Many park visitors love the range of statues that are found in Centennial Park, but many don’t know that there were – at one stage – 31 statues to be found. Today there are nine. This is the story about one statue that is no longer in the Park!
When Centennial Park was established in 1888 it was created as a ‘Victorian era’ park. Statues were frequently used in the Victorian era as a device to accentuate points of intersection between drives or paths, and to add interest along drives and in garden areas.
Eleven statues were acquired in 1889 as decoration for the newly laid-out park, driven by the then Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes. While we’re not 100 per cent sure, it is suspected that Parkes put a down-payment on these statues without knowing exactly which statues he was purchasing.
The statues eventually were delivered and placed in Centennial Park, and included a mix of British and American influences, from politicians (such as Abraham Lincoln) to cultural icons of the day (such as Charles Dickens). While Parkes had a say over the Dickens Statue, the mix of US and UK-themed characters amongst the order remains curious and unexplained.
As the years passed weather, vandalism and ageing eventually took their toll on many of these statues and many had to be removed from public display for protection.
What happened next?
Where many of our statues went is an interesting story. Some sat damaged in storage, some were restored and some disappeared completely! The most famous is possibly the Charles Dickens Statue (read more here).
But where did William go?
While some of our statues are still missing, there’s one statue that has taken a journey and found another home – William Gladstone. Gladstone was a four-times Liberal prime minister of Great Britain, and was one of the dominant political figures of the Victorian era. It isn’t surprising that at the time such a dominant world leader would be chosen as a topic of recognition at the time.
The statue of Gladstone was one of those that had to be removed from public display due to deterioration. He sat in the Parklands Depot storage area for a number of years until an unusual request came through in the late 1980s.
The City of Gladstone in Queensland learnt about the statue and proposed to relocate, restore and place the statue on public display in the city named after the man. This was, in 1989 agreed to by the Trustees and William was packed up and shipped north!
For a while William stood in one of Gladstone’s central public parks, but now can be seen in the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum.
In recent correspondence with the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum the curators noted that:
“Mr Gladstone has a purpose built stage here at the Gallery/Museum and he has a commanding view of the city’s main street. Behind him is a small balcony leading into the Gallery/Museum’s courtyard and the cream wall belongs to the former Town Hall, now our Town Hall Gallery space. The statue is much loved by the community here, especially the children and his [actual] bag is also on permanent display making a wonderful connection and many a conversation starter. [We] have keenly collected many commemorative artefacts of the city’s namesake and they also make a fantastic display in conjunction with the statue”
So William is safe and well, enjoying the tropical north!
Love stories like this? The “Centennial Park – A History” book is now available and full of great stories and pieces of history that you’ll find fascinating. Purchase a copy today.