This memorial stands near the top of Horatio Street, against the backdrop of the Tyne.
The inscription on the front side of the plinth reads:
“William Lisle Blenkinsopp
1841 – 1911
erected by public subscription
in memory of his efforts
to assist the weak and defenceless.
among mankind and in the
Although William Lisle Blenkinsopp Coulson clearly inspired enough admiration for funds to be raised for a memorial, it proved more difficult for the town’s politicians to agree on a suitable location for it. The first suggestion was the junction of Marlborough Crescent and Scotswood Road. Eventually, they built it near the Boer War Memorial at the Haymarket. The area became too congested within a few years, and it was moved further down Percy Street in the 1930s. It ended up near the Sailors’ Bethel on Horation Street in 1950, where it looks a little dislocated these days.
The relationship of the bust to its plinth is rather an odd one. The double-life-sized bust was sculpted by Arnold Frédéric Rechberg, and cast in bronze by the Alexis Rudier foundry. The plinth stands on a block, underneath of which is a layer of red granite from which the two drinking troughs are carved.
The lion head carvings above the troughs either side are in a very different style to the vaguely Rodin-esque style of Rechberg’s portrait of Coulson.
The entry for this monument in Public Sculpture of North East England indicates that the lion heads are more modern additions (possibly from when the memorial was last restored in 1998?). The presence of the lions is even more curious when considering that at least one of the troughs was originally designed to provide drinking water for cattle.
The distinctive and slightly strange style of the lion head reliefs seems rather random, initially. They are, however, references to another Tyne fountain: the Roman one at Corstopitum (just outside the present-day village of Corbridge). The lion sculpture from the fountain once stood in the Roman town’s square, and is now in the museum on site. The lion was originally part of the decoration of a tomb, before being reused as a fountainhead. It was rediscovered in 1907 during the early 20th century excavations of the site.
The Coulson family owned property on and around the line of Hadrian’s Wall. William had restored and extended Blenkinsopp Castle, one of the family’s medieval homes, in 1877 (it was destroyed by fire in the 1950s).
The south-facing side of the memorial is inscribed with a quote by William Lisle Blenkinsopp Coulson that still resonates today:
“WHAT IS REALLY NEEDED IS AN ALLROUND
EDUCATION OF THE HIGHER IMPULSES
TRUE MANLINESS, AND WOMANLINESS
JUSTICE, AND PITY.
TO TRY TO PROMOTE THESE HAS BEEN
MY HUMBLE BUT EARNEST ENDEAVOUR, AND UNTIL
THEY ARE MORE GENUINELY AROUSED,
THE LEGISLATURE IS USELESS,
FOR IT IS THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE THE LAWS”
UNVEILED 27TH MAY 1914,
BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
JOHNSTONE WALLACE, LORD MAYOR.
HERBERT SHAW, SHERIFF.
A.M. OLIVER, TOWN CLERK.