National Recording Project


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

Statue of Oliver Cromwell


Type Statue , Sculpture

     The statue of Oliver Cromwell is shown in military uniform, without his hat. It is only one of four examples of Cromwell Statue represented without his hat. In his left arm he is shown holding the bible, unsheathed sword and one glove. His right arm gestured towards the lower left. Gaze shown left of centre. Behind left supporting leg Cromwell's hat rests on a book with seal, a sceptre and cloak in hem rest upon these. The statue is mounted on a pedestal. The pedestal bears four panels, one on each face. The front facing panel bears the inscription 'O. Cromwell', whereas the side panels are identical in format. These show a wreath surrounded in the four corners by leaves and a bird possibly a dove with a branch in its centre. The final relief panel has the same wreath and liet motif but contains a roaring head of a lion in relief in the place of the bird in the centre.
     Warrington Academy was established here in 1757, but moved to larger premises in Academy Street in 1762. It closed in 1783. Its founders were renowned in their various fields at the time and since: - Dr. John Taylor, the gifted commentator - John Aiken , the father of Mrs. Barbauld, the poetess and of John Aiken, the essayist and poet) - Dr. John Priestly, who discovered Oxygen - John Reinhold Foster, who accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage around the world - George Walker, author of 'The Doctrine of the Sphere' - Dr, Enfield, who wrote 'The Speaker' specially for the use of students - Gilbert Wakefield, the brilliant classical scholar Even John Paul Marat, the French revolutionary is said to have been part of the staff at one time. Many of the students of the academy went on to become as renowned as their teachers and the enterprise earned Warrington the proud name 'The Athens of England'. The first mention of the Oliver Cromwell statue would appear to be in the catalogue of the International Exhibition of 1862, which mentions 'Bell's colossal figure of Cromwell, on a pedestal of architectural character supporting two recumbent allegorical figures'. The current base does not resemble this. The legend within Warrington concerning the Town Hall gates originally being meant for Sandringham suggests that Queen Victoria was so annoyed by the statue of Cromwell which was displayed with them that she refused them. The story has however never been established. The first mentioning of the statue coming to Warrington is in a letter from Frederick Monks to the Warrington Council, dated the 30th January 1899. It reads: "My dear Mr. Mayor, The tri-centenary of the birth of Oliver Cromwell occurs on the 26th April of this year and it occurs to me as a fitting opportunity to offer my fellow townshipmen a fine statue of a remarkable man, to be placed in the front of the Town Hall or in the Gardens behind, as the council may determine. I know there are different estimates of the character of this statesman, but I think all will admit the wisdom and courage with which he guided the affairs of state at a critical time in the history of the country, and how nobly he made sacrifices to preserve the religious and political liberties of her people. I shall be obliged if you will allow me to make the offer through you to the Council, and if accepted I will arrange to deliver it to you as early as convenient. Yours faithfully, F. Monks." There has been some suggestion that Monk's decision to donate a statue of Oliver Cromwell was political. A paragraph in his obituary - printed in the Warrington Guardian - neatly describes his political point of view: "In politics he was for many years a convinced and enthusiastic Liberal, but like thousands of other Nonconformists, his anti-Roman proclivities proved stronger than this loyalty to Gladstonian Liberalism and on that adoption of Home Rule as a plank in the Liberal platform he went over to, and for a long time tarried with the Unionist Party. The effect however, of the action of the House of Lords in repeatedly blocking liberal measures, which resulted in the struggle for the due recognition of the right of the democracy to self-government, the claim for which was met by an intolerant and contemptuous arrogance and insolence on the part of the aristocratic hierarchy, to whom the lessons of the French revolution are as sounding brass, compelled by many men who, like Mr. Monks, had been reared in Cromwellian principles, to return to the party through whom alone have the liberties of conscience and political action been preserved to us." Although in his letter, Monks turns Cromwell into a local hero, his reasons were more to do with his political beliefs than placing within the city a lasting symbol of those beliefs. Such ambiguities created a lively discussion in the Warrington Town Council when the motion of whether to accept the statue was on the table in the chambers. Alderman Roberts presented a speech which offered his opinion that Cromwell was - despite some of his actions - 'a great Englishman'. Throughout the speech, Dr. Cannell offered small remarks intended to anger Alderman Roberts. Eventually he spoke and characterised Cromwell as 'an absolute murderer' and 'a diabolical scoundrel', offering evidence of these actions in various conflicts, as well as the storming of the House of Commons, and how these should be reasons not to accept the statue because in doing so they would be accepting Cromwell as a great man. In reply, Alderman Pierpoint explained that in the Houses of Parliament themselves, in the vestibules commemorating historic Englishmen, that there was a sculpture of Cromwell and that it would be an honour to accept the statue. Alderman Hutchinson admitted that Mr. Monk's other gift, the Town Hall gates had benefited the city, but added that the statue was very much a political statement. This suggestion was rejected by the Council leader and there was much agreement from the other councillors, who expressed the opinion that Mr. Monks did not appear to have any political leanings. A vote was taken as to whether to accept the statue and the motion was carried 15 to 2. Alderman Hutchinson and Dr. Cannell voted against. The resolution was put, 'That the offer of Mr. Monks, Esq., to give to the town a statue of Oliver Cromwell be gratefully accepted'. When the statue was delivered, the General Purposes Committee could not find a suitable place from the gardens it controlled, so the current site, in front of the Old Academy was chosen. There was some discussion at the Council on 11th May as to the exact position of the piece, relative to the kerb, the railings and the Academy building, and the possibility (as it turned out well founded) that traffic might be obstructed. It was eventually decided 'that the statue be erected in front of the Old Academy at Bridgefoot. The centre of the base to be set in line of the existing gate, and the necessary alterations made to the palisading and the approach to the Academy'. Frederick Monks then met the General Purpose Committee (24th April) and demanded that the piece should be erected on the kerb of the footpath, arguing that the piece would be dwarfed by the building if placed in the position suggested. He was not successful, although an editorial in The Examiner (29th April 1899) supported his cause. In a meeting of the 24th April, the Committee were able to approve the design of the statue (which appears to have already been made). But the positioning of the statue in what is effectively the outskirts of the city centre was not a popular move - however, historically the choice was correct and quite poignant. On the 6th May, The Examiner quoting The Warrington Circuit Wesleyan Methodist Church Record suggests that 'there is a great dissatisfaction throughout the town over the site which has been chosen for the statue .. It is a poor and contemptible thing, after accepting the gift unwillingly, to hide it away in an inconvenient corner .. while we feel with those who express their dissatisfaction in terms much stronger than we have ventured to use, we would like to point out that in one sense the site chosen is most appropriate, in as much as the closing scene of the Preston fight took place at Warrington Bridge'. The statue was listed in November 1973. The Warrington Guardian at the time states that although the statue could not now be destroyed, it could be moved because of road reconstruction work. Suggestions muted included the repositioning of the statue at Market Gate or as part of a proposed Georgian complex in Academy Street. The piece was renovated in 1980/4 and returned to a slightly different location (within 40ft of its old location), Bridgefoot Havoc, to allow for widening of the road. The renovation cost £5000.
     Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) is reputed to be one of the most important figures in British history. He was a general, lord protector of the Commonwealth, or republic, of England, Scotland and Ireland for five years. He was born at Huntingdon on the 25th April 1599, to a local family that customarily furnished members of Parliament. He was educated at Huntingdon Grammar School and at Sydney-Sussex College. He received schooling in classical and general culture and with this he went to London to study law. His father died in 1617, leaving him a moderate estate in Huntingdon. Elected as the member for Huntingdon in 1628, Cromwell made his mark by attacking the bishops of the Church of England. For the following twelve years he had a prominence in local affairs in eastern England and in 1640 was chosen to represent Cambridge in the Long Parliament. Once again he attacked the bishops, urging their total abolition and advocating purification of the church by abandoning the Book of Common Prayer and instituting more sermons. As war between King Charles I and Parliament approached, Cromwell prevented the dispatch of silver from Cambridge University to which were being used to increase the King's wealth; he also raised a troop and later a cavalry regiment at Huntingdon. These 'Ironsides' combined rigid discipline with a strict moral code and strong, tough organised enthusiasm. In the First English Civil War, after winning most of East Anglia for Parliament, Cromwell was appointed lieutenant General and helped defeat the royalists in the Battle of Marston Moor (1644). In 1645 he took part in the decisive victory at Naseby and, as second in command to Sir Thomas Fairfax, brought an end to the war by taking Oxford in 1646. When the largely Presbyterian Parliament quarrelled with its army, Cromwell, himself an Independent (Congregationalist), sided with the sectarian soldiers. After defeating the Scots, who had allied with the King, at Preston in 1648, he decided that Charles was responsible for renewing the civil war and pressed for his trial and execution. During 1649-51, Cromwell fought successfully in Ireland and Scotland, replacing Fairfax as commander in chief in 1650. When he perceived that the Rump Parliament (the remnant of the Long Parliament after the purge of the royalists and Presbyterians) was not pressing with the reform of the church and state, and was antagonistic to the army, he forcibly dissolved it. In 1653, he invited a nominated assembly of Independents (Barebone's Parliament) to create a new society. But this assembly moved too fast and was too extreme for Cromwell's taste. After it resigned its power in December 1653, a written constitution, the Instrument of Government, was drawn up by a group of army officers. It made Cromwell lord protector to govern the country with the aid of a council of state and a single-chamber parliament. Before the first protectoral parliament met, Cromwell and his council carried out a number of reforms, particularly of the law. Neither of his two parliaments passed much other legalisation however, as its members seemed more concerned with constitutional questions. His second parliament offered to make him King in 1657, an offer that he refused. Cromwell applied the training and disciplinary techniques he had developed in the Ironsides to the national army and navy, and developed formidable power in Europe which was victorious in the Anglo-Dutch War. In England, he succeeded in establishing a broad church with complete freedom for all Christian sects to worship as they wished outside it. His building up of the national prestige and his tolerance in religious matters - which was extended to the Jews who were allowed to settle in England for the first time since 1290 - were his outstanding achievements. He grew more tolerant in his later years and although an avowed Puritan since the age of 30, did not ban music, wine or dancing at his court. He died on 3rd September 1658, to be succeeded by his son, Richard Cromwell. But with his strong hold over the court gone it quickly fell into ruin. He was buried with pomp in Westminster Abbey, but after the Restoration his corpse was disinterred, hanged and beheaded at Tyburn and buried there by order of King Charles II in 1661. Cromwell had one of his great victories at Warrington. In 1648, a Scottish force under the Duke of Hamilton were defeated by him at Winwick, but retreated to Warrington. But not for long as Cromwell described to parliament at the time: "We prosecuted them home to Warrington; where they possessed the bridge, which had a strong barricade and works on it, formerly made very defensive. As soon as we come thither, I read a message from the General Baillie desiring some capitulation, to which I yielded. Considering the strength of the pass and that I could not go over the River Mersey within ten miles of Warrington, I gave him these terms. That he should surrender himself and all his officers and soldiers, prisoners of war, with all his arms and ammunition and horses of war; I giving quarter for life and promising civil usage, which accordingly is done." Cromwell took his victorious troops to Pyghill, where he spoke to his Scottish prisoners before letting them go. The prisoners dejectedly marched down the narrow lane which ran below the hill and began the long march back north, jeered at by the roundheads. That lane is forever known as Scotland Road. Cromwell stayed for a short time in lodgings in Church Street, at the 'Generale Wolfe', formerly known as the 'Spotted Leopard'. This still retains the name 'Cromwell's Lodgings'. He apparently stayed here for three days.


Upon the base: O. CROMWELL

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Bell, John Sculptor

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Statue Bronze or cast iron / brass 304cm high approx.
Base stone 182cm high approx.

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
General condition Good
Surface condition
  • No damage
Structural condition
  • None
  • None
Road Bridgefoot
Precise location at the side of Warrington Academy
A-Z ref None
OS ref None

Sorry, we have no precise geographical information for this item.

Date of design 1862
Year of unveiling 1899
Unveiling details None
Commissioned by Frederick Monks
Duty of care Warrington Borough Council
Listing status II
At risk? Not at risk

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