7th July 1914

Victor Hugo statue is unveiled in Candie Gardens

A larger-than-life statue of author Victor Hugo has stood in St Peter Port’s Candie Gardens since 1914.

Statue of Victor Hugo

With an enviable view of Little Russell, the limestone likeness was carved by French sculptor Jean Boucher between 1906 and 1913. It is mounted on a granite plinth cut from the quarry at L’Ancresse. The base is inscribed on its east and west sides. While most of the inscriptions deal with its construction and unveiling, one recreates the dedication from the front of Hugo’s Guernsey-set book, Toilers of the Sea:

To the rock of hospitality and liberty, to that portion of old Norman ground inhabited by the noble little nation of the sea. To the island of Guernsey, severe yet gentle…

Boucher had originally sold the work to the French government for 30,000 francs. The government presented it to Guernsey, Hugo’s home for 15 years during his exile from Napoleon’s France.

A change of plan

It hadn’t originally been carved with Guernsey in mind, but Lisbon, on the instructions of the King of Portugal. However, the original commission was cancelled, but only once it was too late for the work to be called off. This is fortunate as the statue would otherwise not have ended up in Guernsey.

The three-metre-tall bust, weighing almost a ton, was shipped from France by train and boat, then dragged up to Candie Gardens on a gun carriage almost a month before the unveiling. It was covered in cloth to prevent anyone from having a preview and guarded day and night until the morning of 7th July. At that point, delegations from Britain and France met for the unveiling in the presence of more than 1000 spectators.

There were markets and entertainment and, in the evening, a firework display over the harbour. If the statue had had sight, it would probably have had the best view on the island.

The statue underwent a thourough cleaning in 2014 to mark its centenary.

Hugo lived on Guernsey, at Hauteville House, between 1856 and 1870. He died in France in 1885.

 

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Other events that occured in July

Guernseyman Edward Tupper killed by cannibals 1st
Alderney is occupied by German forces 2nd
Seigneur of Sark, Michael Beaumont, dies aged 88 3rd
Guernsey hosted the Island Games 2003 closing ceremony 4th
New coins are minted for Guernsey 5th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum opens 6th
Victor Hugo statue is unveiled in Candie Gardens 7th
First Commando raid of the Second World War 8th
Birth of Sark-based writer Mervyn Peake 9th
Guernsey nurses go on hunger strike 10th
ITV broadcasts first episode of Island at War 11th
A Guernsey man posted himself to Sark 12th
Murderer Peter Robin sentenced to death 13th
Victor Hugo plants his United States of Europe oak 14th
Point Law runs aground off Alderney 15th
Racing yacht Westward is blown up off Guernsey
BBC made its first ever Channel Islands broadcast 16th
The Star received some “grave” news 17th
The Guernsey Martyrs were burned at the stake 18th
Prince Charles and Camilla visit Guernsey 19th
President Garcia is re-floated in Saints Bay 20th
Typhoid suspect holidaymaker flies home 21st
Guernsey Controlling Committee’s Sir John Leale died 22nd
Alderney to Guernsey radio connection established 23rd
Val des Terres was first opened for traffic 24th
The BBC broadcasts from Sark for the first time 25th
Guernsey court escapee was caught again 26th
Braye du Valle was gifted by the crown 27th
Murderer sentenced to death in three hours 28th
Guernsey bought Herm from the mainland 29th
Albert Lamy appointed Guernsey Police Chief Officer 30th
Guernsey to Jersey plane crashed into the sea 31st