What should be done with Shrewsbury's Lord Hill statue?

What should be done with the Lord Hill statue? That is the million pound question posed to Shropshire taxpayers today by council bosses who are beginning emergency repair work on the Shrewsbury landmark.

It's not the first time Lord Hill has been in need of a facelift. This was the scene at the top of the landmark in 1993, where Arnold and Alan Cope of Midland Masonry checked out the damage
It's not the first time Lord Hill has been in need of a facelift. This was the scene at the top of the landmark in 1993, where Arnold and Alan Cope of Midland Masonry checked out the damage

The statue, which sits on top of a 133ft column outside Shirehall, has been cordoned off since April last year after harsh winter weather caused it to deteriorate, with several pieces of stonework falling to the ground.

Officials from English Heritage have now put forward a recommendation to repair and repaint the 17ft tall statue, rather than replace it with a replica.

But while that option is cheaper in the short-term, Shropshire Council chiefs are concerned that it would mean further repairs required every five to ten years.

And now a public consultation is being launched by the local authority, with the help of the Shropshire Star, to find out what residents and readers think.

Vote in our poll below and have your say in the comments section:

Scaffolding will be erected around the structure in early August and work is now under way to appoint a contractor.

But Colin Richards, Shropshire Council's historic environment manager, said until a contractor was confirmed and a more detailed assessment made, the full cost of the work would not be known.

And he admitted it was a fine balancing act between looking after the public purse and protecting the monument.

  • Star comment: Will Lord Hill win this battle?

"English Heritage has put the main emphasis on keeping the statue there in situ, and doing nothing is not an option, so what we want to do in the interim is have a public consultation to see what the people of Shrewsbury think," Mr Richards said.

"When it's the local people paying for it I think we really need to take account of local views and I know Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow has said he would value a detached objective opinion.

"At the moment because the contract is out to tender we are still awaiting the predicted figure for the repair works and it could be a couple of months before we can say.

"When that is available we will be in a better position and a clear comparison can be made between what the cost could be to keep repairing the statue every five to ten years or whether further down the line a replacement would be more appropriate."

Left: 2010 – The Lord Hill Column in Shrewsbury is relatively intact. Right: 2012 – Deep cracks have developed following the freezing winters

Mr Richards said they would be expecting a "significant" contribution from English Heritage for the initial work and added the timeframe was small to get it finished this year.

He said: "When you see the pictures of how the statue has deteriorated and actually get up here to have a closer look we're now of the opinion that it's very possible if we had some more high winds for sizable pieces to fall way beyond that fencing.

"That is why we need to get the scaffolding erected as soon as we can and it will be constructed with netting in such a way as to catch any chunks which fall off before the repair work is started.

"We have got a limited window up until the end of October to start the work and if that is the case then it could be completed this year. But if the logistics take a couple of months we will have to stabilise the situation over the winter months.

"Obviously though if we have to delay it then the scaffolding costs which are already expansive will be in place for an extra nine months or so."

Landmark under threat – the crumbling 198-year-old statue of Lord Hill which is earmarked for repair after taking the brunt of several harsh winters

Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow said: "The Column was paid for by public subscription so we want to know what the public think.

"Should it be repaired on an ongoing basis? Should it be replaced with a replica? Should the council – and therefore council tax payers – pay for any future work? We really want to know what people think."

A public meeting at the Shirehall is being scheduled for this autumn.

Shropshire councillor Hannah Fraser, for the Abbey Foregate ward, said more could be done to promote the Lord Hill statue in future and transform it into a bustling tourist attraction.

She said: "People are concerned about the length of time the railings have been up around the statue now as it doesn't look great at all, especially in one of the main gateways into town.

"Overwhelmingly people I have talked to say they don't want nothing up there, but they don't feel we should keep chucking money at it either.

"In a time when public services are being looked at it doesn't seem right that a lot of money is spent on maintaining a statue and personally I'd go with the idea of installing a replica which will pay for itself eventually."

Councillor Fraser added: "But it's important to for us to look after our heritage assets and it is part of the story of Shrewsbury.

"One thing residents say is that more could be made out of the Lord Hill statue and that could be really good. Not many people know you can actually climb the column and see the wonderful views."

Lord Hill statue - The Facts

BUILT: June 1816

INITIAL COST: 5,972 pounds, 13 shillings and 2 pence (£202,831 in 2005 prices)

ARCHITECT: Edward Haycock Snr

TOTAL HEIGHT: 133ft 6 inches

HOW BIG: It is the largest Grecian Doric column in the world

FACT: It is 13ft (4m) higher than Nelson's Column in London

HOW MANY STEPS: There are approximately 176 steps leading to its summit

LOCATION: Once stood at the centre of the crossroads. Now next to Shropshire Council's Shirehall

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