A hotel in Holborn also contains a most unexpected statue — of John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Unsurprisingly, the hotel is a new occupant of an older building — the headquarters of the Baptist Society. Baptist Christ House was the first building to be constructed on the newly widened Southampton Row, between 1901 and 1903.
It was designed by Arthur Keen, a pupil of Norman Shaw, for the Baptist Union in what was known as Edwardian Free Baroque style, but Keen produced an inventive design which combined both late 17th century and Arts and Crafts idioms.
As part of the design, on one corner it was decided to include the statue of a religious figure, and that of John Bunyan was chosen.
It was never published during his lifetime, but he is most famous for the allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress. The story was written when Bunyan was sentenced to twelve-year imprisonment for holding inappropriate religious views and preaching without permit.
He died in 1688 and is buried in Bunhill Fields.
He never lived to see the story published, but it is is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print. It has also been cited as the first novel written in English.
Back to the statue. This was carved in 1901 by the sculptor, Richard Garbe out of Portland stone, in his own personal niche and holding a book, maybe a Bible.
The building was for a number of years empty and derelict, and indeed the roof had collapsed in some places. It was given planning permission to be converted in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2013 that works finally started.
A worry that the statue would be removed was incorrect, and just as travellers arrive to stay at the hotel, the statue of a man who wrote about another traveller still stands there.