The labour of Hercules

So why is there a statue of Hercules at BGS Keyworth? ... John Stevenson asks Gill Nixon. 

Hercules in his 'intended place' at the Museum of
 Practical Geology, Jermyn Street, London.   
Hercules was one of the larger exhibits intended for the Museum of Practical Geology, which opened in May 1851. It was carved out of a single block of Portland Stone by the sculptor (geologist and architect) C H Smith; commissioned to ‘illustrate the fitness of the material for such purposes’. 

Smith also provided drawings to the 'Survey'; to show where the sculpture should be placed in the Museum in order that he could make Hercules the right size to ‘fit the space’. 

However ‘unavoidable and unexpected delays arose’ and Smith took delivery of the 15-ton Portland Stone block in June 1851; a month after the Museum was officially opened by Prince Albert.

The statue was installed into the Museum in November 1851, but ‘much work had to be executed upon it’ to call Hercules complete.

It was previously thought that Hercules may have been commissioned for the Great Exhibition of 1851. This must have been incorrect, as work on the statue had only recently been started by the time the Great Exhibition was drawing to a close in October 1851.

Changes in the Survey's name and mergers followed over the next 135 years of our history and a few Museum pieces, including Hercules, travelled north in the mid 1980s to the 'new' British Geological Survey campus at Keyworth, near Nottingham. 

Hercules has had some surgery, not on health grounds, but that’s another story for Gill Nixon and the archives folk to tell. 


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