Statue to Mary Seacole, nurse hero of Crimean War, to be unveiled

Four-metre bronze is first statue in UK in memory of a named black woman 

Twelve years since it was proposed; the statue of Mary Seacole has been given a date for its public unveiling.

On June 30, the long-awaited memorial to the Jamaican-born nurse, who set up the British Hotel near Balaclava to provide soldiers with food and care during the Crimean War, will be unveiled in an invitation-only ceremony in the garden of St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

The four-metre bronze by sculptor Martin Jennings is the first in the UK dedicated to a named black woman.

Since the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal – chaired by Labour peer Lord Clive Soley – was launched in 2008, thousands of donations have been received; many by nurses keen to honour a hero of their profession.

Part of the delay in finishing the project was the rising cost of construction; which in August last year was revealed to be around £180,000 more than expected.

The target was finally reached in November, when chancellor George Osborne used his autumn statement to announce £240,000 of banking fines was being donated to the cause.

Vice-chair of the statue appeal Elizabeth Anionwu, emeritus professor of nursing at the University of West London, thanked the statue's supporters.

She said: ‘We started in 2004 by simply raising awareness of who Mary Seacole was, and why she is so important. I think it is because she is a role model – not just to nurses, but to everyone. To achieve what she did in the way she did, is so inspiring.

‘My granddaughter is eight now and I am so happy to think her generation will grow up with this statue to look at, and inspire them too.’

Statue timeline:

2004 – Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal achieves official charity status.

2008 – Artist’s selection panel chaired by Baroness Amos begins selection process for memorial artist. Fundraising target of £400,000 set.

2009 – Martin Jennings chosen by panel as winning artist.

2012 – Planning appeal for the memorial to be sighted at St Thomas’ Hospital granted.

2014 - Last Lap fundraising appeal launched to raise final £80,000.

2015 – Cost of construction discovered to be £180,000 higher than expected.

2015 – Chancellor George Osborne donates £240,000 of banking fines to the appeal.

2016 – Statue to be unveiled June 30.