Boer War Page 92e
Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
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Below are some key items the Canadian Boer War Museum has added to its collections in its ongoing efforts to preserve important Canadian heritage memorabilia from this period.

Great Boer War Discoveries ( Aug. 2005)


British Imperial Parian Power - 1885-1914 - Parian 4

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Queen Victoria 1887
Orig. parian bust - Size - 12.5"
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed & Dated, Turner & Wood
Queen Victoria was the symbolic figure in whose name and honour the corporate, business, and military elites of Britain launched their invading armies to capture and secure economic and political advantages in every corner of the globe. In her name, the armies that subdued the Arabs in the Sudan were now aimed at the Boers in South Africa.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, General Gordon 1885
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.25"
Found - New York, NY
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
Setting the tone for British Victorian glory was General Gordon who died heroically defending British honour at Khartoum in spite of an expedition to rescue him from the fury of "brownish extremist Fuzzy Wuzzies" who seemed to hold the view that white men had no business traveling so far from home to make war on their people.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Joseph Chamberlain 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.25"
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
The Jack Straw and Dick Cheney Haliburton man of his generation whose family's interests in ammunitions factories had the right man in the right place at the right time. He organized the domestic front so that the armies would be sent to fight the enemy of the hour, as selected by the business community he represented.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Cecil Rhodes 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.25"
Found - Vancouver, BC
Signed R&L
The businessman on the ground in Africa who kept the kettle boiling, and promoted British economic and territorial interests, wherever and whenever he could - come hell or high water, or Boers... He wanted a solid block of British Imperial red from Cape to Cairo. "If only we could find a way to foment a war against the Boers, Dr. Jameson..."
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, General Buller VC 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.25"
Found - Clinton, NY
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
A humanitarian officer - he had won his VC for saving three comrades, three separate times from certain death - who loyally tried to do his best for Queen and Empire and rose to be the general charged by his political masters with taking two republics from the Boers by force, a task of blood-letting he did not relish and pursued with only half-hearted dedication.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, General White VC 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.25"
Found - Sydney, AUS
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
A general who ignored Buller's warning and so got snookered by the Boers, being locked up for months, helplessly in Ladysmith with 10,000 men, so that Buller, at a fearful cost in British lives, had to relieve him. What should have been White's humiliation was turned into a victory by the British press and the army brass who preferred to blame Buller for his tardiness in saving White.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Lord Roberts VC 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.25"
Found - Columbus, OH
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
Lord Roberts was picked to replace Buller and turned the war around by putting every man he could find on a horse, and giving General French his head. Roberts' fabled "March to Pretoria" was essentially French's cavalry chasing and bringing the Boers to bay, then letting the infantrymen catch up and, with their huge numbers overrun their positions.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Gen. Macdonald 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 9.5"
Found - Burlington, ON
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
A major corps commander, and keystone of Scots loyalty to Queen and Empire, was "Fighting Mac" the head of the Highland Brigade who had famously saved the British Army from annihilation at Omdurman in the Sudan in 1898. His urgent counsel to Lord Roberts gave the British the first major victory of the war at Paardeberg in Feb. 1900.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, General French 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8"
Found - Rosemere PQ
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
A British cavalry commander who was made famous by the Boers! The Boers were all mounted and ran away from the helpless and hopeless infantry, with which Buller and the British had sought to prosecute the war, leading from one reverse to another. French's horsemen offered the only hope of ever catching up to the highly mobile Boers who preferred to avoid losing battles.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Col. Baden-Powell 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.5"
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
Col. Baden-Powell was, like White, also trapped in a far distant little town, by the surrounding Boers. His little force held out for several miraculous months in spite of persistent Boer attacks, until he was successfully relieved, so winning undying fame. He became a symbol of British pluck throughout the Empire.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Earthenware bust, Edward VII 1902
Orig. earthenware bust - Size - 8"
Found - Omaha, NB
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
But the image of the British crown was soon badly tarnished. After a few months of British successes the Boers gave up on fighting confrontational battles, which the British preferred, and resorted to guerilla warfare. In order to win, Edward's armies carried out ruthless tactics against Boer civilians.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Lord Kitchener 1914
Orig. parian bust - Size - 6.75"
Found - Ottawa, ON
Signed & Dated, GS Chadwick, Sept 11 1914
Lord Kitchener prosecuted the ruthless war resulting in more Boer civilian deaths, as fighting men of all sides. His tactics turned what had started as the Last Gentleman's War into the first Total War of the 20th century. He was probably the first British general to openly target civilian populations as a military objective.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, King Edward VII 1902
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.25"
Found - Rugby, UK
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
The end of the war (1902) saw England's prestige in tatters in all the capitals of the world. To his great credit, Edward, in the few years left to him, used his considerable charm, and network of royal relatives in all the capitals of Europe, to restore respect for Britain before he died in 1910.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Queen Alexandra 1902
Orig. parian bust - Size - 6.25"
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L, The John Russell Estate
Queen Alexandra had spent her life - since coming from Denmark in the 1860s to marry Edward, Prince of Wales - to promote good will for the Royal Family. She grew in popularity, the more the Prince's amoral lifestyle kept tongues wagging. She was revered as Queen, and gained more sympathy when her oldest son died of enteric fever during the war in South Africa and was buried there.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, King Edward VII 1897
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.25"
Found - Vancouver, BC
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
Alexandra's second son, Prince George, succeeded his brother as Duke of York, in 1900, then became Prince of Wales in 1902, and King George V in 1911; he started his reign with a relatively clean slate. He would lead Britain into a war (World War I) so totally abysmal and destructive that no one ever spoke of the Boer War again.

Robinson & Leadbeater - WC Lawton

With two exceptions, all the parian busts featured here were made by R&L - Robinson & Leadbeater, whose logo is inscribed on the backs. R&L, most famous for its parian ware, was in business at Stoke, in Staffordshire, England, from 1864-1924, and took advantage when the Boer War came along, and busts of generals became hot items.

These busts are also signed"By WC Lawton, SCULPT, Copyright..." and the date, like on Baden-Powell's back, far left, which was Jan. 16, 1900, though this varied with each bust.

All the busts were created by pouring a slip - a watery paste of white clay - into a mold, sloshing it around a bit, then pouring off the excess. The slip which stuck to the mold became the bust.

Though the busts look frighteningly unstable, with their top-heavy appearance, they are in fact amazingly resistant to tipping over.

A separate plinth of parian - now rare to find - was also available, as shown under General French, to give more height and majesty to the figure. Unfortunately this made the bust extremely tipsy and many fell off and were broken. (To prevent that you must secure them together with a bolt, which is fraught with more danger when tightening metal on fragile parian.)

Homemade plinths were also made, like the wooden stand made to elevate General Macdonald above. This heavy base made the bust impossible to tip over accidentally. (In fact the Macdonald has a long hairline crack in the base, probably from a knock-over. To forestall further damage the base was probably built. It is now the most stable of all the parians shown here.)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Lord Roberts VC 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 8.25"
Found - Repentigny, PQ -
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L

Above is the base of a typical R&L parian.

Some parians were painted by those with an artistic bent who did not like the all-white look, and thought colour would make them more appealing. Left is a copy of the Lord Roberts bust shown above which was painted by a Victorian Canadian. Right is a painted base to simulate wood on a General French bust.

Parian busts of these generals were made in various sizes - usually smaller than the standard large 8" size featured here - by other manufacturers. The General French, right, is only 6.5" tall. The generals made by Goss, in crested china ware, were only 5" high.

King and Queen parians were made in 12 and 14" sizes but we have never seen Boer War generals that large. Though the General Colin Campbell, from the Crimean War, left, from the Elizabeth Collard Estate, was a magnificent 12" high.

We have seen a genuine marble of Lord Roberts in a museum that was some 24" high, but this is an absolute rarity.

Many of the smaller parians were made without being signed; these are not as sought after by collectors who prefer the signed and dated figures.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, General French 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 6.5"
Found - Ilford, UK -
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L

Parian Marble

Parian marble was unglazed bisque statuary - a white clay mixture that was only fired once to harden it. It was not glazed - coated with a covering layer or colour - to preserve the white, finely porous, silky smooth feeling of the surface that resulted. It was an inexpensive way to make busts and figures that had the look of real marble from the Island of Paros (parian) that was used to make expensive statues found in libraries, and public buildings.

But in fact, parian ware could show much finer detail than real marble. Witness the mustache of Lord Roberts.

Because parian was not glazed, the open pores attracted dirt. To prevent this glass domes were produced to protect the figure when used in the better quality homes (right). These are extremely rare to find nowadays. This one was once in the private collection of John Russell CM, probably Canada's foremost dealer in Canadian antiques in the second half of the 20th century.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Glass-domed parian bust, Queen Alexandra 1902
Orig. parian bust - Size - 6.25" dome oa 9.5"
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L, The John Russell Estate

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