Garden statuary is still a new field for collectors, and there are bargains to be found so long as you can distinguish the genuinely old from modern copies..

It is only in the past few years that most people have become aware that the old statue or cast-iron bench in their garden may have some value. When selling a house, it was common practice to leave everything in the garden behind when you moved. But recent publicity about unconsidered sculp­tures which turned out to be worth millions has made people more cautious.


Vast quantities of carved marble were brought back to Britain from Italy by wealthy travellers from the late 17th century onwards. By the late 19th century a very large industry had developed in Rome, Florence, Naples, Milan and Venice to supply statues.

The carvers produced a wide variety of pieces, many copying ancient Greek and Roman designs, others the Renaissance masters, and others again imitating work by 18th and  19th-century Neoclassical sculptors such as Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorwaldsen.

Perhaps the most popular are life-si:e copies of Classical statues, for which prices today start at a few thousand pounds and soar upwards. Religious subjects, especially 19th- century examples, have a much more limited market appeal and can often be bought at auction for only a few hundred pounds.


 Local stone of various kinds has long been carved to make garden ornaments, but much easier to produce are those made of synthetic stone of various types. One very distinctive material is Coade stone, which was made at the Coade factory in Lambeth, London, established in the 1760s.

No one has created a material to match its durability: it was non- porous to water and therefore resistant to frost damage. Coade stone was made into garden urns, statues and a wide range of architectural embellishments. Prices today range from £1000 to as much as £100,000.

Rather less durable is composition stone, a mixture of sand and cement which may contain stone or marble chips.

Composition stone ornaments have been produced since the early 19th century, but the vast majority have been made in the last 50 years. Unless authentically Victorian, composition stone has little investment potential. Even modern pieces sold in garden centres can look decep­tively old if encouraged to 'weather' by a coat of manure or yoghurt!

Part one of two

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