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Sheffield’s ‘Nelson’s Column’ must be re-erected in new retail quarter

We are urging Sheffield City Council to re-instate its Crimean War Memorial as part of a £480 million redevelopment and have started an online petition to enable the public to show their support.

Crimean War Monument, Sheffield

The Victorian Society is urging Sheffield City Council to re-instate its Crimean War Memorial as part of a £480 million investment in a new ‘retail quarter’. The Society has started an online petition to enable the public to show their support for the plan to return Sheffield’s equivalent of Nelson’s Column to the city centre. Last year groups including the Royal British Legion and the War Memorials Trust called on the Council to secure the future of the monument, which has been locked away for over a decade, in time for the 160th anniversary of the end of the Crimean War in 2016.

Largely forgotten today, the Crimean War played a vital part in the transformation of Sheffield into a major industrial city. Henry Bessemer invented his large scale steel making process in Sheffield during the war. This had a transformative impact on what became known as ‘Steel City’. Sheffield’s Crimean War Memorial, paid for by public donations, should be read in this context. Placed at Moorhead, it was a major visual and civic focus of the city – Sheffield’s equivalent of Nelson’s Column and one of the first ever war memorials to commemorate ordinary soldiers, rather than just their leaders. The Victorian Society wants to ensure that this tribute to Britain’s war dead is not left forgotten in a warehouse but restored to a prominent city centre location. 

Christopher Costelloe, Victorian Society Director, said: ‘When Sheffield Council removed the listed monument from the Botanical Gardens they agreed to a legal obligation to re-erect it a new site within two years. Failure to honour these terms sets a terrible example to the owners of Sheffield’s other listed buildings. The cost is small in the context of the £480 million ‘retail quarter’ scheme - the plans for which state public art will be needed. Great cities need to celebrate their history and architecture. If 19th century Sheffield could afford to design and build this great monument, but 21st century Sheffield can’t afford simply to re-erect it, this would say something very sad about the city’s vitality’.

The Grade II-listed memorial was designed by George Goldie in 1858 and originally consisted of a tall column with a figure of Victory at the top and Russian cannons at the base. In 1958, when appreciation of Victorian architecture was at an all-time low, and traffic engineers’ influence was at an all-time high, the monument was removed as part of a road scheme, and placed, minus the column, into Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens. In 2003 listed building consent was granted to remove the monument from the Botanical Gardens on the condition that it would be re-erected on a new site within two years. This deadline expired many years ago and the monument remains hidden in storage. As the monument’s owner Sheffield City Council is responsible for the failure to carry out the listed building consent’s conditions. As the local planning authority it is responsible for the failure to enforce those conditions. 

Sheffield Council’s decision to hide its Crimean War monument for over a decade is all the more sad given that such monuments are relatively rare. Earlier this year the Council stated that returning the memorial to Fargate in the city centre would detract from the war memorial in Barkers Pool, and instead suggested Castlegate as a potential location but made no commitment and offered no time frame. The documents accompanying the planning application for the new retail quarter note that ‘public art should be used to define, enhance and provide focal points of interest’. It would be absurd to spend money commissioning new pieces of public art when the Council already has a high quality, listed, piece of public art dedicated to the memory of Sheffield’s fallen languishing in storage.

The Victorian Society’s call for the re-erection of the monument has previously been joined by:

  • The Royal British Legion
  • War Memorial Trust
  • Mark Goldie, History Professor at Cambridge University & the architect's great-great-grandson
  • The Florence Nightingale Museum, and
  • The Victorian Military Society.

Friday 21 August, 2015

More recent item: Community group takes ownership of the Ancoats Dispensary
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