Many of Britain’s towns are given additional character by public artworks and statues. In this issue’s Discover Towns we look at a selection of statues that reflect upon the towns’ connections with art and politics.
A busy market town, and the county town of Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury has significant buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, particularly around its large central market square. These days it’s a popular choice for commuters to London, and is a significant transport hub.
Live music nightclub the Friars’ Club was prominent from the 1960s to the 1980s. It hosted many top artists of the time including Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Talking Heads. David Bowie debuted two albums at gigs here in the early 1970s, as well as his Ziggy Stardust persona. The town honoured its music heritage, and its connection with David Bowie, by unveiling a statue of him in the Market Square in 2018. The statue depicts Bowie in three of his many guises, including as Ziggy.
Morecambe is a traditional seaside resort, as its tourism industry developed with the installation of railways in the mid-nineteenth century. Due to these railway links, it attracted mill workers from Yorkshire, and until the mid-20th century, was frequented for holidays.
It was also the birthplace of comedian Eric Morecambe. It has honoured this connection by erecting a statue that overlooks Morecambe Bay and the Lake District hills. The statue shows Morecambe in a characteristic comedy pose, with a pair of binoculars around his neck, a reference to his love of ornithology. It was unveiled by the Queen in 1999.
Commonly known as the Potteries, due to its links with England’s pottery industry, Stoke-on-Trent has a rich cultural heritage. A sculpture trail takes visitors through a vast range of public artworks – including a 19th Century copy of Benvenuto Cellini’s original 1550s masterpiece Perseus with the Head of Medusa, in the Italian Gardens at Trentham. The trail can be found on visitstoke.co.uk.
A prominent statue is of George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland, which was erected in 1837. On his death, he was one of the greatest landowners in the country, and had a reputation of enormous benevolence with his tenants – although this has been challenged due to his involvement in the Highland Clearances.
The monument, also located in Trentham Gardens, is known as the ‘Mannie’, and has been listed as Grade II for architectural and historic interest.
Lincoln is the county town of Lincolnshire, and can be traced to the Iron Age – with round wooden dwellings being dated back to the 1stcentury CE.
The construction of Lincoln Cathedral started in 1072. From 1311-1548 it was the tallest building in the world. Built in the Gothic style, Victorian writer John Ruskin wrote ‘the cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles’.
Just outside the Cathedral is a statue of former Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It was installed at the Cathedral in 1905, and the sculptor, George Frederick Watts, was inspired by Tennyson’s poem ‘Flower in the Crannied Wall’.
Kensington, London and Sefton Park, Liverpool
A statue of Peter Pan was commissioned by author J.M. Barrie, and made by sir George Frampton. It was erected in 1912, and is displayed in Kensington Gardens – close to Barrie’s former home. Barrie’s stories were in part inspired by Kensington Gardens.
Frampton made six other casts from the original mould – and only one other is displayed in the UK, in Sefton Park, Liverpool.