‘Fighting Charlie’ and ‘St. Nic’s’ – Durham Market Place

By: shortfinals

Mar 13 2011

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Category: British Isles, England, Great Britain, London, military

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Focal Length:26mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D40

From Ancient Greece to Rome to Central Europe in the Middle Ages, if a ruler wanted to impress the population, or the state wished to honour a victorious general, they would sometimes erect an equestrian statue. The most prestigious (or ego-maniacal) received the tribute of a statue that was larger than life-size, or one in bronze, or sometimes both. The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (dating from 176 AD) on the Capitoline Hill in Rome is perhaps the earliest surviving example cast in bronze; outside the Palace of Westminster, London, there is a fine mounted bronze statue of Richard I by Carlo Marochetti which typifies the classic ‘sword in hand’ pose.

The equestrian statue (by the Italian sculptor, Raffaelo Monti) shown above is of ‘Fighting Charlie’, Charles William Vane Stewart, 3rd Marquis of Londonderry, Earl Vane and Baron Stewart (1778-1854). He was Lord Lieutenant of the County of Durham and General in the British Army – indeed, he was one of the Duke of Wellington’s favourite generals, and fought throughout the Peninsular War in Portugal and Spain (1807-1812). ‘Fighting Charlie’ made a very advantageous second marriage (Lady Catherine Bligh, his first wife died after an operation) to Lady Frances Anne Vane-Tempest who was fabulously wealthy. The Marquis of Londonderry bought a landed estate, Seaham Hall, in County Durham ,which had enormous coal reserves close to the surface. In order to move the coal by sea, to London and other markets, he caused Seaham Harbour to be built.

Behind the statue you can see the spire of St. Nicholas Church, sometimes known as ‘St. Nic’s’ or ‘the church in the marketplace’. This Church of England house of worship states that it is in ‘the evangelical tradition’. Due to the fact that the city has a large student population (Durham University is in the top five UK learning institutions) and because the church hosts a community coffee lounge five days a week, St. Nic’s is a lively place. There has been a church on this site since the time of Bishop Flambard (1099 – 1128), and in the Middle Ages, the various religious guilds of Durham (persons who banded together in order to afford to have special masses said) played an important part in the life of St Nicholas church. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the trade associations (or guilds) adopted St. Nic’s, and the Mercers’ Guild and the Cordwainer’s Guild (a cordwainer made fine shoes and boots) had their own pews in the church. By the 19th century the church had fallen in a ruinous state, and in 1858 it had to be completely taken down and rebuilt into the neo-Gothic edifice you can see today.

One last point about ‘Fighting Charlie’; as you can see, he is depicted as a cavalryman. Indeed, he commanded regiments of both dragoons and hussars during his career. By a strange co-incidence, his great grandson took part in the last major cavalry charge made by the British Army. This was at the Battle of Omdurman (2nd September 1898), where forces commanded by General Sir Herbert Kitchener defeated a Sudanese army. Taking part in the charge of the 21st Lancers that day was one 2nd Lieutenant Winston Spencer Churchill, the great grandson of the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry, and the future Prime Minister!

Durham Market Place is a lively and delightful centre to a fine city. Whenever I travel to see the part of my family which lives in County Durham, I make sure to spend some time just soaking up the atmosphere here.

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