Life-size portrait statue, life size, depicting Disraeli in the robes of Knight of the Garter. His left arm, holding his robe, is raised across his chest, the right arm straight down by his side. It surmounts a substantial Yorkshire stone pedestal.
Bolton's Disraeli statue provides an insight into the submerged political divisions which these memorials often provoked, but which were frequently swamped by the approval of a Liberal press and elite. In this case, with Tories in the ascendent on Bolton Council and with their support eating into Liberal heartlands across the North West, the civic tables were turned in favour of a Conservative celebration. However, the unveiling did not pass without some Liberal grumbling over the use of the Park for what was seen as a partisan demonstration of resurgent Conservatism. The statue was suggested by the Bolton Working Men's Conservative Association soon after the Earl's death. The contract went to local stonemason Thomas Rawcliffe, whose efforts were said to have been hampered by the difficult medium of Yorkshire stone. This, according to the Bolton Journal (a Liberal paper), gave to the statue a "severity of outline" and "a hard and inartistic appearance" which would only be softened by time.(1) The Lancashire Review was similarly scathing, saying that the statue was "without associations and without excuse."(2)
The statue Committee had initially asked for a site in the centre of the ornamental flower garden in Queen's Park, but this was refused, probably because it would have been too prominent. Instead, Disraeli became the first statue to decorate the Terrace. However, at a council meeting on the 7th April, the minority Liberal group began to raise objections to the planned ceremonials in the Park. Councillor Brimelow argued that to allow the celebrations would break the bye laws of the park, which prevented religious, political and other public meetings taking place. To do so would, he said, would be to offer a "dangerous precedent" since similar political meetings and celebrations could not be refused in future. He was supported by Councillor Thornley whosaid that if the "demonstration" were allowed "no doubt when the other party honoured one of their chiefs they would want similar latitude."(3) In reply, Alderman Nicholson sought to contradict the impression that the unveiling would be a partisan affair, arguing that it was merely an occasion on which Englishmen could "perpetuate the memory of one who was undoubtedly a great man."(4) The Liberals, he said, were "going a little outside their lines" in this, and would surely be allowed to erect similar memorials to their own leaders. However, despite these assurances, the inauguration was a deeply partisan affair. The streets were "thronged with 4,000 yellow-bedecked Tories" who watched a procession led by the moving spirit behind the memorial, John Morris, the president of the Bolton Working Men's Conservative Association. Behind him were several local Conservative Associations and bands, who in turn were followed by Tory supporters carrying banners depicting Conservative leaders, along with others who wore prints of their leaders in their hats. The proceedings in the park were indeed scrupulously non-political. The Earl of Onslow, Under-Secretary for the Colonies confined his remarks to praise of Disraeli as an Englishman, and to the suggestion that the statue would be received "not as a political demonstration, but as a memento of a great statesman." However, when the proceedings were removed to a field near Halliwell Lodge the speakers reaffirmed the Conservatism of the occasion. Alderman Glaister told the crowd that the proceedings showed that Bolton was "truly Conservative (cheers)," while the Earl of Onslow took the opportunity to praise his government's Irish policy. C. H. Holden, seconding a resolution of praise to the government, said he hoped that "the Conservative Associations would never rest until it became impossible to talk about a Radical being returned in Bolton and district."(5)
In 1984 the head of the statue was removed by vandals (shorlty after the adjacent Fielding statue had met the same fate) but was recovered undamaged from the Queen's Park shrubbery and re-affixed.(6)
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), statesman and novelist, was born in London, the son of the Jewish writer, Isaac D'Israeli. He found early fame as a novelist before eventually entering parliament in 1837. He allied himself with the Tories and became the leading figure in the Young England movement, eventually attacking Peel's rejection of protectionism. Disraeli held office, notably as Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the Conservative governments in the 1850s and 1860s. He was chiefly responsible for the passage of the 1867 Reform Act which extended the parliamentary franchise. In the following year he succeeded Lord Derby as Prime Minister. He became Prime Minister again in 1874 and served until defeated in 1880. He was created Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876, the same year Queen Victoria was made Empress of India. By the time of his death in 1881 he had transformed the beliefs and support of the Conservative Party. Disraeli visited the Bolton area on a number of occasions, most notably in 1840 when he visited Barrow Bridge, an industrial community which was to be the basis for 'Millbank' in his novel, Coningsby.
Front of pedestal in cartouche : BENJAMIN DISRAELI/EARL OF BEACONSFIELD, K.G.
PRESENTED TO THE BOROUGH OF BOLTON BY THE BOLTON & DISTRICT WORKING MENS CONSERVATIVE ASSOCIATION. APRIL, 1887.
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