City is the poorer for exile of statues

I have to differ from K Tomlinson, (letters, December 29), about the statue of Edward VII in Fitzalan Square.

Thursday, 4th January 2018, 5:46 am
Updated Thursday, 4th January 2018, 5:50 am
King Edward VII statue

It’s a good piece of work, by the well-known sculptor Alfred Drury, and has the distinction of being just about the only statue in central Sheffield to survive in its original position.

For too long these pieces of public art have been removed from the places they were designed for. The city is the poorer for their exile to suburban parks.

Compare other large cities and you’ll see they have had the sense to retain their statutes where they truly belong. Far from banishing Edward to Endcliffe Park, I’d personally prefer to see Queen Victoria returned to her spot outside the Town Hall.

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As to the Crimean War Memorial, whose whereabouts K Tomlinson queries, I can provide some answers. The statue of Victory and the base sections are in the City Council’s store, where they have languished since their removal from the Botanical Gardens in 2004 (to be fair, the Council did have all these pieces conserved before consigning them to the store). The stones that formed the big column for the statue are half-buried in a piece of public open space in Upperthorpe, together with a plaque explaining what they are.

No-one can tell us where the ornate capital that graced the top of the column has got to, but there is good reason to believe it was sold by the council when the Memorial was removed from Moorhead in 1957.

If anyone has better information, or confirmation of this, the Victorian Society would love to know.

The council in 2004 gave itself planning consent for the removal from the Gardens, but appears to have forgotten the condition attached to that consent at the time – and insisted on by English Heritage, it being Grade 2 listed – that a suitable new central site was to be identified within two years and a detailed plan for its placement then agreed and implemented.

The Victorian Society attempted in 2015 to get the council to recognise its responsibility towards a monument which was paid for by the donations of Sheffielders and which was the first such memorial in the country to commemorate ordinary soldiers rather than their generals.

We thought the time was ripe for its placement in the New Retail Quarter then planned, close to its original site, in time for the centenary of the end of the Crimean War.

Sadly we made no progress, in spite of offering to help with raising the necessary funds, beyond a vague suggestion that the site of Sheffield Castle, once archaeological investigation was complete, might be something to think about.

Two years on the archaeology has not begun and there is no sign of the council’s thinking any further about it – though we would be pleased to know if they have.

The Society still regards the Memorial as significantly at risk. Why not, as K Tomlinson suggests, put it into Fitzalan Square? – but together with Edward VII, not instead of him.

Valerie Bayliss

Chair, South Yorks Group, The Victorian Society