Please find Ann Pembroke’s letter to the editor of the Islington Tribune.
From: Ann Pembroke
Sent: 14 February 2023 13:21
To: [email protected]
Subject: Since the 11th century, no statues on Clerkenwell Green, the heritage site of Oratory and Free Speech
To the Editor
It is a matter of surprise that during a period of War, Earthquake, Poverty, Loss and Bereavement that your readers must worry about what the Sylvia Pankhurst Committee are to do with a statue that they commissioned, after securing funds from the public and institutions, but with no site arranged and are now causing a fuss, which Islington Tribune publishes.
The reasons why Sylvia Pankhurst’s statue should not be sited on the public open space of Clerkenwell Green are:
- Like the Committee’s original application for a site in the City of Westminster, it was declined, with emphasis by the House of Lords, that Sylvia had no connection with Westminster. Like, Westminster, Sylvia had no connection with Clerkenwell. She was neither born there, schooled there, worked there, nor spoke on the Green, lived there or died and buried there. Each metropolitan Borough has a ruling that memorials should not be sited where the deceased has no connection, thus Westminster’s ruling.
- At several public meetings held in 2017, under the auspices of Islington Council, a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst was rejected for the reasons given below. Recorded in the Council’s Report of 2018. Circumstances have not changed since 2017.
- A statue of Sylvia Pankhurst, unveiled on 15. 8. 2011 is located in Mile End Park, Bethnal Green where her work was focused. Why did her Committee not link with Bethnal Green? She also has a Blue Plaque on her home in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. Sylvia is loved and not forgotten by Londoners.
- Most importantly, from records going back to the 11th century, many famed Orators spoke on Clerkenwell Green and marches to Trafalgar Square started from the Green, but not one speaker, which can include William Gladstone, Prime Minister to H.M. Queen Victoria and William Cobbett, of “The Rides”, ever claimed a statue there.
- In this day and age, when “anything goes”, to make a precedent of Sylvia Pankhurst’s statue on Clerkenwell Green would open the gates to all and sundry who wishes to start something up. Sylvia must not set a precedent to encourage this public open space for one thousand years to be “adopted” by those without cause or reason.
- Clerkenwell Green is protected by law, the first Conservation Area so designated by Islington Council, in the entire Borough. This site must be protected from all forms of encroachment, to allow its status to be respected and honoured.
- Reference by the statue’s supporters for a site on Clerkenwell Green make a guess that she would have used the Marx Memorial Library. The Library was founded in 1933 and there is no record that Sylvia ever entered its doors.
- It must be remembered that Clerkenwell was a significant part of the London Borough of Finsbury, from 1231. Finsbury was only joined to Islington Borough after Sylvia’s death in 1960.
- We admire the monument on Millbank, Westminster, beside the Houses of Parliament, dedicated to her Mother and Sister. Sylvia broke away from her family as she supported violence to gain the Vote for Women. Sylvia was a member of the Independent Labour Party, as was my maternal Grandfather, Albert J. Gorman, Mayor of Woolwich in the War Years, Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board in Roseberry Avenue and Chairman of the N.E. Hospital Board. Sylvia was also associated with the Communist Party.
- Sylvia also has a memorial in Ethiopia where she worked and died on leaving England.
The Society wishes Sylvia’s statue to survive where she actually lived and worked, maybe Manchester would welcome her home?
I hope these facts will ensure protection to Clerkenwell Green to allow it to remain the public open space, John Betjmann’s first London village, surrounded by attractive Listed Buildings and each May Day welcoming Protesters, waving banners, plackards with a band playing, their children in National Dress, whilst we hear speeches which commemorate its destiny.
I hope my account helps all concerned in placing the statue of Clerkenell Green to ind a home worthy of her, which she would recognise, and receive welcoming.
Mrs. A.M.F. Pembroke, B.E.M., OSt.J.,
Clerkenwell Green Preservation Society Ltd. (a non-political, non-profit-making local amenity company no. 4353031, run by Volunteers)
42 Clerkenwell Green,
London EC1R 0DU.
Telephone: 0207 490 2000