THE mystery surrounding two derelict statues left ‘abandoned’ outside Cowley Library for decades has been solved.
Dr Malcolm Graham and Pauline Connacher have revealed the figure depicts former Oxford MP Sir Thomas Rowney Junior and the animal comes from the former White Hart pub in Cornmarket Street.
The Oxford Mail last week reported how staff at Oxfordshire County Council were mystified by the figures, which were buried under foliage.
Carl Boardman, the council’s history services manager, said he was “delighted” the real story had emerged.
Dr Graham, of Montagu Road, is a former head of Oxfordshire Studies and was in a team which conducted a survey of the statues in 1974.
Mrs Connacher, from Headington, worked at Temple Cowley swimming pool until she retired in the 1970s and remembers the survey from her time there.
Sir Thomas, who died in 1759, helped to pay for the old Town Hall in 1751 and an area was provided for his statue on the street front. The figure, created by Thomas Grimsley, was placed there in 1844 and removed when the old Town Hall was demolished in 1893.
At some stage – possibly during the Second World War – it was taken to Cowley Library with other relics intended for the long-awaited City Museum.
Sir Thomas’s statue is not headless as first thought – the head was under the vegetation.
The animal figure is from the old White Hart pub, a 17th century building at 21 Cornmarket Street which was demolished in 1900 for Buol’s Swiss Restaurant.
The statue was displayed above the first floor window of Buol’s and was kept when the building was demolished in the early 1960s for the M&S store in Cornmarket.
Like Sir Thomas, it then ended up at Cowley Library.
Mr Boardman said: “We’re delighted with the information and extend our thanks to Dr Graham and Mrs Connacher. We have blended information we received from both of them and feel pretty confident we now know the history behind these statues.
“I must have seen the White Hart statue in Cornmarket so many times but I never made the connection.”
Mr Boardman said: “There are lots of people that have knowledge about Oxfordshire’s past that we simply don’t have access to.
“We are always delighted to hear all the interesting stories people have to tell.”
The statues are now on show outside the county’s record office at St Luke’s Church in Temple Road, Cowley.