Captain Smith Statue


Paul Higham


Could anyone enlighten me as to why there is a statue of captain Smith at Lichfield (england)? I know the statue was bought by Mel his daughter, but why Lichfield and not Hanley? Many Thanks
Gary Cooper went into this question in some detail in his biography of Smith, Paul. Apparently there was little enthusiasm for the statue in Hanley. The Captain Smith Memorial Committee (which raised the money from contributions - Mel did not not purchase the statue) approached Lichfield council, and they agreed to the proposal. It was not, however, met without resistance.

When the proposal was unveiled, a group of Lichfield citizens presented a petition protesting against the statue on the basis that Smith had nothing to do with Lichfield, and that he was not an historically notable figure. The Committee couldn't offer much in the way of response (one suggestion was that Lichfield lay halfway between London and Liverpool and was therefore accessible to visiting Americans), but did point out that Lichfield was the capital of the diocese that covered Hanley and was also in Smith's native county of Staffordshire.

By the time the Lichfield council received the petition against it and the statue was debated in a council meeting, it was only weeks before the statue was due to be unveiled and with the date already fixed. Cooper suggests that many of the signatories to the petition 'were rather alienated by the feeling that they were having a rich man's statue foisted onto their city.' However, in response the names of the contributors to the memorial were read out, and it was suggested that the petitioners were being 'particularly ungracious'. Newspaper accounts of Smith's heroism were read out, and it was announced that Queen Alexandra had already been informed that the unveiling ceremony was due to take place. Cooper concludes 'The statue was finally accepted because the councillors of Lichfield realised that it had nowhere else to go.'
Many thanks for such a fast and informative reply! It was something that I have wondered about for a while. Cheers Paul
Not a problem, Paul - Cooper delves into this question and the council machinations and politics quite a bit, and it makes interesting reading (and strikes a few familiar notes for those familiar with local level politics!). As I think Fi originally raised some time ago, and as I've referred to myself, I find the fact that the Smith statue was sculptured by Lady Kathleen Scott, wife of ill-fated Anartcic explorer Robert Scott, one of the more interesting aspects of this piece of work. Had a look at one of her other works, a war memorial piece, up in Cambridge over the last couple of days.
Vandalism to E J Smith's Statue, Lichfield, Staffs!

I read in local paper that the statue had been marked by graffiti. As I live within a few miles of the statue I popped along on Saturday to have a look.

It was a lovely autumn day, although the bronze plaque on the front had been marked, this had now been cleared up. There was still graffiti present on the back, but I expect that it will soon be removed. I have posted some photos on my website of the statue, also included some shots to show it's position in Beacon Park. Buy the way on Google Earth the statue is clearly visible.
Just read in the paper that the plaque at the bottom of the statue has been stolen. I will try and pop and see it over the weekend and see what the damage is.
E.J. Smith Statue

Around 1972 a television programme had a piece on the E.J. Smith statue in Beacon Park, Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. It said the statue had been commissioned by Stoke City Council to mark Smith's captaincy of the world's finest ship. When the ship sank they no longer wanted the statue and it lay in the foundry, in Lichfield, where it was cast. Eventually, in 1922, Lichfield Council were persuaded to raise the statue in Beacon Park. Of further interest to me was the sculptress, widow of Robert Falcon Scott (Scott of the Antarctic) and mother of Peter Scott, one of my heroes. Surely nobody would want to glorify Smith for doing the wrong thing, while vilifying Stanley Lord for doing the right thing (heaving to). A good story, I thought, until going to a Titanic talk last year. It was stated that the statue was unveiled in 1914, of course I thought this was a mistake, surely I hadn't been barking up the wrong tree for forty years.
Doing some digging I found that Lichfield Council received a letter dated 28th May 1913, from a Mr. F.S. Stevenson of Playford Mount, Nr. Woodbridge, Suffolk saying it was proposed to raise money (£20,000 by public subscription) for a memorial to E.J. Smith, and since he was a Staffordshire man request that it be erected on land belonging to the city. Who F.S. Stevenson was I do not know, there was an elderly woman with the same name and initials at the same place, maybe his mother. The statue was unveiled by Helen Melville, Smith's daughter, on 29th July 1914, six days before war was declared on Germany. I would have thought the nation would have had more to worry about than statues at this time, but it seems that Europe was, like Smith, steaming blindly to disaster.
There was no shortage of VIP's at the ceremony: Lord Charles Beresford Member of Parliament for Lichfield; Rt. Revd. William Perrin Bishop of Willesden who presented the statue to the city; Dowager Duchess of Sutherland; Lady Kathleen Scott and F.S. Stevenson. Perrin was in service in Southampton for twenty-three years before becoming Bishop of British Columbia and then returning to become Bishop of Willesden. He would have been in contact with seamen and maybe knew Smith. He may have been contacted by Stevenson about having the memorial in London. A 1958 article in the Lichfield Mercury seems to imply that a place for the statue in London was sought.
There were two metal founders in Lichfield, both adjacent to Beacon Park, in those days, Woodroffe and Perkins and Chamberlin and Hill. The later made large precision castings for machine tools, a very possible contender for casting the statue in bronze, not that I can find any evidence of this. There were seventy-four objections to the statue mainly on the grounds that Smith had no connections to Lichfield. So what would be the point of transporting the statue across country particularly if nobody wanted it. The reasons for the statue being in Lichfield are, I think, weak: Lichfield is mid way between London and Liverpool and convenient for anyone to stop off to see the statue. Why would anyone travelling between these places want to see the memorial, why not between London and Southampton or Glasgow come to that. The main line at Lichfield Trent Valley Station is two to three miles from Beacon Park, Nuneaton would have been better and more central. The other reason was that Hanley is in the Diocese of Lichfield. Anyone have any comments or information?
I have been familiar with the Titanic as far back as I can remember; my grandmother was 22 when the ship sank, it was a regular topic of her conversation together with the Great War. The disaster must have had a similar affect on the nation as the death of Lady Diana in more recent times.

Various things have rekindled the interest, the latest was picking up a copy of “Titanic for Dummies” this led me to these Titanic forums. Pity I didn’t find them a year ago, could have saved myself some trouble. Had I found this particular thread I would not have submitted the previous post. Having acquired the book Inger Sheil mentions, I have read the last two chapters, most interesting. However nothing reinforces my theory that the statue was manufactured in Lichfield. Chamberlin and Hill are still trading in various locations in England as Chamberlin PLC. I didn’t enquire at the company last year assuming they wouldn’t know about the statue and probably had better things to do. My recent enquiry shows my assumptions to be correct.

Some years ago I had to call daily at shops in the Potteries Shopping Centre, but I was always pushed for time. Not having time to go exploring, I asked dozens of people to direct me to the Titanic mural, so I could have a quick look. Strangely not one had the foggiest idea what I was talking about, seems there is still little interest in Smith in Hanley.
From good tips on this site I read Gary Cooper’s book and then Louisa Young’s biography of Kathleen Scott, now I have started on Elspeth Huxley’s biography of Kathleen’s son Peter.
My theory that the statue of E.J. Smith was raised in Lichfield because that is where it was cast has finally been put to rest. It seems that lugging great statues around wasn’t a problem at that time. The statue of Robert Falcon Scott in Christchurch, New Zealand was sculptured by K. Scott in a quarry in Carrera in Italy.
She also did a war memorial, a naked boy, inscribed: “Here I am, send me.”(That’s from the book of Isaiah) This was for Peter’s prep school, West Downs, also a second cast was made for Oundle, Peter’s public school. (A public school in England is a fee paying establishment, a state school is free). The model for these statues, she states, was the son of an Italian called Fiorini who cast all her bronzes in Italy.
Not that anyone will be interested but I have discovered that the F.S. Stevenson referred to in post #7 was Francis Seymore Stevenson, Member of Parliament for Eye in Suffolk for 21 years before giving up his seat by applying for "Stewardship of the Manor of Northstead", one of two fictitious positions that disqualify an MP from holding office, they can't just resign. He was Parliamentary Charity Commissioner at one time, I suppose this gave him an insight into raising money.

Left picture...

«Capt. Smith knew the sea and his clear eye and steady hand had often guided his ship through dangerous paths. For 40 years storms sought in vain to vex him or menace his craft. But once before in all his honorable career was his pride humbled or his vessel maimed. Each new advancing type of ship built by his company was handed over to him as a reward for faithful services and as an evidence of confidence in his skill. Strong of limb, intent of purpose, pure in character, dauntless as a sailor should be, he walked the deck of his majestic structure as master of her keel.»

Right picture…

«He made a mistake, a very grievous mistake. Overconfidence and neglect to pay attention to the oft-repeated warnings of his friends. The mastery of his indifference to danger. Overconfidence seems to have dulled the faculties usually so alert.»
Having a lot of confidence gets you ahead of your peers in life. It can also drag you down, however, if that confidence isn`t guided by experience. Captain Smith, they say, wasn`t very used to ships that went as fast as the Titanic did, and so all of his years of experience on slower ships proved insufficient to deal with the new situation that presented itself. Though to be fair to him, historians say that plowing through iceberg ridden waters at full speed was common practice back then. Now we know better. At least he took responsibility and went down with the ship, which is what a real man would have done.