The Pender Bust Returns
As you exit the lifts on the 8th Floor of the Roberts Building you are greeted by the imposing bust of Sir John Pender. The bust had been moved into storage while the extensive refurbishment of the building took place. Movement of the bust takes considerable effort as together with its plinth it weighs over a quarter of a tonne. Pender forms part of the display of UCL EE artifacts which is taking shape across the department.
Sir John Pender was a Scottish submarine communications cable pioneer. In 1858 he risked £1000 along with 344 other investors in the first transatlantic cable. After a failed second attempt in 1865 ruined the Atlantic Telegraph Company he had to personally guarantee £0.25m in order that a new cable be constructed. This could have ruined him but proved a resounding success.
Upon his death the Pender Memorial Committee donated £5000 to UCL’s Department of Electrical Technology in part to found the Pender Chair of which Professor Sir John Ambrose Fleming was the first incumbent.
The sculptor of the Pender bust is Onslow Ford, commissioned for the work by the memorial committee. At the time of Pender’s death in 1897 Ford was at the peak of his career, making portrait sculptures for the likes of the Prime Minister, William Gladstone. In 1901 Ford went on to make the monumental bronze sculpture of Queen Victoria for the city of Manchester.
(Onslow Ford information contributed by Nina Perlman, UCL Art Museum)