An inspection of the statue of Lord Hill on top of The Column in Shrewsbury is to be carried out to assess its current condition and if repairs are required.
A piece of masonry was found at the base of The Column in April 2012 and initial investigations found that it had fallen from the statue’s left hand.
Since then The Column has been fenced off as a precautionary measure.
Now Shropshire Council is to carry out a survey of the 17ft-tall statue to look at the extent of the damage and consider whether repairs are necessary.
The work will be carried out by Taylor Pearce Restoration Services Ltd, conservation specialists recommended by English Heritage who carried out a similar survey of the statue in 2010.
It is hoped that work will start by mid-November 2012 and it will take several weeks to complete, dependent on the weather. The Column will remain fenced off while the survey is carried out, which will cost an estimated £20,000.
Councillor Keith Barrow, Leader of Shropshire Council, said:
“It’s very unfortunate that this damage has occurred at a time when council budgets are very stretched and money is tight. However the statue has been exposed to the elements for almost 200 years and is, sadly, slowly deteriorating.
“Even though £20,000 is a lot of money this inspection must be carried out if we are to assess the extent of the damage to the statue and determine what, if any, repairs are needed in future. The only alternative would be for The Column to remain fenced off, but I’m sure nobody would want one of Shrewsbury’s best-known and best-loved monuments to have unsightly metal fencing around it on a permanent basis.
“By using the same specialists as two years ago we will be able to keep the costs down – and complete the work more quickly – as they will be able to use their 2010 findings as a starting point, rather than beginning from scratch.”
Hannah Fraser, local Shropshire Councillor for Abbey division, which includes The Lord Hill Column, added:
“I’ve received numerous enquiries from local people about The Column, as this iconic landmark is something of an eyesore at the moment because of the safety fencing around it. I welcome the news that the council is taking steps to rectify the situation, and to keep the public informed about what is happening. I hope that, as the options for repairing the statue become clearer, the public will be further consulted on whether the council should spend large sums of money on repairs.”
About The Column and Lord Hill
Completed in June 1816 The Column was erected in honour of the Right Honourable Rowland Lord Hill, Baron of Almarez in Spain, and of Hawkstone and Hardwick Grange, Shropshire; Commander-in-Chief of the British Army; a General in the Army; Governor of Plymouth, and Colonel of the Horse Guards Blue.
The first stone was laid on December 27 1814 by the Salopian Lodge of Free Masons assisted by deputies from adjoining lodges, on the festival of St. John the Evangelist. The last stone was laid on 18 June 1816 the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. The total expense was 5,972 pounds, 13 shillings and 2 pence.
The Grade II listed Column is the largest Grecian Doric column in the world, at 133 feet 6 inches. Its diameter is two feet wider than Nelson’s Column and, not including the pedestal, it is 13 feet higher.
The statue is made of Coade stone, which was often described as artificial stone in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Born at Prees Hall, near Hawkstone in April 1772, Lord Hill fought alongside the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. The Column was erected to recognise his valour in this and other campaigns. He died at Hardwicke Grange near Shrewsbury in December 1842 and was buried in the churchyard at Hadnall.
Hill remains to this day one of the most distinguished field commanders in British military history.