Watson Fothergill: The hidden meaning behind the monkey sculpture on this Nottingham building

This stone monkey sculpture is attached to the former Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Bank in Thurland StreetThis stone monkey sculpture is attached to the former Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Bank in Thurland Street
This stone monkey sculpture is attached to the former Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Bank in Thurland Street | mira66
It was a subliminal message left by Watson Fothergill

You won’t need to walk around Nottingham city centre for long to see quite a few sculptures and statues. 

Famous Nottingham figures such as Brian Clough and Robin Hood have been immortalised with statues over the years, both of which have become local landmarks in their own right. 

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But other statues and sculptures dotted around the city take a bit more working out. 

Read more: Your Nottingham

The Quartet, for example, a sculpture showing four people walking in Chapel Bar, has no obvious meaning. 

We won’t spoil it for you if you don’t already know, but feel free to press here to see a previous Nottingham World explainer on that particular sculpture. 

Another of the city’s more intriguing sculptures lies attached to a building on the corner of Pelham Street and Thurland Street. 

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In the late 19th century, esteemed Nottingham architect Watson Fothergill was commissioned to design five banking premises for the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Bank.

One of these sites was chosen to be the corner Pelham Street and Thurland Street. 

If you’ve ever seen the building in question (now BOX Nottingham), you’ll notice its traditional Fothergill style - gothic revival. 

But unless you’ve stepped inside and studied the building’s design in detail, you probably won’t have noticed an unusual sculpture.

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Stephen Richards

Carved into the stone on one of the inside pillars is a monkey holding a chain. 

The key question here is - why? 

The answer demonstrates just what a clever man Fothergill was. 

In Victorian times the adage ‘to have a monkey on your back’ translated to carrying a troublesome burden. 

It was also said that having a mortgage was like carrying a ‘stone monkey’, implying its tendency to weigh people down. 

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It’s therefore assumed that Fothergill included the monkey in his design to poke fun at bank customers queuing to apply for a mortgage. 

The monkey’s chain, of course, symbolises that the person will be ‘chained’ to the mortgage. 

Another stone monkey can be seen clinging to one of the building’s chimney stacks. 

The clever inclusion of the former bank’s stone monkeys leaves you wondering how many of Fothergill’s subliminal messages have gone unnoticed for decades.

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