The campaign to erect a statue of a trailblazing suffragist has hit its target, thanks to a donation from Betchton billionaire businesswoman Denise Coates.
With just five months to go before the unveiling of the Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy statue in Congleton, those behind the plans have celebrated raising more than £60,000 to see their heroine depicted in bronze.
Elizabeth’s Group has been campaigning for a statue of the pioneering women’s rights campaigner in the town centre for three years. She lived in Congleton for more than 50 years and ran a girls’ school at Moody Hall, on Moody Street.
Known as the “scourge of Parliament” she fought tirelessly for girls’ education, and for women’s right to own property and vote. She was described by Emmeline Pankhurst as “the brains of the suffragist movement”.
In its most recent newsletter, the group announced that Bet365 boss Denise Coates, who lives in Betchton, had topped up the Elizabeth fund.
Group chair Susan Munro said: “We applied to the Denise Coates Foundation several months ago and she stepped up to the mark and said that she loved our project.
“Her foundation phoned me up and said they had researched the project and were interested. We were so pleased. Some of us were in tears!
“Now we just need a little bit extra to fund the day of the unveiling itself, when there will be lots of celebrations.”
She added: “This is it! Once we’ve got Christmas out of the way, the unveiling will be upon us!”
It is still not known whether Congleton Town Council will support the statue being erected in the town centre, despite Elizabeth’s Group arguing that it was the most appropriate place.
At a meeting in April, three town centre locations – all on Bridge Street – were put forward by the group for consideration. But following a vote of eight to six, council officers were sent away to investigate other locations.
It is thought that a planning application for the statue backed by the town council would hold sway when it was up for consideration by Cheshire East Council, the local planning authority.
Discussions on the location of the statue are expected to resume on Thursday, 21st October, in the town hall and the group has asked for supporters to write to their local councillors demanding a town centre location for Elizabeth.
The statue has been designed by renowned sculptor Hazel Reeves, who created the bronze statue Rise Up in Manchester depicting Emmeline Pankhurst. Ms Reeves said she was on track to send the clay version to a foundry in London to be turned into bronze next month.
It is then expected to be transported to Congleton on a lorry and craned into place for its unveiling on international women’s day next year, Tuesday, 8th March.
The group has announced that the famous “spider woman” judge, Baroness Hale of Richmond, the former president of the Supreme Court, will be doing the honours. In September 2019, just before her retirement, she ruled that prime minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful.