From L. S. Lowry to Queen Victoria: a curious look at sculpture in Manchester...

Art UK have been on a hunt for Greater Manchester’s public sculpture. All around the county, snaps have been taken of iconic monuments, and some lesser-known hidden gems that sit quietly in local gardens and squares. Come join us in this look at Greater Manchester’s sculpture – each one capturing the history, culture and brave and brilliant people at the heart of the area.

Tipping the Denton Linney, by Escar UK Bronze

Location: Market Street, Denton, Greater Manchester

If you want to get ahead, get a hat….

This bronze man tips or ‘doffs’ his hat to passers-by. Let’s hope they take the time to find out why and what he’s all about! This is a gentle tribute to workers of the town’s once-booming hat industry. Walker, Ashworth and Linney Ltd was founded in 1867 and the company manufactured silk and felt hats. The craze for hats shaped cultural expectations around fashion: if you weren’t wearing a hat your outfit was incomplete. The town of Denton became famous for its hat making and coined the phrase – ‘tipping the Denton Linney’ after which the statue itself is named. Hatters (those making and wearing them) were exposed to mercury and there was the danger of this leading to mercury poisoning. It’s speculated that the phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ has its origins here. The statue was built in 2005 and can be found outside the former Denton hall.

Coal Miner, by Peter Walker and Castle Fine Arts

Location: Market Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester

Coal miner statue

Photo credit: Fiona Matthewson/Art UK

Look down. We love the approach to this sculpture! It’s full of life and movement- smartly moulded into the landscape and at times barely noticeable by the streetwalkers of Ashton-under-Lyne. Of course, this is a nod to the area’s once famous coal mining industry. The Industrial Revolution created a big demand for coal, it was used to power steam-engines, heat buildings and generate electricity. Manchester had various colliers dotted around the city, including Ashton-under-Lyne, where this miner can be seen keeping his head above ground.

James Watt (1736-1819), by William Theed II (1804-1891)

Location: Piccadilly Gardens, Greater Manchester

James Watt Statue

Photo credit: Fiona Matthewson/Art UK

Why is a lightbulb’s energy measured in ‘Watts?’ Because of this guy, he can be found in Piccadilly Gardens with the likes of Queen Victoria, Prime Minister Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington. James Watt was a Scottish engineer and inventor whose achievements included making those steam engines work more efficiently during the Industrial Revolution, contributing to the city’s growing infrastructure and economy. The statue is a bronze copy of the marble one in Westminster Abbey, London.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901), by Edward Onslow Ford (1852-1901)

Location: Piccadilly Gardens, Greater Manchester

Queen Victoria statue

Photo credit: Fiona Matthewson/Art UK

Not too far off, sitting stoic and stone faced is Queen Victoria. Onslow Ford was commissioned to sculpt the work – he had emerged as a new sculptor and was one of the most sought-after at the time. Sadly Queen Victoria never saw the work, passing away in January 1901 with the statue erected towards the end of the same year. Queen Victoria was the UK’s longest reigning monarch, serving for 63 years - this was only surpassed by her great-great granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II in 2015. Statues of the controversial Queen have often been under scrutiny- for example, a statue sculpted by Harry Bates in 1897 was considered unflattering after comments suggesting it was too life-like. This might bring to mind a comment attributed to the straight-talking queen which was…

‘The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them’.

Tree of Remembrance, by Fiona Heron and Wolfgang Butress

Location: Mosley Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester

Also in Piccadilly Gardens stands this elegant bronze tree, titled ‘Tree of Remembrance,’. It is a memorial in tribute of the civilians of Manchester who were killed between 1940 and 1945 during the Second World War. The sculpture was erected in 2005 on the anniversary of VE Day. Around the trunk are carvings of civilians among the casualties. Just a stone’s throw from the tree, now stands Piccadilly Hotel and City Tower, two buildings built on land which was once the ruins of blitzed textile warehouses. 

Pull the Plug, Ring the Change, by Stephen Broadbent Artworks Ltd

Location: Market Street, Hyde, Greater Manchester

pull the plug ring the change statue

Photo credit: Fiona Matthewson/Art UK

The Industrial Revolution brought with it a handful of social grievances, one of these being child labour industries. The Chartist Movement was created to counter the laws that made this acceptable and advocate for new ones that improved the working conditions of men, women and children. The people of Hyde played a significant role in reforming parliament, the sculpture sits outside Hyde Town Hall and depicts two children running triumphantly, one holding a ‘plug’ and the other ringing a bell. The sculpture was unveiled in 2002.

Tameside’s World Cup Heroes, by Andy Edwards and Castle Fine Arts

Location: Richmond Street, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Greater Manchester

Football heroes statue

Photo credit: Fiona Matthewson/Art UK

This sculpture captures another triumphant run, this time across the pitch, moments before victory. Statues of three World Cup winners: Sir Geoff Hurst, who bagged a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup win over West Germany at Wembley, was born in Ashton and spent his early years living in neighbouring Denton; Jimmy Armfield OBE, a former Blackpool star, who was a substitute in the same game, was also born and raised in Denton and was captain of the England side before Bobby Moore; Simone Perrotta, born in Ashton and the third Tamesider to lift the famous trophy with Italy in 2006.

Jack Judge (1872-1938), by unknown artist

Location: Trinity Street, Stalybridge, Greater Manchester

Jack Judge statue

Photo credit: Fiona Matthewson/Art UK

It's a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go,
It's a long way to Tipperary,
To the sweetest girl I know!

This popular wartime song, often sung in glee, is the cry of a love-sick Irish soldier in London during WW1, co-written by Jack Judge. The singer lived in Stalybridge, so a sculpture was placed there to immortalise him, along with the song which he first performed at Stalybridge’s Old Grand Theatre. A First World War soldier is sculpted whispering in Judge’s ear, inspiring the heart-felt lyrics of the song. The song was a sensational UK hit and was covered by John McCormack several years later which furthered the its popularity.

Credit line: L. S. Lowry (1887-1976), by John Cox (1952-2014) and Escar UK Bronze

Location: Stalybridge Road, Mottram in Longdendale, Greater Manchester

Credit line statue

Photo credit: Fiona Matthewson/Art UK

In Longdendale, sits the sculpture of an artist of another field. Much-loved Manchester born L.S Lowry is noted for his sombre yet charismatic paintings of architecture and industrial landscapes. Lowry adds character and a nostalgic quality to what would otherwise be a bleak look at rusty iron smoke-pipes and brick houses. He has become a national favourite for his approach to art. His sculpture by John Cox is a charming, life-sized statue of the artist seated on a bench, sketching.

Explore the full collection of public sculpture in Greater Manchester at Art UK.  

By: Hermenia Powers, Digital Content Trainee at Art UK