Future of controversial H.M Stanley statue to be decided this weekend
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
The future of a statue of H.M Stanley will be decided at a public consultation vote this Friday and Saturday.
The bronze statue was commissioned over a decade ago, but Stanley’s association with European imperialism in Africa has led to protests.
Denbigh town council commissioned the piece on Hall Square, hiring North Wales artist Nick Elphick to create the sculpture.
But after protests, Denbigh Town Council held a meeting in June 2020 to discuss the statue’s future. Members voted to keep it until a public consultation to decide whether it should be moved from public view. But the consultation was delayed due to COVID restrictions.
The issue has since turned contentious with differing opinions on social media.
Denbigh town councillor Rhys Thomas said he wanted to keep out of the matter.
“I’m chair of the council, and I need to keep neutral on all of this. I think it’s been active on Facebook, but there we are. It is something a few people are quite interested in on either side,” he said.
Fellow councillor Glen Swingler added: “I think the feeling in town is very mixed. I’ve noticed on social media over the last couple of days that those coming out against it, they’ve got a bit more vociferous.
“It’s not getting nasty. Well, you always get one or two, but that’s social media for you, but there are different views on it, and I wouldn’t like to guess which way any sort of vote would go, but then again, I don’t know how many people are actually going to go out and vote.”
He added: “I will vote, yes. I’ve got my own opinions, but I will vote as it is my right.”
Henry Morton Stanley is immortalised for his famous words “Dr Livingstone, I presume” after finding the Scottish explorer on the shores of Lake Tanganyika where he had been lost in central Africa.
Stanley was born John Rowlands and started life fatherless in Denbigh in 1841. He was put into the Asaph workhouse in nearby St Asaph before emigrating to the United States as a teenager.
He then fought in the American Civil War before becoming a journalist and explorer, finding the source of the Nile, mapping central Africa’s Great Lakes and the borders of the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo.
But Stanley is a controversial figure to some because of his links with Belgian King Leopold II, for whom he worked for a time.
The monarch committed acts of appalling inhumanity against the population of the Congo Free State – now the Democratic Republic of Congo; however, his supporters say Stanley was not working for the Belgian despot when the atrocities occurred and he has been unfairly tainted.
The vote is being taken by Denbigh Town Council on Friday 15 October between 10 am and 7 pm and Saturday 16 October between 10 am and 1 pm at the Town Hall.
The vote is open to all Denbigh residents aged 16 and over. Voters will have to bring two forms of ID with them, one photo ID and one with an address on. Anyone unable to attend can contact or text 07554 679169 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by October 14.
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As I understand it, the offence caused by honouring Stanley stems not just from his association with British imperialism – but also from his habitual abuse of Africans.
No English statutes in wales 🏴 only welsh people we in wales have got to stop being little Englanders and be proud to be welsh start fighting for your children and grandchildren future in wales 🏴 it’s time for a new wales 🏴
Stanley was Welsh.
Perhaps one day you will surprise everyone by writing something original and nuanced about the story you’re commenting about. There’s only so much you can blame on ‘little Englanders’ without sounding like a broken record. Henry Morton Stanley has a very mixed reputation, but that’s doesn’t make his statue “English”. He was born & brought up in Wales, and the statue is in Wales. So, would you like to tell us what you think we should do in Wales with controversial Welsh statues? Should they be moved to museums or left in situ with new inscriptions that tell the whole… Read more »
What a clown you really are GJ!!!!
It’s well worth reading — and digesting — the section titled ‘Controversies’ in Wikipedia’s article about HWS before forming any opinion, paying particular attention to the reasons some of his contemporaries had for disliking him.
You are absolutely right. It is important to use imperial iconography and the reactions they inspire to shine a light on aspects of our past that have been concealed for too long. Time to grapple with the facts, not simply to engage in blind condemnations.