National Recording Project

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Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

JAMES FRASER

Summary

Type Statue

     Bronze full-length statue of Fraser, dressed in long coat and gaiters, in the act of addressing a meeting. The statue surmounts an Aberdeen grey granite pedestal decorated with three rectangular bas-reliefs showing different aspects of Fraser's work in the diocese: Fraser the Churchman (conducting a confirmation); Fraser the Citizen (addressing men in a work-yard); and Fraser the Charitable Man (visiting a public institution).
     The widespread respect felt for Fraser meant that following his death he received that rare honour for a Victorian bishop, the raising of an outdoor public statue. The first public meeting to discuss a memorial statue was held in Manchester town hall in November 1885. A large memorial committee, including ministers from the principal denominations, was established. A public subscription was opened 'to which persons of all religious denominations' were asked to contribute; within a few weeks some £3,000 had been collected or promised. A sub-committee was charged with making the arrangements for the statue. It recommended approaching Thomas Woolner to sculpt the statue. Woolner, one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who had produced the principal statuary for the Assize Courts in Manchester in the 1860s, agreed to provide the statue. A fee of £3,250 (excluding fitting) was agreed for a statue that would be nine feet tall and include a pedestal with three bas-relief panels. Woolner represented Fraser in his ordinary working clothes, whilst the subjects of the three panels were to be Fraser the churchman, the citizen and the charitable man. The location of the statue was to be on the edge of Albert Square, close to Princess Street; a site agreed with the Paving Committee. At the same time as the statue was being planned, plans were also under way for a separate diocesan memorial in the cathedral. This was a life- size marble effigy of Fraser in his bishop's robes, recumbent on an ornately carved altar tomb. The figure was sculpted by James Forsyth; the tomb being the work of Earp, Son and Hobbs. It was officially inaugurated in a chapel provided by Fraser's widow, Agnes, in July 1887. Delays prevented Woolner's statue from being ready until the following spring. The casting was carried out at James Moore's foundry in Thames Ditton. Woolner wrote to the committee that he considered it to be 'one of the best casts he ever made.' The statue was delivered and erected in the square, with Woolner apparently deciding that its best position was looking towards Princess Street rather than facing towards the town hall or the square. This decision appears to have been rushed as the inscription was now on rear of the pedestal rather than at the front. The unveiling ceremony in April 1888 attracted a large crowd keen to see the statue of the 'Citizen Bishop'. The principal guests were a formidable group though two notable absentees were Thomas Woolner and Mrs Fraser. The ceremony was conducted with the usual generous speeches, with the honour of unveiling the statue going to the mayor, James Harwood. The statue was well received except for Woolner's decision to position the statue so that it was looking away from the square and the town hall. Calls were made for this 'blunder' to be rectified but no action was taken. The final sum subscribed for the statue amounted to £3,946, leaving a small surplus to be paid into Bishop Fraser's Scholarship Fund. The three plaster reliefs (bronzed) made for the Fraser statue were sold at the auction of Woolner's studio in 1913. Since its unveiling calls have been repeated either to turn the statue or the pedestal. However, in spite of the addition of further statues in the square, all facing the town hall, Fraser has remained looking towards Princess Street, or, as some have assumed, towards the cathedral. An opportunity to turn the statue offered itself in 1960 when a lorry collided with it. It was necessary to remove Fraser from his pedestal but the bishop was not for turning as when the statue was replaced he was still looking away from the square.
     James Fraser (1818-1885) was born in Prestbury, Gloucestershire, the son of a retired India merchant. He was educated at Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury before entering Oxford University in 1836. He was ordained in 1846 becoming curate at Colderton, Wiltshire. Fraser continued his connection with Oxford University, he had been elected a fellow of Oriel College in 1840, becoming a chaplain and examiner. In 1860 he became rector of the small rural parish of Upton Norvet, Berkshire. His interest in elementary education resulted in him being appointed a commissioner in the government enquiry into foreign education systems. In 1870, following the death of James Prince Lee, Fraser was appointed as Manchester's second bishop. The Manchester diocese contained over two million people and 800 clergy. He was virtually unknown in the city but his straightforwardness, simplicity and sincerity soon struck a chord with Lancashire people. He gave up the bishop's out-of-town residence, Mauldeth Hall, moving closer to the centre to be with the people. A man of wide sympathies, his willingness to listen and to find common ground with those with whom he disagreed, were qualities which enabled him to move across both religious and social boundaries. All this was in contrast to his predecessor. Suspicion towards Fraser turned into admiration, and in the following years the country rector became the 'Bishop of All Denominations'. His death on 22 October 1885, brought trading to a halt on the Cotton Exchange.

Inscriptions

Inscription on pedesatl: BORN 18TH AUGUST 1818 / DIED 22ND OCTOBER 1885 / ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION / 1887

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Woolner, Thomas Sculptor

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
statue bronze statue 274 cm high approx
Pedestal Aberdeen granite 260cm high
Low relief panels Bronze 60cm high x 90cm long
None None None

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
MR/MCR05 MR
General condition Good
Surface condition
  • Bird guano
Structural condition
  • None
Vandalism
  • None
Road Albert Square
Precise location North side facing towards Cross Street
A-Z ref p.158 F1
OS ref SJ835980
Date of design None
Year of unveiling 1888
Unveiling details 14 April 1888
Commissioned by None
Duty of care Manchester City Council
Listing status II
At risk? Not at risk

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