The former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has backed calls to restore the Crimean war memorial dubbed “Sheffield’s Nelson’s Column” to the city centre, which has been languishing in storage for a decade.
The Victorian Society has led the campaign calling for the monument, one of the first war memorials dedicated to ordinary soldiers rather than officers, to be re-erected in Sheffield.
Christopher Costelloe, director of the society, said: “This is the most prominent war memorial in Sheffield. We’ve had a very negative response from the council. We’ve had nothing more than a vague aspiration to put it up at some unspecified date in the future.”
Groups including the Royal British Legion, the War Memorials Trust and the Florence Nightingale Museum have also called on the council to secure the future of the monument in time for the 160th anniversary of the Crimean War next year.
Mr Clegg, who is MP for Sheffield Hallam, wrote to Sheffield City Council last week to back the campaign to reinstate the monument in part of the city’s planned retail quarter.
Sheffield is planning an £480m investment in the retail quarter and said the development would require public art. “The Council already has a high quality, listed piece of public art dedicated to the memory of Sheffield’s fallen,” the Victorian Society said.
The Grade II-listed memorial was designed by George Goldie in 1858 and originally had a column with a figure of Victory on the top and Russian cannon at the base.
It stood in Moorhead for a century but was removed in 1960 as part of a road scheme. After 50 years in Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens, without the column, the monument was removed on the condition that a new site was found within two years.
The Victorian Society petition said: “This deadline expired many years ago and the monument remains hidden in storage.” It criticised the council for failing to meet the listed building consent’s conditions. As the local planning authority it has failed to enforce those conditions.
“Sheffield Council’s decision to hide its Crimean War monument for over a decade is all the more sad given that such monuments are relatively rare,” the society added.
A spokesman for the council said: “To date neither a suitable new location nor the funding to reinstate the monument have been identified. This is a very large monument, which will need careful siting. However, the monument is being stored safely and is available to be displayed in future.”
The council said reinstating the monument now would come at a “significant cost” at a time when budgets were under severe pressure to cover essential services. It estimated that putting the monument back up would cost about £500,000. The memorial is being stored at Staniforth Road depot in Sheffield.
The council had previously rejected a call to place it in Fargate in the city centre, saying it would detract from the existing war memorial in Barker’s Pool.
The Victorian Society said it “wants to ensure that this tribute to Britain’s war dead is not left forgotten in a warehouse but restored to a prominent city centre location”.
Mr Costelloe added: “If 19th century Sheffield could afford to design and build this great monument, but 21st century Sheffield can’t afford simply to re-erect it, this would say something very sad about the city’s vitality.”
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