Belfast Telegraph

Belfast councillor not amused at state of Queen Victoria statue

By Rebecca Black

It is one of Belfast's most prominent landmarks - but these photographs of the city's Queen Victoria statue show how it has fallen into disrepair.

The 11-foot monument dominates the approach to City Hall in the heart of the capital.

However, the statue, which was carved by sculptor Sir Thomas Brock to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, is now noticeably two-toned, with most of it getting greyer, while the orb and sceptre sections are bright white.

Community worker Billy Dickson queried the appearance of the statue, which has been in place even before the City Hall itself was completed in 1906, and urged councillors to investigate.

A Belfast City Council spokesperson explained the difference in colour was because the orb and sceptre were replaced after being damaged.

Ulster U nionist councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon said he has been pressing for the whole statue to undergo specialist cleaning to address the colour disparity.

He has also urged the cleaning of the Lord Dufferin memorial, which is also in the grounds of City Hall, and honours Frederick Temple, the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.

Mr Dudgeon emphasised that the monuments at City Hall must be well maintained.

"City Hall is the major building in the centre of Belfast. It is both a magnet for tourists and a hub for visitors," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It must be impeccably maintained and not allowed to look dilapidated or forlorn.

"The building is in danger of appearing neglected without urgent cleaning work on the outside fabric and the statues."

Mr Dickson has raised complaints with a series of councillors about the appearance of the statue.

"On Saturday morning, I was standing at City Hall when I first noticed it," he said. "Because I have some experience of conservation I assumed it was maybe to do with testing cleaning fluid.

"I just happened to bump into some councillors, and asked them what was happening with the statue and pointed out the change.

"Thinking about it, it's been there since before the City Hall was completed. When you think of all the storms it has withstood. So I asked a number of councillors to ask questions."

It is understood that City Hall officials have taken advice on how to clean the statue from specialists and were advised it is better to do so later in the year when the weather is milder.

Mr Dickson conducts tours of Belfast, and said visitors enjoy the statues, and that the monument to Queen Victoria - in his experience - is the second most popular after the Titanic memorial. He welcomed news that plans are underway for getting the statue cleaned, but queried whether waiting until the summer to clean the statues would be too late.

"If you want statues in City Hall, they need to be looked after properly, and I don't think they are being looked after," he added.

"You can't wait until the tourist season before you start cleaning them, they all need to be ready for all the visitors coming."

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: "The orb and sceptre on the statue of Queen Victoria have been replaced after being damaged some time ago.

"A local stonemason was able to recreate the pieces using old photos as a guide and using the same material as the original statue."

She added: "We are currently consulting a specialist company about cleaning it."

Queen Victoria plays a significant part in the history of Belfast after she awarded it city status back in 1888 in recognition of its rapid expansion and thriving linen, rope-making, shipbuilding and engineering industries.

The City Hall statue also includes representations in bronze on the plinth for those industries. It was unveiled by King Edward VII upon his first royal visit to Belfast in 1903.

Several statues, monuments and plaques are situated within the grounds of Belfast City Hall, including the cenotaph, Operation Banner memorial, 9/11 plaque and tree, as well as a plaque to Eliza Ward, an 18-year-old who gave her life while protecting her employer near the spot in July 1997.

Belfast Telegraph

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