Victoria Embankment Gardens – W.E Forster

Along with a visit to the annual exhibition at Two Temple Place, I took advantage of a break in the clouds to have a look around this section of Victoria Embankment Gardens. The gardens were designed by Alexander McKenzie and built between 1870 and 1875 at the same time that the trunk sewer, underground railway and Thames-side road was designed by Bazalgette.

The first statue I discovered, East of the National Liberal Club was of William Edward Forster PC, FRS who was an English industrialist, philanthropist and Liberal Party statesman. It is a bronze, made by Henry Richard Hope-Pinker.

William Edward Forster
William Edward Forster

Forster was best Known for his Elementary Education Act of 1870 which provided the framework for the state education system that we still have in place today. Forster was one of those Victorian giants who began his career in the woolen industry working twelve hours a day while studying Greek, mathematics, and political history at night. After founding a company in the textile trade, he devoted himself to liberal causes, early entering Parliament under Gladstone and remaining there for the rest of his life, almost always winning his seat by landslide votes. As a young man he had accompanied his Quaker father to Ireland where they distributed famine relief at a time when many in the British government denied any major problem existed. After election to Parliament, he quickly became a major force in opposing recognition of the Confederacy during the American civil war, advocating extension of the right to vote resulting in the Reform Bill of 1867, and fair treatment of Ireland and the Irish poor. Following his appointment under Gladstone as Chief Secretary for Ireland and subsequntly chairing the Manchester Ship Canal committee, Forster died in 1886 from over exertion!


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