Very Birmingham


Returning home through Birmingham's Centenary Square first thing in the morning, yet another serendiptious sight awaited me; namely the Broad Street statue known to some as "The Carpet Salesmen" on the back of a lorry. Of course it actually shows the industrial pioneers James Watt, Matthew Boulton and William Murdoch, all three of whom, I have read, are buried in St Mary's Church, Handsworth.


Were they taking this statue away ? These days you never know, and Watt is one of many historical figures being reappraised because of his father's participation in the slave trade. But in fact the statue was returning to roughly the same spot after a five year absence, as part of the quite enormous remodelling of this part of town, in particular the for new tramway, which (once the actual trams arrive) looks like it will be a great boon.


I also learned that an explanatory plaque will now accompany the statue to cover matters relating to slave trade finance. Having recently visited Edinburgh's St Andrew Square, which now has a controversial plaque referring to Henry Dundas, who stands on top of the Square's tall column, I can see that statues (which I've always enjoyed photographing as a tourist) are now really a serious matter. But I was nevertheless happy to see these three inventors back in town; their bright gold gilded bronze is somehow 'very Birmingham'.

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JUDITH WEIR

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