All over London, authors and poets — and their fictional creations — are commemorated in many forms, from plaques to street art to statues. It's the latter we focus on here, taking a trip around the capital to visit bears, busts and a bench dedicated to literature.
Paddington Bear statue, Paddington station
One of London's most famous fictional residents, Paddington Bear is immortalised in this bronze statue by Marcus Cornish in Paddington Station. Michael Bond's first book about the bear from darkest Peru was published in 1958, based on a lone teddy bear that Bond saw on a shop shelf near the station, and of course younger generations are familiar with him thanks to the excellent Paddington films. The statue was created in 2000, and such is the ongoing draw of the beloved ursine, you may have to queue up if you want a photo with him. Give him his due — he heeds National Rail’s advice of not leaving his luggage unattended.
Here's a more detailed explanation of where to find Paddington inside Paddington. He can also be found in Leicester Square (details below).
Previously, a statue of Paddington author Michael Bond could be seen in St Mary's Terrace in Little Venice, close to his home, and part of the Sustrans Portrait Benches project, but it may have since been removed.
Oscar Wilde memorial bench, Charing Cross
Not the most traditional of sculptures, but then Oscar Wilde wasn't a typical kind of guy. This memorial in Charing Cross is officially called A Conversation with Oscar Wilde, the idea being that his oh-so-inviting visage entices the passer-by to take a seat and engage the famous playwright in conversation. Despite his death in 1900, the green granite and bronze tribute to Wilde by Maggi Hambling was not unveiled until 1998.
Peter Pan statue, Kensington Gardens
This bronze Peter Pan statue is located in Hyde Park, specifically Kensington Gardens, which author J.M. Barrie used as inspiration for his tale about the boy who never grew up. Barrie himself commissioned the statue, which was created by Sir George Frampton and unveiled in 1912, 10 years after the first story of Peter Pan was published. The base of the statue is a tree trunk, with rabbits and fairies clambering over it.
If you're visiting Peter Pan and in a fairytale frame of mind, the enchanting Elfin Oak is just a few minutes' walk away.
John Keats statue, Guy's Hospital
Poet John Keats has swapped the safety of the 'burbs in Hampstead for — heaven forbid — south of the river. This first statue of Keats was unveiled in Guy's Hospital in 2007 by then Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. The alcove in which Keats is perched comes from the Old London Bridge, so double history points for visiting this site. The bronze cast is by sculptor Stuart Williamson.
Winnie the Pooh statues, London Zoo
AA Milne's books are inspired by a bear named Winnipeg who used to reside at London Zoo, and the zoo celebrates this slice of its heritage with not one statue, but two.
The better-known one shows Winnipeg with Lt Harry Coleburn, the Canadian soldier who gifted her to the zoo, and can be found next to Butterfly Paradise, opposite the flamingos. A second Winnie the Pooh sculpture, depicting the bear on her own, can be found in the Animal Adventure area of the zoo.
Sir John Betjeman statue, St Pancras station
"Oh bother, they've cancelled the 2.39 AGAIN?" Many Londoners and tourists in St Pancras International hurry past this statue daily without knowing much about it. It portrays former Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, and was unveiled when the station reopened in 2007. As well as his literary work, Betjeman is credited with helping save St Pancras station from demolition.
Sherlock Holmes statue, Baker Street
You won't need Watson's help to find this larger than life (three metres, to be precise) bronze statue of Sherlock Holmes outside Baker Street station, around the corner from his famous 221b Baker Street abode. Scuplted by John Doubleday in 1999, it was funded by the now defunct Abbey National, whose building was on the site of 221b (the modern-day Sherlock Holmes Museum is actually at 239 Baker Street). There is no statue of Sherlock creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in London, but there is one in Crowborough, East Sussex, where he lived just before his death.
Virginia Woolf bust, Tavistock Square
Although Tavistock Square is largely dominated by the Gandhi statue, this bust of Virginia Woolf (normally minus the hat and scarf) also resides there — so hard to get A Room of One's Own in London these days. The author wrote many of her books in her former residence on the square. The bust was sculpted from life in 1931, and was moved to its current home in 2004 by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain.
William Shakespeare statue, Leicester Square
Monuments to Shakespeare are plentiful in London, but perhaps the most famous (and certainly the one that gets most passing foot traffic) is this one slap bang in the middle of Leicester Square. Will was removed briefly for a spit and polish as part of a spring clean of the entire area, but resumed his usual position in Autumn 2013, and has been rueing the arrival of M&Ms World to the area ever since.
Bookish film characters, Leicester Square
Old Billy Shakespeare isn't the only carved likeness in Leicester Square. In early 2020, new statues of beloved film characters were unveiled in the famous square — and several of them originate from books. Mary Poppins holds her umbrella proudly aloft, Harry Potter floats on his broomstick, and Paddington munches a marmalade sandwich as the world goes by.
Of course, many other writers and their intellectual offspring are commemorated in various forms around London. Which literary statue is your favourite?