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Ferdinand Blundstone of Folkestone

History of Folkestone
  • Historical

With the revival in interest in Samuel Plimsoll, and the World War 1 commemorations, it is time to recall a man, though never living in the town, has two claims to fame in relation to it.

These are the town's War memorial (1922) and London's 'Plimsoll Memorial' (1929) on Victoria Embankment. They were both designed and sculpted by the same person.

His name is Ferdinand Victor Blundstone who was born in Switzerland in 1881. His father Charles, was an India rubber merchant from Manchester. The family later moved back to Britain around 1808, and lived around Manchester including through WW1. After this, Ferdinand moved for the rest of his life (1919-1951) to London.

Once in the UK he began his Arts studies, firstly at Ashton-under-Lyne and then onto South London Tech School before entering the prestigious Royal Academy Schools. His awards included a Landseer Scholarship in 1904 and further similar awards in 1905 and 1907, the latter being a "travelling" one.

His public works began with the Southampton 'Titanic' Memorial (1914), followed by the War Memorial at Stalybridge. In the early 1920's he worked largely on War memorials including his most famous one - the Prudential War memorial at Holborn, London in 1922. Other works involved the Lewis carroll majolica panels at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, as well as the 'Wendy' (Peter Pan) statue in New Zealand.

Locally in 1920, Folkestone Town Council held a competition for our WW1 War memorial which Blundstone duly won. The sculpture has a stone plinth and statue which features a bronze figure representing 'Motherhood', holding in one hand a pole with flag at half mast and a crodd. The other holds a victory laurel. The base of course holds the name plaques for those who died, and the site is used annually for the Armistice Day event on or near November 11th.

A few years later, Blundstone was approached for another memorial, this one relating to Samuel Plimsoll, The approved design shows the great man's bust on a stone plinth along with a seaman on one side and a woman on the other. Of interest is that the female character portrayed appears to have been the same model for Folkestone's statue. She has a similar dress and head covering, along with a laurel and this time a sword. It is quite possible that the model for both was the same woman.

Apart from some records at the Royal Academy and a portrait at the National Portrait Gallery, there seems to have been no actual biography of this sculptor and today he is almost forgotten. Hopefully though during the WW1 commemorations, and future Plimsoll events, interest will be revived as his work becomes better known.

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