Following the death of Sir Robert Peel in July 1850, a committee was formed with the intention of raising funds to erect a statue of the former Prime Minister in the town centre.
Despite raising a total of £450, the committee could not reach a consensus on who should be commissioned to create the sculpture and the project remained in limbo. In June 1868, a new committee was formed to raise further funds and renowned sculptor William Theed (1804-91) was selected in October 1869.
The 9 foot high statue was cut from a single block of Sicilian marble and it was mounted on an 11 foot base made from Aberdeen granite. The reported cost was £950 for the statue around £50 for the base.
Plans to erect the statue in front of the Railway Station in St. George's Square were initially thwarted by objections from Sir John William Ramsden and the railway companies who owned the station. However, after an alternate site on the Upperhead Row was selected, the objecting parties relented.
The statue was unveiled by Lord Houghton in June 1873 in St. George's Square and the Chronicle estimated 40,000 people attended the event. The following engraving, which appeared in the Illustrated London News, clearly shows that a large number of people had climbed onto the roof of the railway station in order to watch the ceremony.
By the late 1940s, the crumbling Sicilian marble meant that the statue was eventually deemed unsafe and it was removed on 31 October 1949. The statue itself was apparently broken up but the Aberdeen granite base was eventually re-erected in the grounds of the Tolson Museum in Ravensknowle Park in March 1971.
In 1999, a bronze statue of Harold Wilson was unveiled in St. George's Square by Prime Minister Tony Blair.