PETER PAN STATUES: IMMORTAL ANTI-HEROES
Updated: Feb 10
To borrow a terrace chant, there’s only one Peter Pan. But there are several Peter Pan statues located around the world. Here’s a run-down.
THE SEVEN FRAMPTONS
The best-known of all of the statues is that created by Sir George Frampton (1860 - 1928). It’s a bronze, and the original 1912 piece is found in Kensington Gardens, close to J.M. Barrie’s London residence on Bayswater Road.
It’s an elegant work capturing Peter, blowing on pipes, and stood on a tree stump whose sides are elaborately decorated by a clutter of woodland dwellers: mice and rabbits, squirrels and, of course, fairies.
The 1912 George Frampton statue in Kensington Gardens. Opposing voices complained of the use of a public park for what they deemed promotional purposes, proving that mendacious, small-minded attention-seekers were around in those days too
AN ABSENT DEVIL
Barrie himself didn’t much like the statue and later commented that it “didn’t show the Devil in Peter”. If you want to blame the existence of the Neverland in Shadow story on anything, this statement is a great place to begin.
A detail of the statue's base
“A MAY DAY GIFT FROM MR J.M. BARRIE”
Barrie may not have cared much for the sculpture, but the playful way he arranged for its installation was delightful. Overnight, on 30 April 1912, it was brought to the gardens, and to the very spot that the infant Peter landed in The Little White Bird, Barrie’s 1902 novel in which the character takes his bow.
The idea behind the covert installation was to suggest the monument had appeared magically and via fairy power. Drawing attention to the installation, Barrie’s notice in the next day’s Times newspaper read:
This blog's whimsical attempt at presenting Barrie's notice of 1 May 1912. The quoted words are authentic though, save for the bolded sub-headlines
Here's how one newspaper trumpeted the statue's magical appearance
Indeed. Supplementing the Kensington Gardens statue, six more full-size casts were made. Here’s where to find them:
Egmont Park, in Brussels
Donated to the Belgian state by Frampton in 1924 to recognise the Anglo-Belgian friendship during the First World War; it suffered bullet damage in the Second World War, and was listed as a Belgian historical monument in 1975.
Bowring Park, in St. John's, Newfoundland
Erected on 29 August 1925, as a tribute to Betty Munn, the daughter of John Shannon Munn, who had died aged three on 23 February 1918 in the sinking of SS Florizel.
Sefton Park, in Liverpool
Erected overnight on 16 June 1928; it was vandalised in 1990; restored, it was relocated to a position in the grounds of the palm house; it received a Grade II listing in 1985.
The statue's vital statistics - in the style of a Top Trumps card
Queens Gardens, in Perth, Western Australia
Erected overnight on 10 June 1929, and donated by Rotary International to the Perth City Council to celebrate the centenary of the state of Western Australia (founded in 1829 as Swan River Colony).
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Erected on 14 September 1929 by the College Heights Association in a park that became known as "Peter Pan Park" after the statue, but was later renamed Glenn Gould Park.
Rutgers University, Camden, New Jersey,
Installed by Eldridge R. Johnson in 1929, and located outside the Walt Whitman Arts Center.
The statue featured on health stamps in New Zealand. In addition to the charge for postage, these stamps carried a premium which was donated to charitable causes. These are from 1945
Beyond the Frampton Seven...
Although the Kensington Gardens' Frampton work is the most celebrated of the Peter Pan statues, several more have popped up. These include:
1. A 1925 statue by Paul Montfort, in Melbourne, Australia
2. A 1927 fountain and sculpture by Mary "Mae" Cook and architect Otto C. Darst, in Columbus, Ohio
3. Charles Andrew Hafner's 1928 sculpture in Carl Schurz Park, New York City
4. A 1949 statue by Alex Proudfoot RSA, Principal of Glasgow School of Art, at the Mearnskirk Hospital for children in Glasgow, Scotland
5. Ivan Mitford-Barberton's 1959 sculpture at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa
6. Cecil Thomas's 1965 sculpture in Dunedin Botanic Garden, New Zealand
7. Alistair Smart's 1972 statue in Kirriemuir, Scotland - J.M. Barrie's birthplace
8. Diarmuid Byron O'Connor's 2000 sculpture at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London
Missing from the list found in the Wikipedia entry this post relied upon is another feather in the cap for Kirriemuir. This work stands in the gardens of Moat Brae House, a location where the formative Barrie would play.
The Moat Brae House statue: Peter is captured in a typically ostentatious pose
After years of neglect, the striking property was saved from demolition. Then, in 2019, thanks to the efforts of the local Peter Pan Action Group, it breathed once more as the National Centre for Children’s Literature.
Just what is it with Peter Pan and windows? - a view from Moat Brae House, Kirriemuir
At Moat Brae, Barrie and Peter naturally loom large and the centre is characterised by Pan-inspired attractions which its young guests are encouraged to explore.