Two mystery cats from Worcester Park
An article by Tony Howe, Surrey County Council archaeological officer, in Surrey Archaeological Society’s Bulletin no. 357 seeks information about two heraldic statues acquired about 15 years ago from the Hogsmill Tavern in Worcester Park Road. Both are of big cats, perhaps leopards, sitting upright on their hind legs and each holding a vertical rod, which appears to be the lower end of a flagstaff. The beasts are 1.2 metres tall and made of oolitic limestone. Green stains on their forearms suggest that they may have carried pendants of copper or brass. They have some similarity with the beasts appearing at the tops of the towers in John Speed’s picture of Nonsuch Palace, although Martin Biddle believes that these were made of wood and has confirmed that no trace of any comparable stone animals was found during the 1959 Nonsuch excavation. Yet any stone statues at Nonsuch may well have been removed intact for use elsewhere
If the statues are not from Nonsuch perhaps they have come from another Tudor palace, such as Richmond, Oatlands or even Hampton Court, or are they of more recent date, possibly just Victorian grave monuments? Any information, especially from frequenters of the Hogsmill Tavern 15 years ago, would be welcome by Tony Howe at County Hall in Kingston.
The Secretary has sent the following letter to the Editor of the Surrey Archaeological Society Bulletin:
There is, in Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, a picture of a mansion at Epsom called Durdans, painted by Jacob Scmits in 1689. The mansion was built for George, Lord Berkeley, in the 1680s and the painting was probably intended to show off the new house. it was the time of the demolition of Nonsuch Palace, of which Berkeley was the Keeper, and there is no reason to doubt John Aubrey’s story that a lot of the materials from the palace went into Durdans. The interesting thing about the Scmits painting is that on what appears to be a terrace in front of Durdans, and lining a flight of steps leading up to it, there are eight heraldic beasts. The quality of the reproduction of the painting that I have seen is insufficient to enable one to say to what extent they resemble those shown in the Bulletin, but they could be similar. In 1747 Durdans was acquired by Alderman Belchier. He had Berkeley’s house pulled down but the new one he had built burned down in 1755 and was rebuilt in 1764. The present Durdans is basically the 1764 building. This is probably a complete red herring, but hopefully not without interest.