Statues removed from Chamberlain Square prior to demolition

Crane prepares to left Joseph Priestly from his plinth with James Watt in background

Three of the city’s most prominent and much loved statues are being removed from Chamberlain Square for safekeeping before the start of extensive demolition at the 17 acre site.

A team of experts last night carefully lifted the statues of Joseph Priestley and James Watt from their plinths and transported them for storage in Birmingham Museums Trust’s Collection Centre until ready to be returned as part of the extensive refurbishment of Chamberlain Square. The Thomas Attwood statue will also be removed and stored shortly.

The plinths will subsequently be removed in readiness for the dismantling and demolishing of the complex group of buildings and structures that make up the former Paradise Forum and Central Library site.

Senior projects director of Argent, Rob Groves said: “These statues commemorate some of the city’s great forefathers and we will ensure they are fully protected as part of the extensive refurbishment of Chamberlain Square. They have been moved into storage for the duration of development and will be restored and re-sited at the appropriate time as part of Grant Associates Landscape Architects plans.”

Speaking on behalf of Birmingham Museums Trust, Deborah Cane said: “We are very pleased to be able to assist in the storage and renovation of these splendid statues. It will be good to see them standing in their magnificent, newly enhanced setting after they are returned.”

The marble James Watt statue originally located on Paradise Street next to the Town Hall, is dedicated to the Scottish born engineer who moved to Birmingham in 1774 and worked with Matthew Boulton to create the steam engine which powered the industrial revolution.

Clergyman, Scientist and member of the Lunar Society, Joseph Priestley lived in the city between 1770 and 1791 and is credited for discovering oxygen. His statue was originally located in Victoria Square (then called Council House Square) but was later moved to Chamberlain Square and recast in bronze due to irreparable weather erosion to the original marble.

Birmingham’s first MP, Thomas Attwood is commemorated in the final bronze statue, which was commissioned and donated to the city by of his great, great, granddaughter. The statue of a seated Thomas Attwood, with his soapbox and scattered pages, was created by Sioban Coppinger and Fiona Peever in 1993 and reflects the values Mr Attwood promoted: Reform, Vote and Prosperity, which are still upheld by the city today.

The Paradise redevelopment is being brought forward through Paradise Circus Limited Partnership (PCLP), a private-public joint venture with Birmingham City Council, with the private sector funding being managed by Hermes Investment Management, with Argent acting as development manager.  The enabling and infrastructure works, currently underway, have been funded through an approved £61m investment by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP).