Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Colonel Cheney at Waterloo

click photo to enlarge

I first came across the church of St Luke at Gaddesby, Leicestershire, a few years ago when holidaying in the area. The other day, when I was returning home from a trip to Worcestershire, I called in again. This church is full of interest: the architecture, the opulent decoration of its south aisle, the ancient woodwork - even the rustic floors - are all fascinating. So too are the memorials, many of them slate, which date from the medieval period through to the twentieth century. However, one nineteenth century memorial is unique among those found in English churches. My description of it below is based on the small guide in the church that visitors can read.

The almost life-size equestrian statue of Colonel Edward Hawkins Cheney of the Royal Scots Greys was carved in 1848 by Joseph Gott. The Colonel fought at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th, 1815. He had four horses killed from under him on that day, and the command of the regiment fell upon him when he was mounted on his fifth steed. Here he is shown on a collapsing horse that is dying from a bullet that has entered the front of its body below the bottom of the neck. The panel on the base of the memorial shows Sergeant Ewart in hand-to-hand combat with a French cavalry officer, trying to recapture a lost Napoleonic eagle standard.

Colonel Cheney married Eliza Ayre whose father owned Gaddesby Hall, and he inherited the property on the death of his father-in-law. This memorial was carved three years after the Colonel's death in 1845 and stood in the conservatory of the Hall. However, when the estate was sold in 1917 it was moved, on tree rollers, to St Luke's, where it was placed in the chancel, becoming the only equestrian statue to be found in an English church. There is a story, probably apocryphal, that the sculptor, after completing the statue, realised he'd forgotten the horse's tongue, and in despair, committed suicide! The horse's teeth have been stained by the apple placed in its mouth each year at the time of the Harvest Festival.

My photograph was taken using available light from the chancel windows. Thanks to Image Stabilisation I was able to hand-hold the shot at 1/13 second and still produced an acceptably sharp image.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm/44mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/13 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On