Recognition for Harold and Edith moves one step closer

One man’s campaign to bring recognition to an anonymous marble statue in West Marina Gardens moved one step closer this week.

Local historian Ian Jarman has been told by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) that he can erect a plaque to explain the statue’s significance and he can begin the process of cleaning it.

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The statue depicts King Harold – lying dead on the field of battle – and his wife, Edith the Fair or Edith Swanneck, finding the body the day after the Battle of Hastings took place. As far as Mr Jarman is concerned the statue is one of national significance and deserves greater recognition – and protection from the elements – than it has at the moment.

The statue was gifted to the town in 1875, it was commissioned by then MP Sir Thomas Brassey and carved by the renowned sculptor Charles Wilke. For years though the statue was moved to various locations around the town before coming to rest in West Marina Gardens more than 60 years ago. But there is no plaque or signage that says what it depicts and it’s not just visitors to the town who are left mystified by what story it tells and why it’s there many local people don’t know anything about the statue either.

All, that is set to change though and later this year the statue will finally have a plaque that explains what it is. It has been a long process but Mr Jarman is delighted progress is being made at last.

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Ian Jarman with the statue in West Marina Gardens.

He says not a lot will happen during the summer but in autumn he will set about having the plaque made and finding a suitable way to attach it to the statue. Funding for the plaque has been promised by the Hastings Local History Group. HBC has also accepted Mr Jarman’s recommendation for where the plaque should be located and he is delighted that it will be able to go close to the location of the original carved inscription – now barely readable – thus staying as close to the original as possible.

He envisages a plaque made from aluminium and with black lettering on a white or cream background, minimising the visual impact and ensuring that it does not detract from the statue itself.

Mr Jarman’s campaign has been driven by his desire to help people understand the significance of the statue: “It is the only piece of art in the whole of the town that commemorates the famous battle; it is the only monument in the UK to depict the royal couple together and it is the only statue in existence of Edith who was in her own right a wealthy woman of great status in her home counties of Norfolk and Suffolk,” he says. But more than that Mr Jarman says the bloodlines between Harold and Edith and our present Queen have been well proven which further adds to the statue’s cultural and historical significance to the nation.

He hopes it might be possible to have a formal unveiling of the plaque later in the year, perhaps to coincide with the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings on October 14th. Around that time he hopes to publish a book he has been writing that focusses on the statue but also sets the context for why it was created and what was happening almost 1,000 years ago.

Mr Jarman hopes this latest piece of good news will encourage more people to sign his petition and will bring the day closer when he can achieve his ultimate ambition which is to create some kind of structure around the statue that will protect it from the elements.

  • To sign the petition follow this link https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/campaign-for-a-roof-for-edith
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