The Other Edward

Many first-time visitors to Lichfield's Museum Gardens head straight for Kathleen Scott's statue of Captain Edward Smith. Some also pause by Peter Walker's statue of Erasmus Darwin. Few seem to pay much attention to the other Edward standing nearby but, although it lacks the romance and tragedy of R.M.S. Titanic or the essence of a great polymath, the statue of King Edward VII has its own story to tell.

Presented to the City by Robert Bridgeman, during his year of office as Sheriff, the statue was intended as a gesture of the City's loyalty to the King and was the first of its kind to be erected in the country after his accession in 1901. Carved by George Lowther of Robert Bridgeman and Sons, it is made of Portland stone and stands just over seven feet high, set on a tall pedestal of Hoptonwood stone. The pedestal has a lion's head at each corner. Their mouths hold laurel wreaths with sprays of fruit and flowers, below which are labels "Africa", "Australia" "Canada" and "India". On the front of the pedestal is the Imperial Crown, under which are the arms of the City of Lichfield.

The King is portrayed in full coronation robes, with collar, ribbon and star of the Order of the Garter, and the sceptre in his right hand. After more than a century in the open air, and numerous cleanings, some of the more intricate details have eroded away. But they are clearly visible on two rare photographs, also published as postcards, which are believed to have been taken in Bridgeman's workshop in Quonians Lane before the statue was erected in Museum Gardens.

The statue was unveiled with great ceremony on 30th September 1908 and a local photographer captured several views of the event (see photo below). He must have developed and printed his pictures the same night, because at least one was on sale as a postcard the following day, judging by the message on the back; "F.S." wrote to Fred in Sutton Coldfield to say "Hope you will like this. As you see it's [the] King E. Monument unveiled yesterday in Lichfield. More accidents with bike last night." During the following few years, many more picture postcard views of the statue were published.

More than a century later, after professional cleaning and restoration, the statue was re-dedicated by H.R.H. The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) in April 2013 when she visited Beacon Park following the completion of refurbishment and improvement work there.

Additional information from George T. Noszlopy & Fiona Waterhouse, "Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country", Liverpool University Press, 2005.

William Henwood
May 2020

Unveiling King Edward's Monument

A postcard from the author's collection.