The ghosts of Fleet Street past : Three Printers by Wilfred Dudeney

Another statue.  From a distance, given its location, it looks a little like the Tomb of the Unknown Yuppie, but it’s really something quite different.

"Three printers" by Wilfred Dudeney

This is situated in a garden where I sometimes eat my lunch – the Goldsmiths’ Company garden.  It was originally commissioned by the Westminster Press and stood just off Fleet Street.  When the area was redeveloped it was removed and ended up in a scrapyard in Watford.  It was rescued by the writer Christopher Wilson, who persuaded the Goldsmiths’ Company – who owned the land on which it had stood – to relocate it to their garden.
The name is misleading, as only the figure on the left, as you look it, is a printer.  He is a compositor, and his “stick” spells out the name of the sculptor (“stick”  being the technical printer’s term for the, er stick that held the type that he was about to set up).  (My grandfather and his father before him – on the more literate side of the family – worked as comps incidentally, and both, no doubt as a result,  were dab hands at Scrabble).  The slightly simian figure on the right is a newsboy and the one in the middle is variously described as an editor or a proprietor.
The compositor has, of course, been rendered obsolete by the march of progress, and so too – since the Evening Standard became a free-sheet – has the newsboy.  I wonder how long it will be before the editor joins them?       
I haven’t been able to discover a great deal about Wilfred Dudeney, apart from the fact that he was born in Leicester and was the son of a journalist.  His other famous work is Boy Riding a Ram, which is to be seen in Derby. 
(Every time I insert spaces between the paragraphs in this post, some unseen hand removes them again.  Perhaps some ghostly comp taking his revenge?)
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7 thoughts on “The ghosts of Fleet Street past : Three Printers by Wilfred Dudeney

  1. I quite agree. It would have been a shame if it had ended up in a skip. Though I suppose it would have made an interesting talking point in someone’s back garden.

  2. I really like this statue – do you know when it was made? It looks like the sort of sculpture one would want to touch.

    Vis a vis printers, have you ever read Terry Pratchett’s ‘The Truth’? A printing press and newspaper (run by dwarves, administered by former criminal William de Worde) has been set up in the city of Ankh-Morpork and at one point the dwarves manage to communicate with de Worde by writing a message in moveable type which de Worde can read back to front but his attacker cannot. He is saved.
    …. You either like Pratchett or you don’t!

  3. Glad you like it. I think it was made in 1957.

    No, I’m afraid I’ve never read anything by TP. I always get him mixed up with Douglas Adams- though I’ve never read anything by him either. Sounds intriguing though.

  4. I saw about this sculpture in a magazine. It particularly interested me because my late dad had worked for Westminster Press (as an advertising space rep) from 1920-ish until he retired in the 1970s.

    Next time I am in London I shall make a point of finding it and looking at the various details you described.

    Westminster Press was in Fleet Street when I remember meeting my Dad as a child, and later when my children were small in the 1960s when we watched from the windows of the offices as the Lord Mayors Show took place!

    I worked at Hulton Press for a while in the 1950s…at 161 Fleet Street.

  5. Hello Jan

    It’s certainly worth a look – the garden’s about halfway between St Paul’s and Guildhall, so not too far away from its original home. I worked in the Temple for a while in the late seventies, so I have some memories of Fleet Street as it was. Very different now, of course – banks everywhere.

    The Hulton Press sounds fascinating – Picture Post, Liliput and so on?

  6. Wilfred Dudeney was my Principle at Isleworth Polytechnic in 1964/5. He was also responsible for throwing me out of the college for a misdemeanour which I did not commit. It is interesting to ponder whether I would have become a member of the band Queen, as I lost touch with my fellow student Freddie Bulsara (Mercury) because of Dudeney’s malicious actions. Yes, it is a true story.

    He was a very good sculptor, I must admit.

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