William Cobbett Statue
William Cobbett, 1763-1835, author, journalist, radical politician and founder of Hansard (the printed transcripts of parliamentary debates) was born in Bridge Square, Farnham, and is buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Parish Church in the town. He was the son of the farmer, but in spite of having very limited education he became the most influential journalist of his time and one of most prolific writers. He is perhaps best known for his 1830 classic, Rural Rides, in which he recorded the terrible conditions in the countryside at the time.
For many years, the distinguished sculptor, the late Sheila Mitchell (also born in Farnham) had regretted that there was no major monument to Cobbett in a public area in the town of his birth. She therefore completed a small bronze maquette showing Cobbett on his horse accompanied by his dog, which with modern technology can be enlarged to full size and cast in bronze.
To raise funds for this important project, a charitable trust, the William Cobbett Statue Trust, has been set up by Sheila Mitchell’s husband the distinguished watercolourist Charles Bone, and good progress has been made. Donations have been received from the Prince of Wales and members of the House of Lords and House of Commons, among others, and fundraising is continuing, towards the estimated cost of £100,000.
Planning permission for the statue was obtained in 2005, and is currently being renewed. The project is supported by the Farnham Public Art Trust, which has assisted by undertaking the planning negotiations.
The Farnham Public Art Trust’s first action on its foundation in 1995 was to survey the town to identify suitable sites for public art. This was followed by the publication of an information leaflet for visitors describing and illustrating the existing pieces of public art and craft.
Links with the University for the Creative Arts
Farnham has an important and long-established art college (now the University for Creative Arts) and the Trust was keen to establish links between the college and the town, so a project was set up in which third-year students designed site-responsive pieces to be displayed in the historic garden of Farnham Library. This concept has now been successfully incorporated into the college’s curriculum with annual exhibitions.