Mary Seacole statue up for top design award

Celebrated African-Caribbean Crimean war nurse Mary Seacole statue shortlisted for prestigious design award
Mary Seacole statue

A statue honouring the life and legacy of Crimean war nurse Mary Seacole has been shortlisted for a prestigious design award.

Sculptor Martin Jennings’ statue of Mary Seacole in the grounds of London’s St Thomas’ Hospital
Picture: Barney Newman

Unveiled in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital in London in 2016, the statue is the first to a named black woman in the UK.

It has now been nominated for the Marsh Awards 2017, a competition organised by the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association to recognise ‘originality, aesthetic quality and sensitivity to its site’ in public sculpture.

The Jamaican-born nurse set up the British Hotel near Balaclava to provide soldiers with food and care during the Crimean war of 1853-1856.

12-year campaign

More than £500,000 was raised for the bronze statue, created by sculptor Martin Jennings, during a 12-year campaign. A charity, the Mary Seacole Trust, was then established to promote the nurse’s legacy in schools and communities.

The sculpture represents Mrs Seacole marching forward defiantly while behind her figure is a vertical bronze disc, cast from the surface of the ground a few paces from the site where she established the British Hotel more than 150 years ago. 

Sculptor Mr Jennings and a team from the Pangolin Editions foundry in Gloucestershire travelled to the Crimea to locate the site and to ensure that the disc would show Mrs Seacole in her authentic setting – and they discovered shards of glass which were almost certainly from her hotel bottle store.

‘Tremendous honour’

Mary Seacole Trust chair Trevor Sterling said: ‘It is a tremendous honour to be shortlisted for this award. The trust is incredibly proud to be associated with Martin Jennings, undoubtedly one of the UK’s finest sculptors.

‘Martin’s work truly captures Mary’s heart and soul, her drive, her determination and her compassion. The work, set in a beautiful garden within the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital, provides a tranquil spot that is already being enjoyed by huge numbers of patients, staff and visitors to Westminster from all over the UK and the rest of the world.’

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 8 November.

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