This statue was maliciously decapitated in 2016 by some not-so-merry locals, who felt that wrestling with a Victorian statue made good nighttime entertainment. The next morning, the head and shoulders were found on the floor beside the body. The statue had stood outside this antique shop for around 50 years and was much loved by the locals. As a result, money was soon raised for surgical reattachment, and the resurrected man stands once more on St Andrew Street.
The statue was brought to Hertford from London by the owner of the antique shop that shelters it, and is believed to be a Victorian rendition of William Caxton (1422-1491), the first person to introduce a printing press into England. I don’t know why he was brought here, but if it is Caxton he does have a link with the county town: Hertford became home to Britain’s first paper mill. Caxton may have used paper from the mill, as it certainly provided paper to Wynkyn de Worde, a business partner of Caxton. Whether his supposed identity is true or not, his decapitation has certainly given him added fame.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 23 February 2021
Posted as part of Lens-Artists Letter S