North East Wales

Calls for St Asaph's HM Stanley sculpture to be removed

HM Stanley sculpture in St Asaph
Image caption A survey showed residents wanted to mark HM Stanley's ties with St Asaph

More than 400 people have signed a petition calling for a newly installed sculpture to be removed from a Denbighshire town centre.

But councillors say they cannot afford to remove St Asaph's tribute to explorer HM Stanley because they would have to return an £18,000 grant.

A survey showed residents were in favour of the idea to mark Stanley's local ties with a permanent reminder.

But the obelisk unveiled in June has been branded as hideous and phallic.

Residents who signed the petition want it to be removed from its prominent location near the town's cathedral and a busy road junction.

The obelisk marks the time the Victoria adventurer spent at a workhouse in the town, the present day HM Stanley Hospital.

Town councillor Denise Hodgkinson, who set up the petition, said feelings were running high.

'Triumph of determination'

She said people have been branding it monstrous and want it removed.

However, she says the town council cannot afford to remove it due to a condition over the grant used to commission the work.

"It means it's going to stay," she said.

"We are going to have to put up with it. I can see no way out of it."

Image caption HM Stanley was born in Denbigh and lived as a child in St Asaph

Before the unveiling in June, former St Asaph mayor Elsie Powell, a member of the group which commissioned the work, said she was pleased with the obelisk.

But the current mayor, Andrew Pirie, has since told the Denbigshire Free Press the majority of residents do not like the statue.

"Obviously this petition shows the depth of feeling about the statue and the council will have to see what they can do about it," he said.

"However, I think the council can't do much in the next few years as they can't afford to pay back the costs of the statue if it is removed."

Most of the money for the sculpture came from Cadwyn Clwyd, a rural development agency, using money from the Welsh Government and Europe, with a contribution from Denbighshire council.

Image caption The artwork includes images from local schoolchildren, which have been praised

Both have been asked to comment.

The two blacksmiths who produced the obelisk had agreed to take on board earlier criticisms when plans for the statue were put forward by the committee set up to honour Stanley.

Humble beginnings

From the workhouse and through his life as a reporter, explorer and MP, the piece is supposed to commemorate Stanley and his "triumph of determination and human spirit to overcome and succeed against the odds".

The obelisk includes images provided by pupils from Ysgol Esgob Morgan, Ysgol Glan Clwyd and Fairholm School, based on stories from his life - and the children's work has been widely praised.

A Congolese effigy sits at the top of the pole which reflects the time Stanley spent in the Congo and his famous greeting, "Dr Livingstone, I presume?" in 1871.

Another statue unveiled outside Denbigh Library in March received planning approval, despite a letter signed by 50 prominent figures claiming the explorer was guilty of crimes against humanity.

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