Vote for your local heroes to be immortalised in Shropshire sculpture

Which of these Salopians deserves to be immortalised as a life-size statue?

Shropshire Star readers have been asked to vote for their favourite ‘local heroes’ – with the winners set to be transformed into life-size sculptures in Shrewsbury.

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans is funding the £5,000 art sculpture which will be situated on Smithfield Road.

The ‘portrait bench’ will see the three life-size local figures cut from sheet steel and installed behind or in front of a simple oak bench.

The shortlist of nine worthy Salopians includes historical and contemporary figures and even one mythical character.

Shropshire Star readers have been asked to vote for one male and one female character on the list of nominees.

A third character will be chosen by a separate vote in Shrewsbury primary schools.

Each of the nine nominees has a ‘champion’ who has written in support of their chosen hero.

The idea behind the art sculpture is that people will be able to stop and be photographed sitting or standing with the figures.

The proposed site for the bench is on the riverside between Severn Terrace and the boxing gym.

The space has been improved as part of a Connect2 project and now has wide pavements and new crossings to the Raven Meadows bus station.

The full list includes 19th century surgeon Dr William Clement, who was born and educated in Shrewsbury and became a councillor and MP for the town.

He had radical ideas for his time, including support for free medical care.

Ellesmere-born Eglantyne Jebb could also be immortalised as a statue.

She founded the international charity Save the Children in 1920 after witnessing the suffering of children during the First World War.

Perhaps the most famous name on the list is Wilfred Owen, arguably one of the greatest First World War poets.

The writer grew up in Shrewsbury and was killed in action in 1918. His poems highlight the futility of war and he is noted for his empathy to soldiers on both sides.

Respected 18th century engineer Thomas Telford, who built many roads, canals and bridges across Shropshire in his role as county surveyor, could also be turned into a life-size statue.

Also nominated is Shropshire author Mary Webb, who was married in Meole Brace church and lived on Lyth Hill. Her novels, including Precious Bane, reflected her love of the Shropshire countryside.

Also nominated is Celia Fiennes, who travelled the country on horseback at the end of the 17th century. She visited Shrewsbury and praised its fine walks and parks.

Alongside the historical figures, readers can also vote for local people who have made a difference.

These include campaigner and activist Val Oldaker, who lived in Shrewsbury for seven years until her death in 2010.

In that time she became the driving force at many local organisations and is remembered with admiration and affection.

Martin Wood has been Shrewsbury’s town crier for 27 years. He is officially the tallest town crier in the world at 7ft 2in tall. He has also led guided tours of the town for 35 years. And finally the mythical goddess Sabrina is also a nominee.

The River Severn gets its name from the goddess and is said to reflect her moods. She already has a statue in the Dingle in Shrewsbury’s Quarry.

Henry Harbord, area manager for Sustrans, said: “Sustrans is very proud of its innovative public art projects.

“We aim to involve the community in all our projects and I hope as many people as possible will take this opportunity to vote.”

Portrait benches provide a focal point for each scheme and a link between all the schemes across the country.

Anyone unable access the internet can cast a vote at Shrewsbury library, Bayston Hill library and The Lantern in Harlescott.

Library voting will close on Tuesday at 5pm and the online vote will close on November 22 at noon.

The three heroes will be announced in the Shropshire Star on Friday November 23.

Visit www.travelshropshire.co.uk/bench for more information on the nine local heroes.