Statue of King Edward VII, Huddersfield Infirmary
The statue of King Edward VII was commissioned from sculptor Percy Bryant Baker (1881-1970) of Chelsea at a cost of around £1,000 and formed part of around £24,000 of improvements made to Huddersfield Infirmary, including the construction of the "King Edward Wing".
It had been hoped that the statue would be officially unveiled as part of the Royal visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Huddersfield on Thursday 11 July 1912, but Baker was unable to guarantee that it would be completed and, at the time when the schedule was being finalised, "it was thought that it was impossible for the memorial to be ready before the 15 inst., four days after the Royal progress through Huddersfield". However, seemingly against expectations, the statue was delivered to Huddersfield a day or two before the visit. This led to The Times incorrectly stating that it would be unveiled by the King during the visit.
With the schedule for the Royal visit already finalised, Huddersfield Corporation Town Council managed to arrange a minor alteration to the planned route. The original route was to have taken the Royal entourage from Greenhead Park into Huddersfield along Trinity Street, before passing through the town and on to the Colne Valley. Instead, the route was changed from Trinity Street to Fitzwilliam Street, New North Road and then Westgate, therefore ensuring it would pass by the front gates of the Infirmary. However, requests to Buckingham Palace to add an unveiling ceremony to the schedule were refused. The council's subcommittee then directly approached Lady Crossley of Halifax in the hope that she could intervene, but this too proved unsuccessful.
On the eve of the visit, there were still hopes that the altered route would allow for the King and Queen to briefly stop on New North Road in order to view the statue from their car. The Leeds Mercury reported that "the work of erecting [it] is being pushed forward as quickly as possible, in the hope that the statue will be visible to King George tomorrow". Wooden stands were also hastily built so that "about 250 persons, including those [Infirmary] patients who are able to be moved" might get "a good view of the Royal party" as it drove by. The Yorkshire Post noted:
It had been hoped that King George might have unveiled the statue: but that was found to be impossible. The most that is expected now is that the King and Queen may halt at the Infirmary gates to view the statue.
Percy Bryant Baker had accompanied the statue's delivery and was reportedly busy making final preparations in the early hours of 11 July. However, uncertainty still remained as to whether or not the Royal couple would be able to stop to view the statue. According to a report in the Huddersfield Examiner, John Sykes, the President of the Infirmary, approached the Mayor of Huddersfield and asked if he would consider "as a last resort" breaching protocol and etiquette by directly asking the King if he would consider briefly stopping at the Infirmary and this request was made by the Mayor to the King during the presentations held in Greenhead Park, likely at around 3:20pm. The King reportedly asked how far away the Infirmary was, to which the Mayor responded that it would be on their route from the park. According to the Leeds Mercury, the King was "a little surprised at the departure from the pre-arranged order of things" but consented.
Perhaps knowing that the stop would be brief, Sykes had seemingly pre-planned for a quick ceremony that would allow the Royal couple to remain in their car. On their arrival at the gates at 3:30pm, Anne Pearson, a young girl who was a patient at the Infirmary, presented Queen Mary with a bouquet of carnations and asparagus fern. The King then "asked the president what he was desired to do" and Sykes handed him a cord which was then pulled to unveil the status to a cheer from the assembled crowds. Under the circumstances, there was no opportunity for the King to make a speech and, perhaps due to the fact that they were already 10 minutes behind schedule, the Royal party then departed.
Historic England Listing
- Grade II
- first listed 11 July 1985
- listing entry number 1233732
NEW NORTH ROAD (South Side) Highfield. Statue of King Edward VII outside the former Infirmary.Early C10. Sculptor: P Bryant Baker. Granite plinth with bronze plaques of Peace, Sympathy and Industry on 3 sides. Inscribed "Edward VII King and Emperor 1901-10" on 4th side. Life size bronze statue of King in Garter Regalia.
Notes and References
- Wikipedia: Bryant Baker
- "King Edward Memorial" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (09/Jul/1912).
- "The Royal Visit: Why His Majesty Unveiled the Statue to King Edward" in Huddersfield Examiner (13/Jul/1912).
- Leeds Mercury (10/Jul/1912).
- Yorkshire Post (10/Jul/1912).
- Leeds Mercury (12/July/1912).
- "King and Queen in Huddersfield" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (11/Jul/1912).