National Recording Project

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

JOHN FIELDING

Summary

Type Statue

     Stone portrait statue on substantial stone pedestal. Fielding is holding a paper in his left hand. A rather stiff representation. The statue is life size but appears to be too small for the pedestal
     Such were the achievements of this "uncrowned king of men," it was considered appropriate that his friends and admirers should get together to perpetuate his memory. The Operative Spinners' Association voted £250 to Fielding's wife, and also contributed £105 as the nucleus of a memorial fund. A joint committee was then appointed, consisting of members of the Spinners' Association and the Bolton Trades Council. Schemes including a scholarship at the Town Hall or a monument over Fiedling's grave were suggested, but the committee chose a statue as a demonstration that high character and true worth could be recognised in the life of the workman as well as in those of soldiers and patriots. The Memorial Committee was chaired by T. Crompton, the former chariman of the Operative Spinners' Association. The joint secretaries were A Hill and Councillor Tootill. The committee sought to keep the contract for the statue in Bolton, with a view to "aiding local industry" and local masons and sculptors were invited to send in plaster busts. Six responses were received, with the best being that by J. W. Bowden who carried out the work with his sons and with "the benefit of the committee's advice and suggestions." A site in Nelson Square, next to the Crompton statue, was preferred by the committee, but the council preferred the park site.(3) The day of the unveiling, July 11th 1896, would, according to the Bolton Journal, "live long in the memory of Boltonians as the one on which thousands of working men rose in the full strength of their industrial might" to do honour to a man who had worked tirelessly for the benefit of his fellow workers. The statue cost £250, paid for out of a subscription fund in which "the gold of the wealthy" mingled with "the mite of the little piecer." It was unveiled by Lord James of Hereford, who had known Fielding and was the sponsor of factory legislation. In his speech he praised Fielding as a disinterested public servant, who had shown "high character. . .real mental strength exerted with loyal and devoted purpose." He also lauded Fielding's contribution to workers' combination, which was now "recognised as a great power" partly because of the moderation Fielding had shown throughout his career as a union leader.(4) The statue, by local stonemason J. W. Bowden presented a life-sized image (five foot ten) of Fielding somewhat dwarfed by a massive pedestal. Although the Lancashire Review called the resulting "doll-like" sculpture "simply ludicrous" as a work of art, it somewhat condescendingly allowed the memorial to be viewed as a sentimental and "pathetic" tribute "to a beloved benefactor, bought with the hardly-spared contributions of those whom he loved and wrought for so well."(5) The procession to the park was mainly made up of local trade organisations. However, the arrangements were far from perfect especially since the town did not stop the trams running, causing traffic jams which disrupted the procession, and caused part of it to enter the park 15 minutes after the ceremonials had ended. The unveiling was also used as an opportunity to attack "sweating prices" and poor employment practices which were driving down wages in the cotton industry, and to urge consumers not to pursue the cheapest "sweated" cloth.(6) In 1984 the head of the statue was removed by vandals, along with that of the neighbouring Disraeli monument, but was found in the shrubbery soon afterwards.
     John Fielding (1849-1894), trade unionist, born at Redlaur, neear Blackburn the son of a cotton worker. At the age of 12 he took up the same profession and remained a millworker until 1874 when he succeeded his father as secretary to the Self-Actor Minders' Association. In November of that year he was appointed secretary to the Bolton Trades' Council. He was instrumental in uniting the two branches of spinning industry unionism in one organisation, the Operative Spinners' Provincial Association, a union which was, according to the Bolton Journal, "second to none in the kingdom for wealth and power." The same paper praised his "indomitable energy, his great grasp of thought, his forceful character, and his kindliness of disposition" which had "lifted his fellow workers from the chaotic weakness of disunion to the higher plane of united combined effort" and to the "proud position they now occupy in the industrial world."(2) In 1879 he became a J. P for Bolton.

Inscriptions

Inscription on pedestal, set in a cartouche on which is a representation of the Borough Coat of Arms in relief, reads: J.T. FIELDING J.P. FOR OVER 20 YEARS/THE SECRETARY OF THE/OPERATIVE COTTON SPINNERS' ASSOCIATION/AND UNITED TRADES COUNCIL/OF BOLTON AND DISTRICT. Lower down on pedestal: UNITY AND EQUITY WERE THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF HIS LIFE. ERECTED BY THE TRADE UNIONISTS AND PUBLIC OF BOLTON AND PRESENTED TO THE BOROUGH JULY 11TH 1896 The pedestal also bears the name of J. BOWDEN PARK RD. BOLTON.

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Bowden, J. William Sculptor

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Statue Stone 180cm high
Pedestal Stone 366cm high approx x 160cm square

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
MR/BOL23 MR
General condition Poor
Surface condition
  • Corrosion, Deterioration
  • Biological growth
Structural condition
  • Cracks, splits, breaks, holes
Vandalism
  • Structural damage
Road None
Precise location Terrace
A-Z ref p. 145 D7
OS ref SD706093
Date of design 1894-96
Year of unveiling 1896
Unveiling details 11 July 1896
Commissioned by Memorial committee
Duty of care Bolton MBC
Listing status II
At risk? No known risk

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