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Statue of Three Printers at Goldsmiths’

A MONUMENTAL, life size sculpture of Three Printers, the only public monument to British newspaper-making, by the British sculptor Wilfred Dudeney RBS, has a new permanent home in a corner of the Goldsmiths’ Company garden off Gresham Street in the City of London.

The sculpture, in Portland stone which measures over 2 metres high and weighs 2.5 tonnes, was commissioned from Dudeney by the Westminster Press group in the mid-1950s when they moved headquarters to a new purpose-built office block in New Street Square, off Fleet Street.

Unintentionally, over the next half-century this sculpture came to represent the spirit of an industry which had existed in the same spot since William Caxton set up his first printing-press in Fleet Street in the late 1400’s. The piece remained in situ after the great national newspapers moved east in the mid-1980s, but fell victim to the redevelopment of New Street Square in the mid- 2000s.

Consigned to a demolition yard in Watford by the developers, it was discovered by former Fleet Street journalist Christopher Wilson who brought it to the attention of the Goldsmiths’ Company, who as freeholders of the New Street Square had become unbeknowingly the final owner of the sculpture.

The Company’s curator Rosemary Ransome Wallis, supported by the sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley and Philomena Davidson, former president of the Royal Society of British sculptors, persuaded the Company to remove the statue from Watford and have it installed in the Company’s garden.

Entitled the Three Printers, the statue comprises three young men whose faces have the earnest poignancy of young men at the beginning of their career. The title is in fact a misnomer, since Dudeney sought in his triptych to represent several aspects of newspaper-making – a news boy, representing sales and distribution, a printer, and an editor or proprietor.

In the printer’s hand is a ‘stick’ for carrying metal type around the print floor. Dudeney has used this to sign the piece – back-to-front, as all hot metal print used to be. The style of the sculpture is that period when Realism was tempered by Modernism before the abstract conceptualism of Moore and Hepworth.

The Goldsmiths’ Company garden was designed by the eminent landscape artist Sir Peter Shepheard in circa 1960 and provides a haven of green and calm in the midst of the City. The Three Printers now takes pride of place in a corner site where it can be seen by anyone entering the garden, and its Portland stone harmonises very well with the existing stone and brick scheme of the garden.

Rosemary Ransome Wallis said: “The Company is delighted to have been able to accommodate this important period statue, part of the heritage of the City of London, into its garden where it can now be enjoyed by city workers and residents for generations to come.”

Christopher Willson, said: “At its height, the British newspaper industry was the greatest in the world, with more per capita sales than in any other country, and colossal sales of individual titles. Yet, divided by a traditional competitive spirit, it never sought to celebrate itself; and it fell to a relatively modest regional newspaper group to commission a tribute to an industry which, in truth, had already passed its zenith. Dudeney’s sculpture is a poignant tribute to the great days of newspaper-making.

“Thanks to the generosity and industry of the Goldsmith’s Company, Three Printers has been rescued for posterity and faces a tranquil future in the garden of the Company’s headquarters in the City of London.”