Type Sculpture , Statue
It is not clear at what point it was decided to erect this memorial in Southport. In 1901, shortly after the Queen's death, the town received a request from London for donations to the Victoria memorial fund.(1) Shortly afterwards it was suggested that a Memorial Museum of Natural Science should be founded, an idea which never came to fruition.(2) The decision to erect a statue must have taken place between March 1901 and March 1903, although the minute entry has not been traced.
The site of the memorial statue to Queen Victoria was to cause much controversy in the Town. In March 1903 the site for the statue was agreed as the junction of Neville Street and the Promenade.(3) The Memorial Committee was requested at this point to hand over any funds to the Treasurer of the Improvements Committee, whilst the cost of the base and erection was to be met by the Corporation.(4) Some three days later the position was defined more exactly as being twenty-four feet north of the centre line of Neville Street and the Promenade intersection on the seaward footpath of the Promenade itself.(5) No further action was taken until May, when Frampton together with members of the Memorial Sub-Committee inspected the Neville Street site. The statue was to be placed in the centre of the intersection, in line with the curbs of the south-west side of the Promenade. This rescinded the decision made in the minute 1046 (see above).(6) At the same meeting, Frampton's second design or the base was adopted. The Borough Surveyor called for tenders from two firms, Norbury of Liverpool and Patterson of Manchester. Bids were to cover the supply and erection of the base in hard brown Portland Stone.(7) The Committee rather precipitously discussed the possible date of unveiling in July and announced that tenders would be accepted for the provision of the base and erection, suggesting that earlier tenders were not suitable.(8)
In December the Improvement Committee together with a deputation from the Statue Sub-Committee inspected a model of the statue in various positions on the front.(9) The placement was now altered to a position in between Lord Street and Stanley Street, thirty two feet seaward of the railings of Neville Street Bridge, in line with the central carriageway portion of Neville Street. The Surveyor was instructed to begin preparing the foundations. Early in the new year the tender of £389.10.0 from Kirkpatrick Bros. For the Supply of a grey granite base was accepted.(10) This was evidently a change of plan: the Committee had initially desired a Portland Stone base and Kirkpatrick were not originally invited to apply for the contract. The Statue Sub-Committee also considered the issue of a suitable inscription: 'V. R. I. 1837-1901' had been suggested, but a fuller version was felt to be necessary by some.(11)
It is clear that by this point that the proposed position of the statue had come to the public's attention with the result that a campaign started to have the site altered. The campaign was led by Henry Taylor, a local historian and resident of Birkdale. He vehemently attacked the Improvement Committee in a series of letters published in the Southport Visiter in 1904. The paper seems to have lent its support to his cause, publishing the letters in pamphlet form for wider distribution. On 30th January Taylor's first letter was published. The argument used was that the Promenade was not suitable for the display of a royal statue. Taylor rather rashly stated 'Lord Street is Southport, not the front, which is only frequented by the cheap tripper.(12) He later had to tone down this statement, saying he in no way intended to disparage visitors to Southport.(13) He added that he felt the close proximity of a music hall lowered the tone of the site still further; 'If it so happens that the statue really comes to be placed there it will be the laughing stock of all travelled and educated persons'.(14) He suggested either London Square (now the site of the War Memorial), or the Municipal Gardens (in front of Cambridge Hall) as alternatives. A not to this letter added by the Editor states that the majority of the public favoured the London Square site.(15)
Taylor submitted two more letters in early February. The first strengthened his argument on the unsuitability of the situation, as he pointed out the embarrassment it would cause should the King ever see it. He condemned the juxtaposition of the royal statue with the music hall as 'comical and undignified in the extreme'.(16) He suggested that a better Promenade site was in the vacant area between the Victoria Hotel and a block of shops. However, the best solution remained a position on Lord Street; 'Lord Street is becoming by degrees one of the most beautiful thoroughfares in Europe, the process of further instilling it should go on'.(17) The second letter of 6th February suggests that the foundations already built at the Neville Street site could be used for the display of the Russian Gun.(18) This had been presented to the town in 1858 by the War Office in recognition of contributions to the Patriotic Fund. Originally placed in front of the Town Hall, it was at this time on show in Hesketh Park.(19)
In January and February 1904, the Improvement Committee continued to plan the erection on their favoured site in Neville Street. On 18th January it was agreed that the inscription would read 'Victoria 1837-1901', to be attached to the base in bronze letters. A full size sketch was to be sent to Frampton by the Surveyor.(20) It was also requested that the Statue Sub-Committee hand over all its funds to the Improvement Committee Treasurer.(21) The issue of which body was to pay for the statue seems to have been complex: the Memorial Committee had previously been required to hand its funds over in March 1903.(22) The Committee apparently remained confident of erecting the statue in Neville Street, since on 25th January the Mayor, with four members, began to make arrangements for the unveiling ceremony.(23) In mid February, a communication was received from Frampton advising against the bronze letters.(24) No reason was noted, but it was perhaps on the grounds of the increased likelihood of theft. Lead letters were thus adopted and the contractor apparently agreed to supply the longer inscription at no extra cost.
Following the 15th February meeting, no further action was taken regarding the statue until late March. Taylor however, continued to address the issue through the Visiter, writing on 20th February that the 'foreigners and trippers on the Promenade' were not as important as the residents and shopkeepers of Southport on Lord Street.(25) He followed this somewhat tasteless argument with a valid point concerning the orientation of the statue: 'If their (the Committee's) views are carried out the Queen will have her back turned to the town; her dexter eye will be cast on the sandbank, which I see is marked on my map as the 'BG BREAST'; whilst her sinister eye will look on the whiskey advertisements on the boards near her; on her side will be mutoscopes and trumpery stalls'.(26) A week later he criticised the site on thee grounds that the statue would not be big enough for it.(27) He stated that to properly occupy the proposed space, the statue neede to be twice the actual size. Finally, on the 3rd March, perhaps sensing victory, he condemned the decision as 'casual and haphazard'.(28) The two hundred subscribers had never been consulted and the proposed situation meant the figure either had its back to the town (clearly not ideal) or the sea (on which the towns existence was based).
The public pressure on the Improvement Committee prevailed in March 1904. On 12th March the Statue Sub-Committee recommended the adoption of a site in Lord Street, outside the Art Gallery. This was agreed by the Improvement Committee meeting two weeks later.(29) In May, the Mayor reported that Charles Scarisbrick had agreed to pay for the new foundations o the statue, which the Surveyor was instructed to make. It was also decided that the contractors should install the base after 28th May.(30) It would appear that the new site came under the juristriction of the Band Committee, who asked that the statue be placed in front of the centre of the Art Gallery, between the two footpaths, in line with the 'King's Tree'.(31) In a later joint meeting of the Improvement and Band Committees, the position was finalised as in the centre of the flowerbed in front of the Art Gallery, at lawn level.(32) The Improvement Committee set the unveiling date for 15th July in a meeting of 20th June.(33)
Having thus come via a lengthy and acrimonious route to the final erection of the statue, it is rather surprising that only eight years later the issue was raised again. Again the decision to move the statue does not seem to appear in the minutes and no comment has been traced in the Southport Visiter. Bailey states that it was moved to this more elevated position at the request of the sculptor, but provides no evidence for this assertion.(34) The first reference is that of 24th September 1912 when the plans submitted by the Borough Surveyor for the new layout in Neville Street were approved by the Town Planning and Improvement Committee.(35) The following day the Highway Sub-Committee stated that the statue would be placed in a small garden in the centre of Neville Street, opposite the Victoria Hotel.(36) One can assume that by then the decision to move it had already been taken. The following month the tender from the Manchester firm Kirkpatrick Bros. Of 110.0.0 for the removal and re-erection of the monument was accepted.(37) In November 1912, the town council resolved to consult Frampton regarding the re-erection of the memorial in Neville Street.(38) Interestingly there is no note of the actual move in the minutes or in the Visiter, although the Cheetham file gives the date of 20th December 1912.(39)
Queen Victoria (1819 - 1901). Alexandria Victoria, the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent, she was Queen from 1837 - 1901, and Empress of India from 1876. Victoria married Albert of Saxe-Coberg-Gotha in 1840; she famously proposed marriage to him five days after they first met and never fully recovered from his death in 1861.
Victoria 1837 - 1901
PMSA recording information