A long-neglected statue of Prince Albert (consort to Queen Victoria) has been installed outside Hastings Town Hall, due to the considerable efforts of a group of local heritage enthusiasts.
The life-size statue of Prince Albert, sculpted in Portland stone by Edwin Stirling (1819–67) at his Liverpool studio, was formerly part of the ‘Albert Memorial Clock Tower’, which was the centrepiece of Hastings Town Centre from when it was erected in 1864 until demolished in 1973. The statue was saved for the Town by local resident Miss Edith Skelton, who purchased it from the demolition firm for £50. When the original intention to ship the statue out to Canada to a former Hastings resident was aborted, the statue was given a home a greenhouse operating as the ‘mini floral hall’ at Alexandra Park. This attraction closed in the 1990s, and the statue was left neglected in the unused greenhouse.
There had long been calls from the public to have the statue put back on display. In a report to the local Museums Association in 2010, Hastings
Borough Council agreed that the statue should be remounted in the public domain, and that it was necessary for a community group to come forward to achieve this objective. A group of local heritage enthusiasts held a public consultation event in July 2014, and there was emphatic support for the proposal to bring the statue back to Hastings’ town centre. It was then agreed with the Council to put in planning applications for installing the statue alongside the Town Hall, behind the ramped access to the Community Contact Centre. There was a surprise when the local authority’s planning committee refused permission in February 2015. However, the go-ahead for the project came when an appeal to the Government’s planning inspectorate was announced as successful in November 2015.
A new local heritage group, the Albert Statue Group, was formed early in 2016 to raise funds for the project. Hastings Lions Club came forward with a very generous donation for purchasing and installing the new Portland Stone pedestal on which the statue is now erected. There have also been donations from members of the public keen to see the local heritage asset back on display. Roger Wilcock of A. C. Towner Ltd (monumental masons) advised on the project and did some of the preparatory work free of charge, as this is a community project without financial support of the Local Council. The new Hastings and St. Leonards (Civic) Society has contributed to the project, and Hastings Local History Group provided £500, which had been bequeathed to the Group by the late Ron Fellows for use in a local heritage project.
Westoaks Builders Ltd. has done the installation work, with the assistance of a specialist lifting contractor (Coppards). Dean Edgeworth of Westoaks stated that he has been pleased to be associated with this community project, as he has lived all his life in the Borough and is well aware of the great affection long-standing residents have for the lost Albert Memorial.
An information board, giving a concise history of the statue, has also been installed. This has been funded by Kelly Stirling, who lives in California and is the great, great grand-daughter of the statue’s sculptor. Kelly has made a couple of visits to Hastings to view the statue, and will be coming over again to see the new installation alongside the Town Hall before too long.
The Albert Statue Group is endeavouring to raise funds for repair work to the Statue. For information on how to donate e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Whitford (for Albert Statue Group)