20. A Statue of Pacific on Dacres Estate

By Zac Lewis

On Dacres Estate in South-East London, you can find a statue of the ancient god Pacific sitting lounged back, draped in a greying toga on a red brick plinth above the pavement. The statue is chipped and rainswept, set in from the street beside a set of garages, and its eyes are fixed on the tower-blocks that line Dacres Road. There is nothing around the statue that says where it came from or how it got there.

Pacific, photograph by Travis Barton (@trawizbarton), Instagram, last modified March 27, 2020, https://www.instagram.com/p/B-PaX5MJy0B/?hl=en.  

On Dacres Estate in South-East London, you can find a statue of the ancient god Pacific sitting lounged back, draped in a greying toga on a red brick plinth above the pavement. The statue is chipped and rainswept, set in from the street beside a set of garages, and its eyes are fixed on the tower-blocks that line Dacres Road. There is nothing around the statue that says where it came from or how it got there.

Clipping of Dacres Estate from Hubert Bennett et al., ‘Dacres Estate Lewisham’, Official Architecture and Planning 28, no. 1 (January 1965), p. 59.

A look back at the architectural records of Dacres Estate reveals little about the statue, which is not mentioned in a cheerful 1965 article on H.R.E. Knight’s award-winning modernist design.[1] The statue does, however, show up in an accompanying photograph, which confirms that it was built into the original construction.[2] It would be easy to assume, then, that the statue was made especially for the Estate, and dates back only to the 1960s.

The statue is visible near a fountain lake in The Crystal Palace in London: Terraces and Fountains (c. 1870), photograph by Joseph Paxton.

In fact, the statue that exists today had been cast in Portland cement over a century before the estate was built. It once stood with three others—Atlantic, Indian and Arctic—aside a fountain lake on the promenade that led up towards the nineteenth-century Crystal Palace on Sydenham Hill.[3] Another fountain lake symmetrical to the first was home to four more statues named after rivers. All eight had been created by the Italian marble sculptor Raffaele Monti (1818–81), who had made his home in Britain in the middle of the nineteenth century. Monti had received a number of commissions from the Crystal Palace Art Union; each of them were sculpted in marble, cast by Copeland in Stoke, and then shipped to the Palace in London.[4]

Before it burned down in 1936, the Crystal Palace had been a symbol of Britain’s global domination, an exhibition space for the exploits of the Empire.[5] Now all that survives is a ruin. At some point, the two fountain lakes were filled in and most of the statues were removed. Of the oceanic sculptures, only the location of Pacific is known. Two of the river statues, though, can still be found. Ganges is just a couple of miles away, nestled into the overgrowth of an island in a pond, at the heart of another housing estate near Blackheath. Thames is far west along the River that gave it its name, at St. John’s Lock in Gloucestershire, surrounded by cow fields. The location of the five other statues remains a mystery.


[1] Hubert Bennett et al., ‘Dacres Estate Lewisham’, Official Architecture and Planning 28, no. 1 (January 1965): 55–57, 59–60.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Its location was pointed out on a local forum by a user called ‘tulse hill terry’. See tulse hill terry, ‘Dacres Road statue’, Sydenham Town Forum, The Community Voice for London SE26 since 2004, last modified April 2, 2009, https://sydenham.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3282.

[4] ‘Raffaelle Monti’, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, accessed December 17, 2022, https://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/agent/agent-163297.

[5] ‘Crystal Palace’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, last modified September 22, 2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Crystal-Palace-building-London.


Featured Image Credit: Taken by Travis Barton and posted on Instagram, last modified March 27, 2020, https://www.instagram.com/p/B-PaX5MJy0B/?hl=en.  

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