Most people who live in Shaftesbury love our Saxon hilltop town. Landscape architect Bernard Ede does, but the Bimport resident believes there’s always potential to make things better.
“It’s wonderful as it is but I think it can be improved,” he said. Bernard is a key member of the town’s Open Spaces Group and the Shaftesbury Tree Group and he’s got an idea on how to enhance part of our town centre. “It would be wonderful to have a statue of King Alfred in the High Street,” he offered.
Of course, King Alfred already looks down from his elevated position above the Abbey Gardens. But Bernard doesn’t believe that the existence of one Alfred statue should prevent the installation of a second one. “I wouldn’t think that would preclude one being placed out in the public realm,” he said, adding, “It should be different, but complementary.”
Statues of the iconic ninth century figure can be found in a number of communities in his former Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex. Alfred stands proud above Pewsey. He also watches over Winchester and Bernard recently found the ruler’s effigy in the Oxfordshire town of Wantage. Bernard made the discovery when he was researching Wantage’s neighbourhood plan.
“On the cover they’ve got a wonderful statue of Alfred. It’s what Shaftesbury wants in its public spaces,” said Bernard, who has two potential locations in mind. “On the bend at the head of the High Street, in the space opposite the Town Hall. It just seems that it’s a termination of views along the High Street, coming along from The Commons. Or what about at the side of the NatWest bank? It’s a space crying out for something strong, emblematic and expressive of the town.”
Bernard hasn’t looked at budgets yet. When the Wantage statue’s broken axe was fixed ten years ago, the repair bill came in at £2,450. Obviously a full statue will cost considerably more. “Having spoken to several people, there are all sorts of sources where finance can be acquired. Not least will be the Heritage Lottery Fund. I would have thought this was the very thing that we should be looking to do. A group of us already made an initial proposition to the Lottery Fund. I think we could up it if there were sufficient people interested.”
Now Bernard is keen to hear from other Shaftesbury residents who share has vision. He says he hopes that the Council will come on board. “If it were a Heritage Lottery Fund bid, the dominant landowner has to be involved and that would be Shaftesbury Town Council,” he said.
Do you think King Alfred would add something to our main street? Share you thoughts at hello@ThisIsAlfred.com.