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Historian criticises vote to keep controversial H.M Stanley statue

28 Oct 2021 3 minutes Read
Sculptor Nick Elphick with the original casting of HM Stanley at his workshop Picture: Nick Elphick

A historian has criticised a vote to keep a controversial statue of H.M Stanley in the town of Denbigh.

Dr Simon Brooks, author of Hanes Cymry, the first history of ethnic diversity in the Welsh-language community, has described the decision as “disappointing”.

The academic argued that the statue has “no historical value” and that the “man himself is not worthy of public remembrance”.

He suggested that the town should have had it “removed and replaced by a figure who represents the culture of Dyffryn Clwyd”.

A vote on the matter was taken by Denbigh Town Council on Friday 15 October and Saturday 16 October in the Town Hall.

In total, a 471 Denbigh residents voted, with 80%, voting for the statue to stay, and 20%, voting for it to be removed. The Town Council has has decided that the statue will stay in place on that basis.

In response to the vote Dr Brooks said: “The statue has no historical value, being little more than a folly for the tourism trade. The man himself is not worthy of public remembrance. It should have been removed and replaced by a figure who represents the culture of Dyffryn Clwyd. Disappointing.”

Many locals in the town have welcomed the news that the statue will stay where it is.

Adam Houston said: “Let’s hope that’s an end to it and things can get back to normal.”

Kevin Ringer said: “Result for common sense. We shouldn’t judge the past with the standards of today because I doubt we’d measure up to the standards of the future.”

Trevor Roberts said: “Good to see that the good people of Denbigh have shown that they have common sense, a virtue sadly missing in many places.”

Clive Jones said: “It’s a statue , I can assure u there are much more pressing and important issues that need urgent attention.”

Rhodri Morris said: “Weeks on end of posts about this bloody statue and the remove vote gets 20%. Either way I’m hoping for some peace and quiet from this crap now.”

David Haydock said: “What is evident from the result is that over 90% (approx.) of the voting population of Denbigh don’t care if the statue is there or not!”

‘Famous words’ 

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.

However, Stanley’s association with European imperialism, particularly the Belgian King Leopold II, led to objections during a period when the Black Lives Matters movement led national protests.

King Leopold II 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 decade-old statue, created by artist Nick Elphick, was already the target of protests. Artist Wanda Zyborska has held a performance where the statue is covered up in a rubber sheath, to protest against what she claims is its continued ‘toxic’ effect.

But the statue came under renewed scrutiny following the Black Lives Matter protests, with a petition begun in June of last year asking for its removal drawing over 7,000 signatures.

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Alyn Ashworth
Alyn Ashworth
1 month ago

Your historian, Dr Brooks, seems to have forgotten that we already have a huge memorial statue to local man Evan Pierce, as well as a plethora of “blue plaques” commemorating local persons of historic significance, many of whom are remembered on the large display by the stocks (probably the least historic item in Denbigh). It is a pity that he can’t find it in his heart to acknowledge Stanley’s undoubted good points and apply a little benefit of the doubt to some of the uncorroborated tittle-tattle by those who at the time had an axe to grind.

Chris
Chris
1 month ago

He’s not from Dinbych anyway, so his opinion means f*** all

Gareth Wyn Jones
Gareth Wyn Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris

Not was Stanly (Henry Jones) fyi

Gwyneth Kensler
Gwyneth Kensler
1 month ago

I take issue with several points made by Dr Brooks. Stanley (and the statue) has no historical value? Through studying Stanley we learn about the effects of the Poor Law of 1834, the effects of being born illegitimate (was his mother raped by her employer?), and the social norms of the Victorian period. We also learn about the Indian wars and the civil war in the USA as well as other wars in other parts of the world. We certainly learn about colonialism (whether we approve or not) which gives us a greater understanding of the state of the world… Read more »

CapM
CapM
1 month ago

I agree that there’s a lot of issues and conversations that can be developed from the life of HM Stanley and a statue could be the focus and a catalyst for them.

If it had been installed in 1910 those responsible would have at least had the excuse of being of their time however it went up a century later but still in a Victorian style and with a Victorian message for those looking at it.

I think that unfortunately the statue is an example of a small town thinking small.

Ffred Ffransis
Ffred Ffransis
30 days ago

Dadl dros le mewn amgueddfa sydd uchod, nid dros greflun yn achosdathlu

Colin Spencer
Colin Spencer
1 month ago

The best decision for the reputation of Wales – as seen by the woke gang – would be to allow only certified members of the woke gang to vote. To allow things to appear more ‘democratic ‘ would be to allow the statue o be smashed to a thousand pieces as against less than a thousand.

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
1 month ago

HMStanley hated Wales, read what he said about us, he is not worthy of a statue, here or anywhere else.

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