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Statue of William Wilberforce in Garden of Wilberforce House

A Grade II* Listed Building in Kingston upon Hull, City of Kingston upon Hull

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Latitude: 53.7442 / 53°44'39"N

Longitude: -0.3301 / 0°19'48"W

OS Eastings: 510228

OS Northings: 428835

OS Grid: TA102288

Mapcode National: GBR GPP.X6

Mapcode Global: WHGFR.W4ZX

Entry Name: Statue of William Wilberforce in Garden of Wilberforce House

Listing Date: 21 January 1994

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1197754

English Heritage Legacy ID: 387616

Location: Kingston upon Hull, HU1

County: City of Kingston upon Hull

Electoral Ward/Division: Myton

Built-Up Area: Kingston upon Hull

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Riding of Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Hull (Lowgate) St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: York

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Listing Text


680-1/23/177 HIGH STREET
21-JAN-94 (Southeast side)

This list entry has been amended as part of the Bicentenary commemorations of the 1807 Abolition Act.

Statue of William Wilberforce, situated in the garden at the front of the Wilberforce House Museum (q.v). The Museum stands on the south-east side of the High Street, Hull. The statue was completed 1883-4 by sculptor William Day Keyworth junior (1843-1902). Ashlar. Life-size standing figure supported by a short column, on a square granite pedestal. The pedestal carries the following inscription: 'William Wilberforce / Born in Hull 24 August 1759 / Died in London 29 July 1833 / Member of Parliament for Hull / From 1780 to 1784 / Member of Parliament for Yorkshire / From 1784 to 1812 // England owes to him the Reformation of Manners / The World owes to him the Abolition of Slavery'.

HISTORY: William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was born in the house which was later to become the Wilberforce House Museum. His family were prosperous Hull merchants. Wilberforce's early years were spent in the house, and he attended the grammar school, but on his father's death in 1768 he was sent to live with his uncle and aunt in London and Wimbledon. His aunt's enthusiasm for Methodism caused his mother to bring him back to Hull after about two years, and thereafter, Wilberforce's home was the house in the High Street. Hull was the centre of his family and social life; as a member of one of Hull's most prominent families his days were filled with music and other diversions.

In 1776 Wilberforce entered St John's College, Cambridge; whilst there, he resolved to follow a political career. Elected MP for Hull in 1780, and for Yorkshire in 1784, his political stance was independent from the first. In 1785 he experienced a conversion to evangelical Christianity, and resolved to devote his life to God. He was counselled by the evangelical minister, John Newton, and by his friend, the prime minister William Pitt, that he could best serve God by remaining in politics. In 1787 he was persuaded by prominent abolitionists to represent their cause in Parliament. Whilst Thomas Clarkson and others gathered evidence against the slave trade and sought to mobilize public opinion, Wilberforce worked ceaselessly in Parliament, introducing bills calling for an end to the slave trade and speaking in their support; in 1788 he secured a select committee to examine the slave trade. The campaign met with fierce opposition and frequent set-backs before the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill at last received royal assent on 25 March 1807. Slave ownership continued to exist in Britain's colonies, and Wilberforce continued to strive for the abolition of slavery itself, joining with others to form in 1807 the African Institution (its purpose being to ensure that the new law was adhered to, as well as ameliorating conditions for slaves), and in 1823 the Anti-Slavery Society. He remained in the House of Commons until 1825, by which time Thomas Fowell Buxton had taken on leadership of the parliamentary campaign. On 26 July 1833 Wilberforce heard that the bill for the emancipation of all slaves in British colonies had passed its final reading, and on 29 July he died. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument by Samuel Joseph was erected in 1840. In 1834-5 a monument honouring Wilberforce was erected in Queen Victoria Square, Hull; this was moved to Wilberforce Drive in 1935 (q.v.).

The statue of William Wilberforce which now stands in the garden of the Wilberforce House Museum was originally placed in the City Hall. It was presented to the town in January 1884 by Henry Briggs, sheriff of Hull 1881-2. The commission marked Briggs's time as sheriff, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of Wilberforce's death (1883), and of the Slavery Abolition Act, which came into force in 1834. The statue's creator, William Day Keyworth junior, was a celebrated Hull sculptor. The unveiling was performed by the Right Reverend Ernest Roland Wilberforce, grandson of the abolitionist. In 1912 the statue was moved to its present position.

SOURCES: N. Pevsner and D. Neave, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire, York, and the East Riding (1972, 1995); S. and D. Neave on behalf of Hull City Council, Wilberforce House, 25 High Street, Hull. Report on its History and Architecture; Rutherford, History of Wilberforce House; Dictionary of National Biography; J. Oldfield, 'Chords of Freedom', (2007), 70-1; William Hague, William Wilberforce (2007)

The statue of William Wilberforce is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* A handsome statue, the work of notable Hull sculptor William Day Keyworth junior.
* The statue is of particular historical interest, having been erected to commemorate William Wilberforce, England's most celebrated abolitionist, in the town of his birth.
* The present position of the statue, in front of the Wilberforce House Museum, listed at Grade I, emphasises the association between the house and its greatest inhabitant.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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