Naked lady statue goes to auction 50 years after being rescued from the top of a Preston city centre pub

A statue of a naked lady, which proved a real eye-catcher in Preston for more than a century, is looking for a new home.

By Brian Ellis
Thursday, 19th September 2019, 8:59 am
Updated Thursday, 19th September 2019, 9:59 am
The rooftop statues were rescued when the Port Admiral pub  was demolished in 1969. Prestons Crown Court building now stands on the site.
The rooftop statues were rescued when the Port Admiral pub was demolished in 1969. Prestons Crown Court building now stands on the site.

The iconic 8ft 8in nude, thought by some to represent Lord Nelson’s mistress Lady Hamilton, has gone up for auction in Yorkshire, exactly 50 years after she was rescued from her lofty perch on top of a city centre pub.

And the chiseled figure, which was salvaged when the Port Admiral Hotel, at the junction of Lancaster Road and Saul Street, was demolished in 1969, is expected to attract four-figure bids.

The sale comes five years after the stone statue returned to Preston after decades kept under wraps - first by brewers Bass Charrington and then by a private collector.

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An auction house in Huddersfield is inviting offers until October 1 when she will be sold to the highest bidder.

The figure, naked apart from a strategically placed fig leaf, adorned the roof of the Port Admiral for 115 years, flanked by two impressive escorts, identified as Nelson and, possibly, Napoleon.

Locals cheekily re-named the Port Admiral the “Andover” because of the way she was protecting her modesty with her hand.

When the pub was knocked down to make way for development - the site is where the city’s Crown Court building now stands - all three statues were removed, along with four stone lions and a snake, and put into storage by the brewery.

The exact identity of the naked lady and one of her male companions has been debated over many years.

It is widely believed she was Lady Hamilton who, it is thought, was born Amy Lyon of humble origins in Preston in 1764. She became a close companion of Admiral Nelson and in 1801 had his illegitimate daughter Horatia.

The male figure, while bearing a look of Napoleon, could just as easily have been Emma’s husband Sir William Hamilton.

The statues were carved by Preston sculptor William Bradshaw. His grand-daughter Mrs Elizabeth Cook went on record to say they were Nelson, Napoleon and Lady Hamilton.

But some historians believe she was not Emma, but a copy of a famous work called the “Greek Slave” by Hiram Powers, which caused a stir in the American section of the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Nelson’s statue turned up in the 70s in a pub called The Trafalgar in Nelson, Lancashire. And in 2013 Napoleon and Lady Hamilton were put up for sale in North Yorkshire, both for four-figure sums.

Preston firm Ribble Reclamations bought her in 2014, but then sold her on to an unnamed buyer. At the time one bidder from London offered £4,000, but the company’s yard manager Dale Sumner said he wanted her to remain in Preston.