Sheffield's Crimea Monument is one of last year's buildings most at risk. Here is news of the latest situation.
THE CRIMEAN WAR MEMORIAL
We were slightly surprised to learn that Sheffield’s Crimean War Monument was to feature last year as one of the Victorian Society’s list of ten most endangered buildings across the country. The surprise was not that it merited inclusion in the list, but because this had not been one of your Committee’s nominations this year. Rather, the nomination came from a member of the public, and we’re very pleased they were interested enough to do this.
The Monument’s history can be briefly told. It was erected by public subscription to commemorate ‘the natives of Sheffield’ who died in the Crimean War (1853-6). Fundraising began in 1857 and the monument was in place by 1861; Florence Nightingale (who had family connections with Sheffield) declined to unveil it but sent a donation. The designer was the architect George Goldie, a partner in Matthew Hadfield’s practice here. The Monument dignified Moorhead for almost a century until, around 1960, it was dismantled; like almost every statue in the city centre it fell foul of the Council’s traffic engineers. It was broken up, with the statue of Victory from the top, and the base, re-erected in the Botanical Gardens. The column which had joined them was half-buried, in sections, in a public open space in Addy Street, Upperthorpe, where they remain, complete with a plaque recording the event. What happened to the elaborate capital that graced the column, who knows?
Then in 2004 the Monument had to be removed; it was a condition of the grant which restored the Botanical Gardens that they were restored to their original, 1830s, appearance. So the Monument was taken in to the Council’s store, where it remains, a decade on. They assure us that it is in good condition. We hope so. This is a Grade 2 listed structure paid for by the public and it should be available for them to view and appreciate. The Council, understandably, is concerned about the cost of moving the Monument back into view. Then there is the question where it might go. This is going to take time, but we will do our best to see it through. Sheffield has lost too much of its public art from the city centre, and it’s time to get it back.
Following the inclusion of the Memorial in the Society’s 2104 list of the most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the country, the City Council offered a meeting, and this finally took place in March. We have established that when it left the Botanical Gardens the Memorial went to specialists for conservation and was subsequently returned, wrapped in plastic and on 11 palettes, to a Council store. There it remains, not even the plastic sheeting having been removed (though it seems that Victory’s sword has somehow come adrift and been shelved separately). No-one could tell us whether the capital is in the store but we suspect not, as it did not end up in the Gardens in 1960, nor is it with the remains of the pillar in Addy Street, and it has not been seen since.
The Council’s officers confirmed that the original plans for the ill-fated Sevenstone scheme – the new retail quarter – assumed that a home back in the city centre would be found for the Memorial but we were very concerned to be told that the idea had ‘gone off beyond the margins’ of Council thinking and planning for the successor scheme, which is due to go out to tender later this year. And we saw no sign of serious thinking about ways of raising funding for its restoration, let alone identifying potential sites for its re-erection. It is clearly seen as at most a ‘nice to have’ which is getting no priority at all within the Council. We appreciate the huge financial and staffing pressures on the Council, but it makes little sense to neglect the possibility of attracting grant funding into the city for a worthwhile project like this.
After the meeting the Chair of VS, Hilary Grainger, wrote to the Council Leader, Cllr Julie Dore, asking her to commit the Council to restoration within a reasonable timeframe, and setting out the good reasons for doing this (did you know our memorial was one of the very first to commemorate ordinary soldiers who fought for their country, rather than generals and admirals?). We look forward to her reply and hope it will be a positive one, not least as the Council has ignored the terms of the planning permission it granted itself for the Memorial’s removal, and that breach has gone on for long enough.
UPDATE July 2015:
CRIMEAN WAR MEMORIAL: DEVELOPMENTS – OR RATHER, NOT.
In our last newsletter we reported at length on the Society’s attempts to get the City Council to take seriously its responsibilities for the Crimean War Memorial, in storage for over ten years now and thus leaving the Council in long-term breach of its own planning conditions.
After the meeting between Chris Costelloe, VS Director, and me and Council officials, the Society’s Chairman Prof Hilary Grainger wrote on 3 March to the leader of the Council, Cllr Julie Dore, to set out the reasons for reinstating the Memorial, preferably in the city centre, and offering VS help in achieving this.
Three months later our Chairman has not had the courtesy of a reply, and Chris Costelloe has reminded Julie Dore’s office that a response is outstanding. In the meantime the Council has published its proposals for what it is now calling the Sheffield Retail Quarter. It is clear that the issue of reinstatement has not been considered in these proposals (though it was said to have featured in the defunct Hammersons’ scheme). A mere 4 weeks were allowed for comment on this massive retail development. The Council will however find in the comments received a number of demands that it puts the Memorial back where it belongs.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2015
THE SAGA DRAGS ON….
We reported last time on the delay in getting a response from Sheffield Council to proposals, and offers of help, from our Chairman Hilary Grainger. Just afterwards a letter arrived from Julie Dore, Council Leader. After rejecting any suggestion the Memorial might go into Barker’s Pool (because there is a civic war memorial there already and its policy to see that as commemorating all wars) or the top of Fargate (because it would get in the way of the roundabouts – and the Council’s income from them) it had nothing positive to suggest other than a vague suggestion that there might be space on the old Castle Markets site once the demolition is complete and the archaeology work on the castle remains has finished and maybe that ‘could be considered’. Very much a kick into the long grass, since there is no date for the excavation yet (no budget yet secured), no-one knows what will be found and no-one, thus, knows what sort of space might be available. Since then the Sheffield Star has carried a fair amount of correspondence, on both sides of the argument. There is certainly interest in the city on what happens, and we’ll keep up the pressure. This really ought to be an issue for the Retail Quarter plans, and the public art budget included in them. We have decent public art that just needs a place in the sun rather than a dark corner of the Council’s store.
The Society is understandably not happy, and has launched an on-line petition on Change.org to press for city centre relocation in time for the 160th anniversary, in 2017, of the end of the Crimean War. Moreover, the recently- released plans for the Sheffield Retail Quarter call for money to be spent on new public art for this area. Why not spend some of the cash on restoring the public art we already have to where it belongs? If you have internet computer access please add your name to the online petition. Just go to Change.org and search for ‘Sheffield Council’.