Statue debate for Sheffield golden girl Jess

Great Britain's Jessica Ennis celebrates winning Gold
Great Britain's Jessica Ennis celebrates winning Gold
Have your say

A STADIUM. A square. Now a statue? Demands for Sheffield golden girl Jessica Ennis to be honoured in her home city have been growing all week long.

The Star has led calls for the Don Valley Stadium to be renamed after the Olympic-winning heptathlete - but in aftermath of her victory it seems many Sheffielders want even more.

Dozens of messages on social media networks and in letters to this paper have suggested further ways of honouring the Millhouses superstar.

And it seems among the most popular is the idea of renaming Tudor Square and adding a commemorative statue.

But what exactly would that mean and, if such a monument was installed, who would Jess be joining? Public statues of famous people are a relatively uncommon sight in Sheffield.

The city has a mass of monuments to mythical creatures (like Vulcan on the Town Hall) and unnamed bodies (including Parkway Man installed off Sheffield off Sheffield Parkway in 2001), and there are several private statue such as Derek Dooley outside Bramall Lane.

There are also the unnamed soldiers on various war memorials including in Barker’s Pool.

But there are just four publicly-owned statues of recognisably famous people: James Montgomery in the garden of Sheffield Cathedral, Ebenezer Elliot in Weston Park, King Edward VII in Fitzalan Square and Queen Victoria in Endcliffe Park.

Jess, it seems, would become the only living member of a very famous five.

“She absolutely deserves to be part of that elite group,” said former council leader Paul Scriven, who has organised the online campaign.

“Jess has become a Sheffield superstar and if the city can’t make a permanent and lasting statue to someone who has inspired millions of young people, not just in Sheffield but around the world, then something is seriously wrong. This is someone who has become the international face of the Olympics, who is a Sheffielder through and through, who was born here, raised here, schooled here and trained here, and who is still proud of the city. A reminder of what she has achieved is the very least we should do.

“Would it attract visitors? In the short term perhaps but we have to be realistic and say this wouldn’t be installed as a way of attracting tourists - it would be a tribute. And Tudor Square is absolutely the right place to have it. The square was created ahead of the 1991 student games so it has sporting pedigree. And you have to remember it’s right outside The Crucible. It would be visible to millions of visitors and TV viewers every year.”

He has written to Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore putting forward the idea. So far there has been no response but the authority has said it will consult with Ennis and her family before announcing any potential tributes.

Sian Brown, customer service manager with Museums Sheffield, thinks the idea might work - but only if done well.

“Artwork can really animate a public area, providing the work is strong and consideration has been given to its location,” she said.

“A good example are the wonderful sculptures by George Fullard from the city’s visual art collection which have been in the courtyard of the Upper Chapel on Norfolk Street for many years now. However, introducing sculpture to a public space can be difficult to get right and will often polarise opinion.”

And certainly that could be the case with the Jessica Ennis idea.

Richard Caborn, Sports Minister in the New Labour government between 2001 and 2007, is less than convinced it would work.

“We all know what happens to statues,” he says. “I’m not being disrespectful but they get pigeons sitting on them. That’s not how we want to pay tribute our Jess. I think renaming the Don Valley Stadium is a far better idea. That’s a living thing. You can take your kids to the Jessica Ennis Stadium where Jessica Ennis trained. There couldn’t be anything more inspiring than that.”

The statue debate, it seems, is on...

Sheffield’s famous foursome

James Montgomery (by John Bell), 1860, Cathedral Precinct

MONTGOMERY was a newspaper editor, a poet, a hymn writer and a campaigner for justice. Born in Scotland in 1771, he moved to Sheffield to edit city newspaper the Sheffield Iris. He was twice jailed for contentious editorials - one of which did nothing more the question the need of troops to fire on an unarmed protest crowd in the city. He wrote several poems against slavery and produced 400 hymns. He lived in Glossop Road and died in 1854. The statue was designed by John Bell and paid for by public money raised through Sheffield Sunday Schools.

Ebenezer Elliott (by Neville N Burnard), 1854, Weston Park

ELLIOTT, born in 1781, was considered the defining poet of his age and national hero of the downtrodden. His monumental work The Corn Law Rhymes were a ferocious attack on the injustices of the era and made Elliot - who was born in Masborough and died in Barnsley in 1849 but lived much of his life in Sheffield - a global star. His statue was designed by Cornish stonemason Neville Burnard and cost £600, paid for by Sheffield Town Council.

King Edward VII (by Alfred Drury), 1913, Fitzalan Square

KING Edward was a hugely popular monarch during his reign from 1901 to 1910, and he regularly visited Sheffield - notably to open Sheffield University in 1905. A scheme to commemorate his late rule appeared in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in 1911, proposed by a prominent citizen. It won wide support and the cost - around £150,000 was raised from local businesses and prominent citizens. It was designed by Alfred Drury whose more famous sculptures appear on London’s Vauxhall Bridge.

Queen Victoria by Alfred Turner, 1905, Endcliffe Park

THE United Kingdom’s longest ruling monarch, Queen Victoria was the first serving king or queen to visit Sheffield. She did so in 1887 as part of her golden jubilee tour, opening the Town Hall while here. This statue - erected in 1905, four years after Victoria’s death - was originally sited at junction of Fargate and Leopold Street but was moved to Endcliffe Park in 1930. It was paid for by public subscription, designed by the hugely respected Alfred Turner and unveiled by Princess Beatrice of Battenburg.

...and some other landmarks

THERE are thought to be more than 30 public statues across Sheffield featuring various anonymous bodies, representative figures and mythical creatures, such as Vulcan on top the Town Hall. Unnamed soldiers are on various war memorials such as Barker’s Pool and Weston Park. Others include everything from George Fullard’s trio of statues outside Union Chapel in Norfolk Street - Mother and Child, Running Woman and Angry Woman - to a mythical figure of Mercury outside The Star building in High Street. Private statues include Derek Dooley’s famous image outside Bramall Lane and Robin Bell’s monument to steel workers, Teeming , at Meadowhall.