Less than a month after the toppling of Bristol statue was seen around the world, Birmingham City Council is to reinstall one of its own key statues to the heart of the city centre.

Footage of slave trader Edward Colston’s statue being dumped into the River Avon on June 7 has had political, historical and cultural implications ever since.

The statue was pulled down as the Black Lives Matter protests gathered global momentum following the death of George Floyd on May 25 after he been stopped in Minneapolis by white police officers.

In the wake of the international cultural backlash which followed, even faith leaders like The Archbishop of Canterbury The Most Reverend Justin Welby have said monuments at places including Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey should be reviewed and that ‘some will have to come down… some names will have to change’.

Thomas Attwood in Chamberlain Square in August, 2006
Thomas Attwood in Chamberlain Square pictured in August 2006.

But Birmingham will restore its statue of Sir Thomas Attwood on Wednesday this week.

And it has no doubt that here’s a work of art fit for purpose.

Sculpted in 1993, it shows a man with scattered papers who has already come down off his pedestal to better represent the working class people around him as the city’s first MP.

Who was Sir Thomas Attwood?

Born in Halesowen in 1783, Attwood was a banker and economist who founded the Birmingham Political Union in 1830 to try to help the city to be represented in parliament.

Thanks to the Great Reform Act 1932, he then became the city’s first MP that year.

Sitting until 1839, he paved the way for John Bright and Joseph Chamberlain to continue the city’s Forward role.

Attwood, who died aged 72 in Malvern, was educated at Halesowen Grammar School and Wolverhampton Grammar School.

There is a street named after him in Halesowen off the A458 Stourbridge Road.

Cleared of slums and totally redeveloped during much of this century, the Lee Bank area of central Birmingham is now more formally known as Attwood Green, bounded by Lee Bank Middleway, Bristol Street and Bath Row / Holloway Head.

A boy studies the Thomas Attwood statue in Chamberlain Square

A boy studies the Thomas Attwood statue in Chamberlain Square

The return of the statue

Sir Thomas Attwood will return to Chamberlain Square at 10am on Wednesday, July 1 after being removed to make way for the demolition of Central Libray in 2015.

Commissioned by Attwood’s great great granddaughter Mrs Patricia Mitchell (now deceased) it was donated to the city of Birmingham in 1993.

Unlike conventional statues, this 250kg bronze is not on a pedestal but features its subject relaxing on steps.

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So comfortable is he in these surroundings just yards from the 1834 Birmingham Town Hall and 1879 Birmingham City Council House that you will soon once again be able to sit next to Sir Thomas while having your lunch.

Meanwhile, his backdrop has been changed even more radically. No longer will it be John Madin’s Brutalist Central Library.

Instead he will be close to new office blocks One and Two Chamberlain Square, the first landmarks to have been completed as part of the redevelopment of the wider area known as Paradise.

Birmingham was shrouded in snow in March 2013
The 1993 bronze of Sir Thomas Attwood when Birmingham was shrouded in snow in March 2013

The unveiling

Among those attending the unveiling on Wednesday will be Sioban Coppinger, the original sculptor and artist who designed the piece in 1993, Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward and Rob Groves of developers Argent which is behind the massive regeneration of Paradise.

Because Chamberlain Square won’t be officially reopened until July, members of the public will have a restricted view behind the builders’ fence and won’t be able to see Sir Thomas up, close and personal for several weeks.

One of the fathers of the modern industrial age, James Watt statue in Chamberlain square in December 2012.

Two other statues that were formerly in Chamberlain Square until work began to demolish the Central Library on December 14, 2015 will remain in storage.

Engineer Joseph Watt and scientist Joseph Priestley are set to be reunited once 3 Chamberlain Square and its accompanying public realm area have been built at the Paradise Queensway side of Birmingham Town Hall.



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