At a meeting of the Wrexham Science and Art Committee in November 1903, the Chairman, Simon Jones, announced that Henry Price, a former pupil of the school, had been commissioned by Mr. Thorneycroft, R. A., to prepare a model for a colossal bronze statue of Queen Victoria to be placed in front of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.
Henry Price had shown interest in modelling as a boy and had later studied at Wrexham Science and Art Schools. At the age of 23 he went to London, where he studied modelling and drawing for three years before being admitted as a student of sculpture in the Royal Academy Schools. He devoted a great portion of each day to actively working in the studios of well-known artists.
Henry Price, then living in Chelsea, had offered to supply Wrexham with a replica of his new statue of Queen Victoria. Wrexham town was to find the money necessary for the bronze and casting, The Chairman suggested that a fitting place in Wrexham for the statue would be in front of the new Carnegie Library. It was unanimously agreed to congratulate Mr. Price upon his success and to lay the matter before the town council.
On Tuesday, 15th December 1903, at a public meeting in Wrexham, it was decided to accept Mr. Price’s generous offer and an appeal was made for subscriptions to meet the cost, which was calculated to be £210. The Mayor of Wrexham consented to act as honourable treasurer and the sum of £31 10s was promised in the room.
The Chester Courant of 11th May 1904 reported that Mr. Henry Price, a 31-year-old Welsh sculptor, had almost finished his statue of the late Queen Victoria, which was to be erected in the Royal Military Academy enclosure at Woolwich. Those who had seen the statue in his studio at Chelsea spoke highly of the way in which the sculptor had carried out his commission.
At a meeting held in Wrexham on Tuesday, 28th June 1904, subscriptions were promised, amounting to £105. Orders were to be given for the casting of the statue, which was hoped to be ready by September.
On Monday, 26th September 1904, Wrexham Town Clerk announced that the statue had been completed by the sculptor. It was 7 foot 8 inches in height and represented Queen Victoria, aged 42. They were deciding on the question of a pedestal and a site for the statue. They had a deficit of £30 but two local gentlemen had offered stone for the pedestal free of charge. The Mayor voiced his disappointment at the poor response made to the appeal for subscriptions towards the expense of providing the statue. He hoped that now the deficit had been made public knowledge the subscriptions would pour in. The statue was originally to be placed in front of the new Carnegie Library, but the decision was made to recommend to the Town Council that it should be placed in the Guildhall Square. A sub-committee was appointed to decide what stone should form the base of the statue.
By late October 1904, the statue had reached Wrexham and was being stored on Corporation premises. A pedestal had also been given by Mr. W. Pen Dennis. Despite all this help, subscriptions were so sparse that there was still a rather serious deficit. It was proposed to ask Wrexham Town Council to vote a sum out of a fund known as the Griffith fund, left by a Wrexhamite for the benefit of the town. The Committee in charge of the fund for entertaining soldiers on their return from the South African war were to be asked to subscribe any unused balance they had towards the statue fund.
On Tuesday, 17th January 1905, a meeting was held at Wrexham of the committee who were organising the erection of the statue. The Mayor, Mr. E. Birkett Evans, had planned to fix a day for the unveiling, but owing to the illness of the contractor who was erecting the pedestal there were some doubts as to when it would be ready. After a short discussion it was decided to fix the date at May 1st and to ask the Mayoress to unveil the statue.
Speakers were chosen and the Mayor revealed that they were still short of money to cover all the expenses and he welcomed suggestions as to how this money may be raised. The Town Clerk Mr. Thomas Bury, said they still needed between £16 and £18. It was left to the to the sub-committee to find ways of raising this money. A letter was read from the sculptor approving of the site for the statue.
The statue was placed in the Guildhall Square, set upon a pedestal of Cefn stone, the gift of Mr. Pen Dennis. On 1st May 1905 (May Day), the new statue, was unveiled by the Mayoress of Wrexham, Mrs. E. Birkett Evans, who was accompanied by her husband, the Mayor. Also present were the Lord Lieutenant of the county, Colonel William Cornwallis-West; Mr. George T. Kenyon, M. P. and his wife; Mr. Samuel Moss, M. P. and his wife; Mr. and Mrs. Price (parents of the sculptor); Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Soames (Bryn Estyn); most of the members of the Town Council; several borough and county magistrates; Mr. Alderman Simon Jones ( chairman of the Science and art Committee) and many others. Sir Theodore Martin wrote from London to express regret that he would be unable to attend as hoped, due to a severe attack of bronchitis. Letters of apologies were also received from Lord Kenyon; Sir Robert A. Cunliffe; Canon Fletcher (vicar of Wrexham) and Mr. Clement Edwards, etc.
Some of Mr. Price’s contemporaries at the old British School, proud of his achievements, had prepared a welcome for him. This included the presentation of an illuminated album and an invitation to a social gathering. The weather that day was unfortunately showery and breezy, which kept away many who had intended to be present.
A large body of schoolchildren sang the National Anthem, Land of my Fathers and God Bless the Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Band.
Colonel Cornwallis West opened the proceedings, referring to the Queen’s visit to Wales. He spoke of how in 1904, his daughter, Daisy, the Princess of Pless, was at Keele Park where she met the beautiful young sovereign, the Czarina of Russia, who said to her, “it was you who presented me with that beautiful bouquet when my dear grandmother (Queen Victoria) and I visited Wrexham some years ago”.
The Mayoress unveiled the statue and the Hon. G. T. Kenyon, M. P., then dedicated the statue to the town and proceeded to make an interesting speech. He named the essential qualities which had endeared Queen Victoria to her people. He considered them to be the absolute purity of her own personal character; her absolute love of truth and the deep sympathy which penetrated her heart for all sorts of conditions of the people over whom she reigned. This received loud applause. He also referred to the Queen’s hatred of petty party quarrels, her deep desire for the progress and welfare of her people; her kindness of heart and worldwide sympathy. He considered that if they could only introduce a touch of their revered Queen’s attributes into the conduct and business of the country, a great and good Queen would not have lived and died in vain (applause).
The Mayor of Wrexham proposed a vote of thanks to the sculptor, Mr. Price, claiming that the proudest moment of his life was being able to receive in the name of the burgesses of the town a statue in memory of their late beloved Queen from a Wrexham artist. This resolution was seconded by Alderman Simon Jones and was carried with acclamation. The sculptor responded by speaking of how he had received his first instructions in art close the very spot where he then stood. He hoped they had received as much pleasure in accepting the gift as he had in presenting it to the town. Mr. S. Moss, M. P., moved a vote of thanks to the Mayoress for unveiling the statue. This was seconded by Mr. J. Allington Hughes and the motion was agreed to unanimously.
Mr. Frederic W. Soames, ex-Mayor of Wrexham, moved a vote of thanks to the Lord Lieutenant for presiding, which Mr. Thomas Bury, hon. secretary to the Statue Committee, seconded. Colonel West briefly replied, and the proceedings terminated.
Although the statue was originally situated in front of the old Guildhall on Chester Street (where T. J. Hughes’ store recently was) it was moved to Bellevue Park in the 1960s.
The following photographs show the location today at Bellevue Park taken on Queen Victoria’s birthday 24/05/2019.
WRITTEN BY: Dave Edwards. 2019 Photographs by Graham Lloyd.
SOURCES: The Cheshire Observer (19th December 1903; 21st January 1905); Rhyl West Coast Pioneer (1st July 1904);The Chester Courant (4th November 1903; 28th September 1904; 26th October 1904; 12th April 1905; 3rd May 1905); The Chester Chronicle (11th May 1904);