Sculpture: Portrait of Sir Henry Wood. Bronze bust by Donald Gilbert, 1936.

Object type
Presented by Lady Jessie Wood, February 1955
Sir Henry Wood Collection
Sculpture: Portrait of Sir Henry Wood, head and shoulders, wearing a suit and his familiar bow tie. Bronze bust by Donald Gilbert, 1936.

Each July this bust is removed from its home at the Royal Academy of Music and placed on the platform at the Royal Albert Hall, where it is garlanded with a chaplet of laurel and remains throughout the BBC Promenade Concert series. At the end of the series, in September, the chaplet is taken to St Sepulchre's Church, the musicians' chapel, where there is a memorial stained-glass window to him, and a service is held in his memory.

Sir Henry Wood was the first conductor of the 'Mr Robert Newman Promenade Concerts,' as they were called, founded in 1895. In 1927 the BBC took over the Proms and for three years, until the founding of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1930, the concerts were given by 'Sir Henry Wood and his Symphony Orchestra'. The Queen's Hall, home of the Proms, was bombed on 10th May 1941 and the bronze bust survived, along with the large Portland stone busts of Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and (probably) Purcell, now also in the care of the Royal Academy of Music.
Gilbert, Donald, artist
Date made
Conditions: 'That the bronze bust is to be displayed permanently on the concert Platform of the Duke's Hall on the site already agreed between our client and Sir Reginald Thatcher. The bust is, however, to be loaned to the British Broadcasting Corporation for display during the summer season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, the expenses of removal and return to be born by the Corporation (09/02/1955)' - Hopwood, Mote and Leedham-Green, Solicitors.

A further bronze bust of Sir Henry Wood is in the collection of the BBC, formerly hung in the foyer at Henry Wood House, Upper Regent Street (still there in the mid-1990s). It is not 'head and shoulders' though, and not free-standing.

Letter to Janet Snowman from Paul A. Connor, Tulse Hill Lodge, No 4462, 20th January 1998 (below) raises a bit of a mystery:

Mr Connor writes that 'W. Bro George Hamilton Smith PGStB, PZ, Worshipful Master of the Tulse Hill Lodge in 1938 and who died in September 1983, was a plumber by trade and was inspecting the bomb-damaged Queen's Hall. His job was to help make safe the gas and water pipework. It is said that he 'discovered an old bust, hidden beheath the grand marble staircase, which dominated the foyer of the building. The bust was covered in paint and clearly in a neglected state, and there was no indication as to the identity of the bust so, with the consent of the Clerk of Works, he took the bust back to his workshop near to New Bond Street to examine it more closely. The bust was stripped of its several layers of paint, meticulously cleaned and polished with brown shoe polish to reveal a splendid bronze casting but still no clue was found as to the identity of its likeness. W. Bro Smith returned to the Clerk of the Works, wheeling his handcart through the streets of London with bust aboard. The Clerk of the Works was equally mystified but seeing it revealed in its true splendour, agreed that it must be of some significance. He suggested that W. Bro Smith show the bust to members of the London School of Music in Euston Road, to see if anyone there could shed light on its identity. With cart in hand, W. Bro Smith duly wheeled the bust a mile or so to Euston Road, where he was met by several members of the music school [this must have been the Royal Academy of Music]. After many inquiries, quite a crowd had gathered, but W. Bro Smith was still none-the-wiser as to the identity of the bust, when a somewhat distinguished, elderly music scholar caught sight of the bust and exclaimed, 'where on Earth did you find that? We have been looking for this bust for years'! 'My good man,' replied the elderly gentleman: 'it is the bust of Sir Henry Wood, which has been missing for over ten years'. In his excitement, the elderly gentleman explained that there was a concert taking place at the Royal Albert Hall that very evening, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, and that it would be most appropriate for the bust to be put on display at that concert. Once more, W. Bro. Smith took his cart in hand and wheeled the well-travelled bust through the streets of London to the Royal Albert Hall, where the news of his discovery had preceded him. A trestle table had been set up near the main entrance to the Royal Albert Hall, where 'Sir Henry Wood' was to be put on display'.

Note by Janet Snowman: an early black and white photograph of the bust has always been confusing, it having looked like a terracotta version but it too was said to have been in the Queen's Hall.
3-dimensional (work of art), conductor, bust, sculpture, commemorative, archive
Object type
Type Length Width Height Diameter Unit (length)
bust 300 320 560 mm
Accession No


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