Each evening as the 82 bus trundles north up Finchley Road and navigates the lights at Henly’s Corner I find myself cheered by the thought of just a few more stops before I’m off for the short walk home. Henly’s Corner can be a nightmare for the traffic if things go wrong but most nights, it’s a fairly seamless crossing to deliver passengers to the bus stop on the other side so my optimism is usually well-placed.
As you reach the other side of the North Circular and start up Regents Park Road, there’s a big green ‘space’ to the left. It seems an odd place to position a patch of nature, right next to the heaving flow of traffic. Even odder is the statue – a naked woman raising her arms to the sky, her sword in one uplifted hand. As the bus merges back into the traffic from the stop, her brazen profile stands stark against the urban ‘wallpaper’ behind her. A silent silhouette, triumphant and still, while I sit, usually oblivious, immersed in my post-workday literary feast.
Image source: Wikipedia
But a few weeks ago, too tired to read, I spent the entire journey from West Hampstead gazing out of the window and as I saw her, arms uplifted, I wondered how she came to be there. What’s the story here, I wondered?
So out came my trusty HTC One and before long I had the answer.
The Naked Lady (real name La Délivrance) was purchased by Lord Rothermere (the family of The Daily Mail fame) in 1920 and gifted to the district of Finchley. Initially local officials, in need of a war memorial, planned to place the statue – created to celebrate the first battle of Marne which prevented the Germans from capturing Paris in 1914 – at the entrance to Victoria Park. But our well-heeled aristocrat put his foot down – the current location or not at all – and so the statue was unveiled in its current location by Prime Minister David Lloyd-George in 1927.
The Naked Lady is the creation of French sculptor Émile Oscar Guillaume and stands, a bronzed 16 feet tall, at the southern edge of Finchley.
A bronzed goddess hey?
I always knew I’d find kindred spirits in Fab Finchley.
ps…speaking of kindred spirits, there are only 19 sleeps to go until my very own sibling kindred spirit arrives…la deliverance indeed!