Manual Ref* NFnrNOR046 Show 10 images 307

Statue of Sir Thomas Browne

County Norfolk   District Council Norwich City Council 
Civil Parish or equivalent Norwich City Council  Town/Village* Norwich 
Road Haymarket 
Precise Location Hay Hill 
OS Grid Ref TG227083  Postcode NR1 
Previous location(s)  
Setting Outside  Access Public 
Artist/Maker Role Qualifier
Henry Pegram  Sculptor(s)   
A.B. Burton  Foundry   
Kirkpatrick of Manchester  Stonemason(s)   

Commissioned by

Public subscription, under aegis of Sir Peter Eade 

Design & Constrn period


Date of installing


Exact date of unveiling



Abstract Animal Architectural
Commercial Commemorative Composite
Free Functional Funerary
Heraldic Military Natural
Non-Commemorative Performance Portable
Religious Roadside, Wayside Sculptural
Temporary, Mobile Other  

Object Type

Building Clock Tower Architectural
Coat of Arms Cross Fountain
Landscape Marker Medallion
Mural Panel Readymade
Relief Shaft Sculpture
Statue Street Furniture War Memorial
Other Object Sub Type: Seated statue of Sir Thomas Browne on pedestal

Subject Type

Allegorical Mythological Pictorial
Figurative Non-figurative Portrait
Still-life Symbolic Other

Subject Sub Type

Bust Equestrian Full-length
Group Head Reclining
Seated Standing Torso
Part Material Dimension
Sir Thomas Browne  Bronze  Over life-size 
Pedestal  Polished Granite  H. 180cms W&D 45 cms 

Work is

Extant Not Sited Lost


Norwich City Council 

Listing status

Grade I Grade II* Grade II Don't Know Not Listed

Surface Condition

Corrosion, Deterioration Accretions
Bird Guano Abrasions, cracks, splits
Biological growth Spalling, crumbling
Metallic staining Previous treatments
Detail: Some guano on statue's head

Structural Condition

Armature exposed Broken or missing parts
Replaced parts Loose elements
Cracks, splits, breaks, holes Spalling, crumbling
Water collection Other


Graffiti Structural damage Surface Damage

Overall condition

Good Fair Poor


No Known Risk At Risk Immediate
Signatures/Marks Signatures on the bronze (to south) A.B. Burton Founder Thames Ditton Signatures on the bronze (to south) A.B. Burton Founder Thames Ditton On the pedestal (to the north) Henry Pegram Sc 1905 
Inscriptions Inscription BORN 19 OCTOBER 1605/DIED 19 OCTOBER 1689/ Many years resident/near this spot and/Buried in the Church/ of St Peter Mancroft/ Erected 19 October 1905 

Description (physical)

A life-size seated statue of Sir Thomas Browne wearing doublet, buttoned to the wide collar which became fashionable in the 1630s, breeches, tucked in at the knee above the hose, and shoes with a fancy buckle. He rests his head on his hand while holding a broken urn. His contemplative pose - suggested to the commissioning committee by Henry Pegram - recalls Ronald Gower’s statue of Hamlet part of his Shakespeare Memorial, unveiled on the site of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 1888. The portrait is an idealised version of Van der Gucht’s, based on a portrait in the Bodleian Library, Oxford and reproduced as the frontispiece of the 1712 Posthumous Works identifying the sitter as Thomas Browne MD. Perhaps the greatest change here in recent times took place in 1972 when the garden and lawn surrounding Sir Thomas Browne’s statue were replaced by a paved concourse with seats and a “water feature” (itself now removed). The pleached lime trees that had formed an effective screen to a nineteenth-century warehouse had earlier been cut down, other trees being planted instead on the north side flanking St Peter Mancroft churchyard. 

Description (iconographical)

The urn that Browne contemplates as a sign of his antiquarian interests was the subject of his Hydriotaphia, or Urn-Burial of 1658 based on some recent archaeological discoveries near Norwich of what were thought at the time to be Roman funeral urns. Browne used these as the basis for a study of funeral customs which expanded into his thoughts on death and the uselessness of such rituals and commemorations against death's inevitable power. Thomas Browne had been born in London on 19 October, 1605. After graduating Oxford he studied medicine privately and then attended the Universities of Montpellier and Padua and in 1633 graduated at Leiden. In 1637 he moved to Norwich where he lived and practiced medicine until his death in 1682. Browne first came to the attention of readers with Religio medici of 1642 a best-seller translated into several European languages. Religio medici is about Browne's personal Christian faith, and is distinguished by its elegant prose its tolerant and widely-based version of Christianity and its occasionally sceptical outlook. In 1646 he wrote Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or Vulgar Errors, which tackled the subject of superstition and popular misconceptions about various subjects. (Adapted from Butler, John, Life of Sir Thomas Browne, Luminarium accessed 30 Jan. 2003.) His literary achievement is best summed up by Max Sebald in Rings of Saturn (19-21): ‘Browne saw our world as no more than a shadow image of another one far beyond. In his thinking and writing he therefore sought to look upon earthly existence, from the things that were closest to him to the spheres of the universe, with the eye of an outsider, one might even say of a creator. His only means of achieving the sublime heights that this endeavour required was a parlous loftiness in his language….Browne’s writing can be held back by the force of gravitation (his erudite use of quotations), but when he does succeed in rising higher and higher through the circles of his spiralling prose, born aloft like a glider on warm currents of air, even today the reader is overcome by the sense of levitation.’ Skulls of famous men were popular in the nineteenth century and Sir Thomas’s had been stolen from his coffin in 1840 and sold to a physician who in 1847 presented it to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. In 1893 the vestry of St Peter Mancroft, where Sir Thomas had been buried, met to discuss the refusal of the Hospital Board to return the skull, which was finally re-united with the rest of Sir Thomas in 1922. The chief physician at the hospital at the time and the moving force behind the commission was Sir Peter Eade MD and FRCS (1825-1915), elected mayor earlier in 1893 and who in 1900 published a history of the recent rebuilding of the hospital. He must have been one of the leading figures behind the hospital’s refusal to return the skull. All the meetings were held at his 17th century house 19 St Giles (now Oxfam). Considerable lobbying must have been undertaken before the first meeting of the general committee on 10 September 1897, which agreed the motion that some permanent memorial of Sir Thomas Browne should be erected in Norwich - a statue on the recently cleared ground in the Haymarket. From the late seventeenth century until that year the space was divided by a block of buildings which included the Young & Co public house, the White Horse, demolished as its licence lapsed. The minute book reveals the considerable struggle involved in raising funds for the statue. The moving spirit was Sir Peter Eade MD and FRCS, from an old Norwich family, Sheriff in 1880, Mayor in 1883 and knighted in 1885. On the 24th September they learned that the cost of a statue with granite base would be between £750-1000. The Lord Mayor agreed to meet possible subscribers in the Guildhall on 19 October but this failed to attract enough interest and action was put off some sixteen months until February 1899. The timing, as the minutes noted, was unfortunate in view of start of the 2nd Boer war that year- but on 13 March the committee agreed to continue lobbying and prepared a draft of circular and to advertise in the local press not (5 June) the Times. Their efforts to hold a meeting in London were thwarted when the Duke of Westminster regretted that his house engaged and the Prince of Wales regretted that he was unable to support them. By 2nd November 1899 they had support from Professor (later Sir) William Osler (1849-1919), first professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1883 and from 1905 Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford. They turned down the request of the London sculptor Henry Fehr to show a design, since with only £528 they did not have enough to proceed. By 30 October 1901 this had risen to £616 and they determined to lobby members of the medical profession. Following the peace treaty ending the Boer war on 2nd May 1902 things began to look up. On the 3rd October 1902 the city engineer – A.E. Collins- showed them the plans for the improvements in the Haymarket and gave them details of the scale needed to match the statue of the Duke of Wellington then still in the market: standing pedestal 7 ft figure 7ft 9in to 8ft – seated pedestal same figure 6ft 6in. They agreed to enquire about H.A. Pegram recommended by the late Onslow Ford RA (1852--1901) a distinguished sculptor whose major commissions had included one of General Gordon riding a camel for Khartoum and a jubilee statue of Queen Victoria for Manchester. Pegram had won prizes in the RA Schools in 1881 in 1882, 1884 and 1886. From 1887--c.1891 he worked as an assistant to Hamo Thornycroft (e.g. on the Memorial to Charles Turner and son). Pegram first achieved recognition with the Gilbert-influenced bronze relief Ignis Fatuus (RA 1889; selected for purchase by the Chantrey Bequest now Tate Gallery). His earlier public commissions include the pair of bronze candelabra in the nave of St Paul’s Cathedral (1897--98). By the 9th February 1903 Pegram had quoted £700 for statue and pedestal and Professor Osler had pledged a further £30 and suggested the 300th anniversary of Browne’s birth –19 October 1905- for the unveiling. By 5th of June they had permission from Norwich Council-subject to their approval of site and statue and approached two further sculptors John Tweed and J.N. Forsyth - both of whom were more expensive than Pegram - and later that month they checked that Pegram’s £700 included statue and pedestal to the required, size-confirmed, a requirement by Pegram. By July 1904 Pegram sent a letter with a photograph of his model which prompted the committee to ask Sir Peter Eade to visit the sculptor to ask if he would produce drawings for a standing figure and whether boots and a cloak could be added (included on the statue of Wellington then still in the market on a granite pedestal on which the committee insisted against Pegram's suggestion of Portland stone). Pegram replied in August 1904 that he would have difficulty with the changes: a sitting figure would besides being in his opinion ‘more artistic and also be following the precedent set by the ancient nations as well as the moderns in the case of a Statue of philosopher.’ The committee accepted Pegram’s argument on 9th August but suggested that head be raised and that he hold a book (query Religio Medici) in the right hand’ In October Pegram was paid the first third of his fee for completing the model. The next third was due for the full-size plaster-cast of the figure and the final installment on completion. By 9th December 1904 Pegram was able to inform that work on the statue is going on beautifully now and the only thing that is likely to mar its ultimate success will be the addition of boots and cloke.’ The committee agreed to let the sculptor have his way and that a fragment of an ancient urn would be placed in the right hand of the figure.’ In August 1905 they were not prepared to compromise on the nature and spacing of the lettering for the inscription although agreeing to Pegram’s suggestion that this should be on the front of the pedestal. They also learned that neither A.J. Balfour (the prime minister) nor Lord Rosebery could unveil the statue but that Lord Avebury would be delighted so to do. Lord Avebury (1834-1913) was born Sir John Lubbock 4th baronet and created 1st Baron Avebury in 1900. He entered the family bank early was in charge from 1865 having been appointed FRS in 1858 in recognition of his research on ants. By the 11th September 1905 the committee met with Pegram and the city engineer on site to agree the exact location (in front of S.D. Page and Sons Brushworks) and the inscription, and ten days later the Eastern Daily Pres was granted permission to reproduce the statue on the day of the unveiling the committee having earlier refused Jarrolds request for permission for sole rights for a photograph for postcards. The Manchester Guardian requested a photograph but had to be refused since the only print belonged to the EDP. There was much concern over the order of the ceremony, the lunch for subscribers, while George Swain's photograph of the unveiling ceremony shows the scale of the crowd. In November 1905 the stonemasons – Kirkpatrick of Manchester- wrote asking whether the committee was satisfied with their work and requesting a letter saying so a request which the committee referred to the city engineer. Finally the committee thanked Sir Peter Eade and the secretary responsible for the minutes F.R. Eaton and Sir Peter Eade wrote thanking Pegram for the statue ‘which continues to meet with marked public approbation’ and saying that since they had funds left over they were converting the payment from pounds to guineas enclosing a cheque for £35. The minutes note Pegram’s grateful reply. Pegram produced at least three small bronze replicas of the statue, signed and dated 1905. One (30 cm. high) has been in the Heritage Collection of the Royal College of Physicians in London since at least 1916 (when S.H. Long mentioned it in a note under the date of 1905 to Sir Peter Eade's Autobiography, published London 1916) 


Date taken:  11/4/2012
Date logged: 

Photographed by:
Sarah Cocke

On Site Inspection

Date:  2/7/2006

Inspected by:
Richard Cocke

Sources and References

Mackie, C., Norfolk Annals, Compiled from the files of the Norfolk Chronicle, Norwich, 1901, II, 445; Colin Dickey, ‘The Fate of His Bones’, Cabinet Magazine, Winter 2007/08, accessed 27/03/2010; Noszlopy George T. Public Sculpture of Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihul,l Liverpool, 2003, 64-67; Luminarium 07/06/06 Bodleian, 10/06/06 03/02/06; Minute Book of the Sir Thomas Browne MD MEMORIAL STATUE 1897-1905, J.R. Eaton, Hon Sec, Norfolk Record Office NRO 21275.  


Date entered:  21/7/2006

Data inputter:
Richard Cocke