Alfred Beit, Sir Julius Wernher, and four allegorical figures by Paul Raphael Montford. 1910. Location: entrance to the Royal College of Mines, which is now part of Imperial College, Prince Albert Road, London, SW7. Architect: Sir Aston Webb. [Click on these images for larger pictures.]

On the the left half of the monument the figure digging clearly symbolizes mining while the woman next to him would seem to represent prosperity. The corresponding figure on the other side rather oddly wears armor that makes him (or her?) appear a mix of Europe and the Middle-East, as does the curved or saracen sword. The man who accompanies him seems a primitive clothed in animal skins. Do these figures therefore comemorate Beit, Wernher, and Rhodes' combination of imperialism and European mining interests, which resulted in South Africa, the Boer War, and near-slave labor of the Kimberly and other mines?

Left: Sir Julius Charles Wernher, 1st Baronet (1850-1912) Right: Alfred Beit (1853–1906).

Both men whose portraits grace the entrance of the school of mines were born in Germany and moved to England, Wernher when he was 21 and just beginning in business and Beit when he was 35 and already established as a diamond merchant, ally of cecil Rhodes, and mine owner. According to Wikipedia,

A diamond dealer named Jules Porgès of London and Paris . . sent Wernher in 1873 as his agent to the diamond mines of Kimberley, South Africa to buy and export diamonds. Wernher bought up mining interests and by 1875 was a member of the Kimberley mining board. In that same year, Porgès and Alfred Beit joined him in Kimberley, and Porgès formed the Compagnie Française des Mines de Diamants du Cap. Porgès returned to London after having made Wernher and Beit partners in the firm of Jules Porgès & Co. By 1884 Wernher returned to London and traded in diamond shares, while Beit remained in Kimberley to look after their interests. On Porgès' retirement in 1889, the firm was restructured and named Wernher, Beit & Co. . . . Beit became life-governor of De Beers and also a director of numerous other companies such as Rand Mines, Rhodesia Railways and the Beira Railway Company. In 1888 Beit moved to London whence he felt he was better able to manage his financial empire and support Rhodes in his Southern African ambitions.

Both men left bequests to the School of Mines, which commerated their genrosity with these monuments at the institution's entrance.

Related Material

Photographs and research by Robert Freidus. Formatting, perspective correction, and commentary by George P. Landow. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]

Bibliography

Byron, Arthur. London Statues. London: Constable, 1981.

Jones, Edward, and Christopher Woodward. A Guide to the Architecture of London. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1992.


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Last modified 31 August 2011