Leicester Square or Bust. Historians Demand the Return of Famous Britons

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Byline: Michael Howie

HISTORIANS today demanded the return of four marble busts of famous Britons that have stood in Leicester Square for more than a century.

The busts of William Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Hunter and Sir Isaac Newton were taken away during the square's [pounds sterling]15.3 million renovation.

Westminster council says the Grade II-listed sculptures were "fairly weatherbeaten" and a decision will be taken on whether to put them back on public display or keep them indoors. But the possibility of them never being returned drew fierce criticism from historians.

Tristram Hunt, who is also a Labour MP and broadcaster, said: "I think it would be a great crime to remove these figures of London and national life.

"Newton fitted in at Leicester Square as his first experiments were about light and film. Hogarth's association is with the bawdy, drunken side of London. The square shouldn't end up with a bland landscaping which doesn't link to place or history."

The sculptures have stood at the four corners of the square's gardens since they were laid out by architect James Knowles in 1874. Smithfield-born artist Hogarth (1697-1764), is best known for his satirical paintings and engravings. …