CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

The fascinating story behind Derby’s ‘Boy and Goose’ statue

PUBLISHED: 17:24 24 August 2016 | UPDATED: 17:25 24 August 2016

The 'Boy and Goose' in Derby's Sir Peter Hilton Garden - once the site of the infamous 'Hole' - where it has stood since 1996

The 'Boy and Goose' in Derby's Sir Peter Hilton Garden - once the site of the infamous 'Hole' - where it has stood since 1996

as sent

In a new occasional series featuring Derbyshire’s statues, monuments and memorials, Peter Seddon considers Derby’s iconic ‘Boy and Goose’

The original drinking trough in Derby Market Place,  its home from 1926 to 1933The original drinking trough in Derby Market Place, its home from 1926 to 1933

Opposite Derby’s Council House – in the sunken Sir Peter Hilton Memorial Garden – stands the enigmatic statue ‘The Boy and the Goose’. The carefree piper plays a faintly tormenting air. The grim-beaked ‘gander’ indignantly flaps its wings and advances. But with scant expectation – the mischievous musician holds a safe distance for all eternity. The goose will never nip him.

The piece has long fascinated children. Adults admire its aesthetic form. Yet many give it barely a glance. But the ‘Boy and Goose’ tells a good story.

Derby Market Place 1931 - the Old Assembly Rooms  with the 'Boy and Goose' drinking trough on the right, soon to be re-locatedDerby Market Place 1931 - the Old Assembly Rooms with the 'Boy and Goose' drinking trough on the right, soon to be re-located

On 31st July 1909 Lady Emily Roe (1845-1909) of Derby died aged 64. Her estate passed to her husband Sir Thomas Roe (1832-1923) with instructions that upon his death £800 should pass to Derby Corporation ‘for the provision in his memory of a fountain and drinking trough for horses and dogs, either in the Market Place or at the station’.

Thrice Mayor of Derby and twice Liberal MP for the town, ‘Tommy’ Roe died aged 90 on 7th June 1923. In April 1926 the circular memorial ‘drinking trough’ appeared without ceremony in the Market Place near to the old Assembly Rooms.

The 'Boy and Goose' graced Derby River Gardens from 1933  to 1971The 'Boy and Goose' graced Derby River Gardens from 1933 to 1971

The ensemble was conceived by Derby architect and Old Reptonian Charles Clayton Thompson (1873-1932). R G Lomas and Co. monumental masons of King Street crafted the stonework. The crowning figures were modelled by eminent ‘sculptor and craftsman’ Alexander Fisher (1864-1936) of Chelsea. Beautifully cast in bronze the piece is signed on its base ‘Alex Fisher’.

Although frequented more by market traders and children than horses and dogs, the watering hole proved popular. Those puzzled by its concept were enlightened by Derby Corporation: ‘Fountains suggest play and movement of water. The boy and goose reflect that very rhythm, movement and play.’

Similar imagery in classical art had conveyed the symbiosis of man and beast – man usually asserting control. The statue reflects those ancient origins. In flimsy ‘smock’ and sandals the boy is more ethereal ‘sprite’ than typical Derby lad. The Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens (1912) has striking parallels. Perhaps the London sculptor found inspiration there.

Soon Derby’s ‘fountain boy’ – as children informally tagged it – gave rise to a charming legend. At dead of night he would step down to serenade his ‘mother and baby brother’ nearby – the ‘lady and child’ on the War Memorial – also designed by C C Thompson. The goose enjoyed a blessed freedom before daylight dawned once more.

But times changed. Once the Market Place was adapted for the circulation of cars and buses, the drinking trough got in the way. It was moved in 1933 to the newly-opened River Gardens. Surrounded by a raised flower bed it no longer functioned as a drinking fountain. After the war-delayed new Council House opened in 1949 the ‘Boy and Goose’ enlivened its rear corner.

The statue remained there until 1971 when it was placed into storage at Markeaton Park – later ‘rediscovered’ there by the daughter of a Derby Rotarian. It was refurbished by renowned Derby brass founders John Smith and Co. and in November 1977 mounted on a plinth inside the New Assembly Rooms. The original stone base graduated to the grounds of Elvaston Castle.

The statue never truly settled in the Assembly Rooms – by 1980 languishing in the Darwin Suite, it was shunted around almost forgotten until the opening in 1996 of the Sir Peter Hilton Memorial Garden, where it was re-sited and remains still – a stone’s throw ‘over the Quad’ from its original Market Place home.

The ‘Boy and Goose’ will surely move again. But wherever it stands it needs to be cherished. Far more than ‘just a statue’ it is a genuine work of art, a ‘hidden gem’ for Derby to be proud of. As the vernacular goes – ‘the boy done good’... and the long-suffering goose is ‘bearing up’. Pay them a visit sometime...

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Derbyshire Life and Countryside visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Derbyshire Life and Countryside staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Derbyshire Life and Countryside account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

A ten-minute drive from the western edge of Sheffield brings thrill-seekers to a Derbyshire valley where outdoor activities are thriving.

Read more

Andrew Griffiths meets Jim Dixon, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Peak District National Park.

Read more

This walk offers a dance with the Dove and a meander by the Manifold, whilst along the way passing a church, castle remains, country houses and a hollow way

Read more

With winter on the horizon, trees glow with colour, migratory birds arrive and house spiders set off in search of a mate

Read more

Ann Hodgkin investigates a case of the sincerest form of flattery… or industrial espionage!

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s vision is of landscapes rich in wildlife, valued by everyone. They will achieve this 
by pursuing their mission of creating Living Landscapes. Here Julia Gow, the White Peak Reserve Officer at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust tells us about the reserve above the River Wye

Read more

Nigel Powlson visits Sudbury where a shopping courtyard is attracting even more visitors to this quintessential English village

Read more

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Paul Hobson reveals some of the fascinating wildlife there is to be found in this month of transition

Read more

From far away constellations to gas clouds, our night skies are bursting with natural wonders – if you know where to look... Viv Micklefield goes stargazing in Derbyshire

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve

Read more

A multi-million pound makeover attracts more leading brands to one of the UK’s biggest shopping destinations

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest


Local Business Directory


Property Search