For a biography of Robert Stephenson, see Wikipedia link.
The statue shows Stephenson standing, looking straight ahead with a determined expression, one hand on hip, the other holding a scroll, and one foot advanced beyond the front edge of the statue's self-base. The engineer is shown wearing a frock coat, and the uncompromising modernity of the costume detail is noticeable, particularly in the "negative space" under the high-arched shoes. The rather deadpan quality of this statue echoes that of the two other figures of engineers, Brunel and Locke, which Marochetti clearly conceived as a series, to be placed together in the same location. His intentions and those of the respective memorial committees were to be thwarted, and a sort of statuary diaspora resulted in the three statues being erected in three separate locations.
The two great railway engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Robert Stephenson died within a month of one another, Brunel on 14 Sept. 1859 and Stephenson on 12 October 1859.
At the meeting held to consider a memorial for Brunel on 26 Nov. 1859,
J. St George Burke, introducing proceedings, admitted that he had
thought that there might be a joint commemoration of the two men.
However, he had learned that "differences of opinion existed on the
subject of a joint monument to such an extent that it would be
impossible to carry the proposal into effect" (Times, 28 Nov. 1859).
The proposal for a statue of Stephenson had to wait until the summer of August 1860. The Athenæum, reporting in its number for 25 Auguston a "recently held"meetingfor this purpose, stated that Lord Llanover, presiding, explained to the meeting that the subscription list for a Stephenson statue "would have been proceeded with more actively, but that a similar movement had been in progress to erect a statue of Brunel, so that until now it was thought inexpedient to advance the present object". However, the proposal was now to commission companion statues of the two engineers for the gardens of St Margaret's Westminster (now part of Parliament Square). The idea was that here, "in the way between the scenes of their professional labours and the parliamentary contests in which they had been engaged, the effigies of the two men might stand as beacons of encouragement to the younger members of that profession to which Great Britain owed so much of her greatness and prosperity".This decision was reiterated at a joint meeting of the two committees on 14 June 1861. Once again it was the Athenæum which gave the fullest account (29 June 1861). The statues were to be executed by Marochetti, but according to this source "the committees reported that they had no choice but to give these great works to Baron Marochetti in preference to an Englishman, as they might have wished". The Illustrated London News, in its number for 13 July 1861, implied that "government patronage" and "court favour" had decided the choice.
Permission from the Office of Works was granted for the site, but the plans for the erection of the statues dragged on, and, early in 1868, following a decision to reserve Parliament Square and the Canning Enclosure for statues of politicians, it was withdrawn. The First Commissioner of Works at the time this decision was taken was Austin Henry Layard. The decision came shortly after Marochetti himself had died. However, much earlier, in 1861, another First Commissioner, William Cowper, had already declined to admit a third statue of an engineer by Marochetti, that of Joseph Locke, into the area. That statue had been erected instead in Locke Park, Barnsley, in 1866.(see entry on Marochetti's statue of Locke)
Following the withdrawal of permission to erect the statues of Brunel and Stephenson in the Parliament Square area, they appear to have been taken into care by the Institution of Civil Engineers, which negotiated their re-location. That of Stephenson was acquired by the London and North Western Railway, and erected by the company in front of Euston Station in 1871.(Architect, vol.V, 24 June 1871, p.329, "A New Metropolitan Statue") A marble statue of Stephenson's father, George (1851), by Edward Hodges Baily, already stood in the ticket hall. After the demolition of Philip Hardwick's Victorian station building in the 1950s , Baily's statue of George Stephenson went to the National Railway Museum in York, but Marochetti's figure of Robert was re-erected in the forecourt of the new station building, where it has occupied various different positions. At present it looks across the forecourt from a westerly position.
The commonplace realism of Marochetti's figure did not go unremarked. The reporter for the Architect (vol.V, 24 June 1871, p.329) implied, in its description of the statue, that it was little more than a tailor's dummy. The sculptor had followed the example set by Baily in his statue of George Stephenson inside the station, by giving "a fair counterpart of the man 'in his habit as he lived'". The quotation was, in this case, the reporter claimed, "somewhat too felicitous, for the difficulty of modern costume has not been successfully grappled with; the power of the tailor to deform man's frame is too painfully apparent, and the figure gives an unpleasant idea of having been executed for an enterprising firm of sartorial artists bent on displaying the cut of their garments".