Lycett Green. The statue of the much loved "people's poet" to be unveiled by Lycett Green and the poet laureate, Andrew Motion, on November 12th will be seen by 50 million people a year.
The larger than life-size statue of Betjeman depicts him walking into the new station for the first time. He is looking up at the great arc of the train shed - which he always did because it took his breath away. He is leaning back and holding onto his hat, his coat tails billowing out behind him, caught by the wind from a passing train. He is carrying a Billingsgate fish basket containing books. There was some discussion about having Archie, Betjeman's beloved teddy bear, in the fish basket but it was felt that no one would know who he was.
Betjeman's son-in-law, Rupert Lycett Green, advised on all the "tailoring quirks" and Jennings has skilfully captured Betjeman's shabby appearance. His shoelace and scruffy collar are undone. He has knotted string for one shoelace. His right trouser leg is lower at the back.
The statue is standing on a disc of Cumbrian slate inscribed with Betjeman's name and dates and the words "Who saved this glorious station". Round the rim, Jennings has chosen words from the poem Cornish Cliffs: "And in the shadowless unclouded glare / Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where / A misty sea-line meets the wash of air." The lines aptly describe the arching roof of St Pancras station. Surrounding the statue and base is a series of satellite discs of various sizes set into the floor and hand-inscribed by Jennings with quotations from Betjeman's poetry.
The 30ft statue of a couple in a loving clinch by artist Paul Day forms the centrepiece of the newly refurbished £800 million station.
The work, The Meeting Place, cost about £1 million and stands directly beneath the station clock at the southern end of the new Eurostar terminus. It aims to reflect the romantic nature of train travel, and may remind travellers of a scene from Brief Encounter.
The work is modelled on the sculptor and his half-French wife Catherine, 38, and was originally to be of the couple kissing. But London and Continental Railways, which commissioned it, thought the pose too risqué so the statue shows the lovers touching foreheads as they clasp.
It is a poignant meeting of a chic French woman reunited with her English lover and aims to symbolise the meeting of two cultures as it sits beneath the imposing iron archways constructed by engineer William Barlow in 1868, and the station clock. Guardian, Evening Standard