Monument to Major Hodson

Monument to Major Hodson (1821-1858). Carved by Thomas Earp (1824-81) to the designs of George Edmund Street (1824-1881), c.1860. This unusual memorial of black marble, and white and coloured stone, commemorates the army officer son of Archdeacon Hodson, whose own memorial is opposite his in the south aisle of Lichfield Cathedral. One of the "extraordinary collection of commanders" that the Indian Mutiny threw up (Featherstone 12), the younger Hodson was popularly known as "Hodson of Hodson's Horse" (Scaife 9), and only outlived his father by a few years, since he died at the siege of Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny.

Left: The surrender of the King of Delhi. Right: Allegorical representation of Temperance, with a bird and a jug. The Biblical figure of the warrior Joshua stands at the right.

Notable among Major Hodson's exploits was the capture of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor, in Delhi. The elderly ruler had gone to the tomb of Humayun, the first important Mughal monument in India, and Hodson took him prisoner there. An Indian account explains how events unfolded: Hodson went back later for the princes, and, having seized them too, "a few miles before the walls of Delhi, Hodson ordered the three princes to get out of the cart and stripped them naked. He then shot them in cold blood. He pocketed whatever jewels they had and left the bodies.... What followed was a general massacre of the populance of Delhi" (Mukherjee and Kapoor 71). The Illustrated London News, of course, justified Hodson's summary dispatch of the princes by saying: "The Royal scoundrels were known to have taken throughout the most active share in the rebellion" (qtd. in Featherstone 121). Still, it seems that the gentle figure of Temperance with a little bird is quite out of place here.

Monument to Major Hodson

At the other side of Joshua is St Thomas, patron saint of India, with Clemency between them. Clemency is shown with a lamb.

Clemency also seems unsuitable in view of Hodson's most controversial action. Clearly "more the barbarian warrior than the Arnoldian ideal of the Victorian gentleman," he has been described on the one hand as "an exceptional soldier, horseman, swordsman, and leader of Indian irregular cavalry," but on the other as "hard, reckless, impatient, and impulsive.... He despised most other officers, including many of his seniors. He was also ruthless, and may have been unscrupulous and dishonest" (Lunt).

Left: Front view of Joshua. Right: David on another corner, with his sling for combatting Goliath. On the other side of him is Fortitude, with his shield in front of him and the traditional lion crouched beside him, perhaps the most apt of the allegorical panels.

The fourth large figure, not shown here, is St George, and the other allegorical panel not fully shown is Justice with her scales. Perhaps justice was duly served when Hodson died of his wounds at Lucknow, but it is hard to judge his behaviour fairly at this distance in time.

Like the memorial to Archdeacon Hodson, this one is also carved in deep relief with many figures. Nikolaus Pevsner describes it as "Showy, restless, with chunky forms heralding today's Brutalism," and as having "[b]usy scenes and allegorical figures." Of the two monuments, this is the one Pevsner specifically labels as "[t]otally unlike the Street one knows" (185). The general feeling of restlessness is partly due to the unusual "diagonal axis" of the compositions here (see Noszlopy 231), but, once the nature of the man commemorated is understood, it seems absolutely suitable — except for the softer allegorical touches.

Photographs, text, and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. Photographs reproduced here by kind permission of the Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral. Click on the images for larger pictures.

Related Material

Sources

Featherstone, Donaldson. Victorian Colonial Warfare: India. London: Cassell, 1992. Print.

Lunt, James (who revised H. R. Luard's entry). "Hodson, William Stephen Raikes (1821-1858." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 22 June 2013.

Mukherjee, Rudrangshu, and Pramod Kapoor. Dateline 1857: Revolt against the Raj..New Delhi: Lustre Press, Roli Books, 2008. Print.

Noszlopy, George T., and Fiona Waterhouse. Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005. Print.

Pevsner, Nikolaus. The Buildings of England: Staffordshire. London: Penguin, 1974. Print.

Scaife, Patricia. The Carvings of Lichfield Cathedral. Much Wenlock, Shropshire: R. J. L. Smith, 2010. Print.


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Last modified 20 June 2013