The History of Finchley (15)
South of College Farm stands a well-known Finchley landmark, the statue La Délivrance, inspired by the victory of the Allied troops at the Battle of the Marne in September 1914. Viscount Rothermere, who used to travel regularly along Regent’s Park Road on his way to his mother’s home, commissioned the statue and decided that it would enhance the surroundings of what would later become known as Charter Green. He presented it to the old Finchley Council in 1927.
The controversial bronze statue, created by leading French sculptor Émile Guillaume and featuring an athletic and unclothed young lady holding a sword aloft, was unveiled by former Prime Minister David Lloyd George on 20 October 1927 and soon became known as the Naked Lady, a name still applied by some to the nearby North Circular Road junction, also known as Henlys Corner.
In August 1987 the Evening Standard revealed that the model for the statue had been Louise Curson, a young life-class model at the Royal Academy from 1918 to 1922. Louise, from Shoeburyness in Essex, didn’t realise where the statue was until she spotted it in a television play in June that year. By then aged 82, she was reunited with the statue and the memories flooded back. “It was a tiring assignment,” she recalled, “because I had to be photographed from every angle.” The Finchley Society placed an information panel in front of La Délivrance in September 2007.
Henlys Corner was so named on account of the former garage and showroom of Henlys, a Jaguar and Rover dealer, whose premises occupied the southwest corner of the busy North Circular Road, Finchley Road and A1 junction from 1935 until 1989, when Henlys became part of the Plaxton Group and the site was vacated.
To be continued
Late addition by Stewart Wild:
*CORRECTION:* In part 15 of *The History of Finchley* (November 2010) I referred to “La
Délivrance” statue at Henly’s Corner, and said that in August 1987 the “Evening Standard”
had revealed that the model for the statue was Louise Curson, by 1987 aged 82. It seems
however that this elderly lady may have become confused about events in her teenage years
and I am indebted to Peter Pickering of the Finchley Society for the following additional
information which results from a most informative talk given to Finchley Society members
in November 2007.
Historian Martin Bolton stated that the statue was begun in 1914 and that Louise Curson,
born in 1905, could not have been the model as she was only nine at the time, and living
in London. The distinguished French sculptor, Emile Guillaume (1867-1942), probably used
a French model for the project, which could well have been inspired by Marianne, the
symbol of the French Revolution in 1792.
/La Délivrance/ was actually the name of the raised sword and appears as such on the hilt
of our Finchley statue, and on commemorative medals and other statues made from the same
clay model. The special significance of deliverance for the French was that in 1871
Paris had been besieged by the Germans and they feared a repeat in 1914, from which the
victory at the first Battle of the Marne saved them.
I am pleased to set the record straight.