Liberal party statesman and four times Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone was one of the most revered politicians of the 19th Century. Renowned for his intense rivalry with Benjamin Disraeli, Gladstone was an outstanding orator and a passionate campaigner for reform, Irish Home Rule and an ethical foreign policy.
The Victorian Hobhouses were largely sympathetic of Gladstone's government and policies. In particular, Arthur Hobhouse (1819-1904), the fourth son of Henry Hobhouse (1776-1854), marked himself out as a proponent of Gladstonian liberalism. An equity lawyer, Hobhouse became a Q.C. and bencher in 1862 until his retirement in 1866. Thereafter he was appointed charity commissioner and was largely responsible for the Endowed Schools Act (1869). In 1872 he was elected a member of the council of the Governor-General of India, and by the end of his time in office in 1877 had been directly involved in passing the Specific Relief Act (1877) and the revision of the law relating the transfer of property in India, and was awarded the K.C.S.I. Engaging in Party politics, Hobhouse strongly opposed imperialism, and particularly condemned the conservative government's policies in India towards Afghanistan. Created Baron Hobhouse of Hadspen in 1885 he accepted a peerage from the outgoing Liberal government with a view to assisting in the judicial work of the House of Lords, but heard few appeal cases. He assisted his niece, Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926), with her campaign exposing conditions in the concentration camps in South Africa, and he became an important link between Victorian Liberalism and the 'New Liberalism' of the early 1900s, exemplified by the admiring memoir of him by his nephew Leonard Trelawney Hobhouse (1864-1929), on whom he was a significant influence.
This is one of very few bronze reductions (of which one other is known in the National Liberal Club) from Bruce-Joy's successful bronze memorial statue to Gladstone outside Bow Church. At the unveiling of the colossal statue to Gladstone outside Bow Church, on 9 August 1882 by The Rt. Hon. Lord Charlingford, the politician's son said: "Seldom if ever has the hand of a sculptor succeeded in producing so admirable and faithful a likeness." Another commented: "It seems to breathe the deep earnestness, the dignity and intellectual power of the statesman whom we used to call the 'Grand Old Man'."