The Dog and Pot sculpture, erected in 2013, has already become a local landmark. Residents of Rowland Hill House have become used to the sight of the many people who stop to look at it and take photographs. People seem to love it. It has become a meeting place for people and a site of events such as the December 2013 Christmas event at which Charles Dickens Primary School choir sang carols and songs from Oliver.
The original Dog and Pot was displayed above an ironmonger’s shop on that exact spot for most of the nineteenth century until 1931 and is referred to by Charles Dickens. The statue was the idea of artist Jason Brooks and it took several years and a lot of determination to find funding, which finally came from Southwark Council as part of Dickens Bicentennial celebrations. Alongside Jason, those working on the project included local historian Stephen Humphrey, Councillor David Noakes and members of Nelson Square Gardens Community Association (NSGCA).
Local residents showed enthusiasm, support and interest from the start. Perhaps some felt the tide of money and development sweeping through this area and destroying much of its heritage and community and wanted to assert that there are other values represented here including a respect for history and culture.
Alongside the statue there is a large stone showing its association with Charles Dickens, who walked past it every day when as a 12-year-old he worked in a factory and lodged in Lant Street:
“My usual way home was down that turning in Blackfriars Road, with Rowland Hill Chapel on one side and the likeness of a golden dog licking a golden pot on the other”
Of course now, Lant Street lodgings would be beyond his means. In 2014 a one-bedroom flat in Lant Street cost £365 per week, £19,000 per year. Dickens, who in his day campaigned against slum landlords and for social housing, would I think, have been just as morally outraged to see local people today being priced out of this area whilst the small stock of social housing is seen increasingly as an asset that can be sold off to developers.
As the developers plan the march of massive skyscrapers down Blackfriars Road, let’s hope the new Dog and Pot statue represents a vision of something more hopeful.