October 13, 2021 1.53 pm

Will it ever go up? Plinth still awaits Thatcher statue in Grantham

Controversial £300k statue in storage as £100k unveiling pending

More than two-and-half-years have passed since planners approved a controversial statue of Margaret Thatcher in her home town of Grantham in Lincolnshire.

A 10 foot plinth on which the bronze statue will stand to deter vandals has stood empty for 18 months since it was erected on St Peter’s Hill.

The Douglas Jennings sculpture – which was unceremoniously rejected by Westminster Council – remains in storage at a secret location awaiting the ‘big day’ after it was acquired with public donations for £300,000.

But such is the Iron Lady’s controversial legacy – even in the town where she grew up – that an official unveiling date has still yet to be revealed.

And in the week which would have marked the 96th birthday of Grantham’s most famous daughter (born 13/10/25), residents still remain divided over the suitability of the statue.

The argument, which has raged for nearly two decades, is so fierce that at present only a small plaque above her father’s grocers store commemorates Baroness Thatcher’s links to Grantham.

Such is the split, that former Grantham mayor, Ian Selby, previously called for a referendum to finally decide if the town really wanted the statue.

The unveiling is expected to attract angry demonstrations, and there are fears that the statue will be a continual target for protests and possibly even damage or removal attempts, as was seen when a crowd tore down a statue to Bristol slave trader Edward Colston.

So seriously is the threat taken, that Lincolnshire Police warned the statue would need to be placed on a 10 feet high plinth to deter vandals.

In February, a local artist, Mark Robla, placed a carved plaster head of Thatcher on a pike on top of the empty plinth, saying he was saving the council money. Thousands of people also signed a petition calling for the statue to be egged once it is in place.

Mark’s own Thatcher statue depicts the Iron Lady with her head cut off and placed on a spike. | Photo: MarkRobla

Despite the potential for damage – it was initially hoped the long awaited Thacher statue would be unveiled by a ‘big’ Tory name in the Autumn of last year – but those plans were seemingly scuppered by the pandemic.

Plans for an unveiling ceremony were then based on a date in May, and then ‘later this year.’

In June the council applied for planning permission to cut a number of branches off trees, which are currently blocking CCTV camera sightlines to where the statue will be located.

However a spokesperson for South Kesteven District Council this week said there was still no update on the unveiling – despite the nationwide relaxation on COVID restrictions.

The plinth remains wrapped in tarpaulin and surrounded by security fencing. | Photo: Daniel Jaines for The Lincolnite

Ray Wootten, a retired police officer and district councillor for Grantham St Wulfram’s Ward, has been a long term supporter of the statute, but also confirmed he had no news on the unveiling.

So for the meantime the plinth remains wrapped in tarpaulin and surrounded by security fencing.

Some Grantham residents are now wondering if it would be better for the plinth to be left empty.

Factory manager, Duncan Attwood, 48, said: “The plinth has been empty for so long now, with fencing all around it, that I think people are beginning to wonder if the statue will ever go up at all.

“If it is going to cost lots of money to protect the statue then it might not be worth putting up in such a public spot.

“They won’t be able to protect it night and day.”

The unveiling itself became a source of controversy after it emerged that the local council was proposing to underwrite the estimated £100,000 the ceremony would cost with taxpayer money, taken from the authority’s Local Priorities Reserve.

That decision, which drew anger from local residents and opposition councillors, who described it as ‘nothing more than a party,’ was reversed at a council meeting in March.

The cost of the ceremony will now be raised by private donations.

An official unveiling date has still yet to be revealed. | Photo: Daniel Jaines for The Lincolnite

Margaret Thatcher (nee Roberts) was born and raised in Grantham and attended Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, before gaining a scholarship to study at Oxford University. Her father Alfred, a grocer, was mayor from 1945 to 1946.

The original application to erect the statue was formally proposed in 2018 by the Grantham Community Heritage Association (GCHA), which manages and runs the Grantham Museum.

The statue was approved by South Kesteven District Council in February 2019, with just 17 objections, to be funded through a combination of contributions from The Public Memorials Trust and delivered by the GCHA Margaret Thatcher Appeal.

It will stand on St Peter’s Hill in Grantham town centre, next to a statue of Sir Isaac Newton.

Sculptor Douglas Jennings applying the finishing touches to the stature when it was created.

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