People Sculpture

Athens – the Sheffield connection

Photograph by Patrick Comerford (2017)

This sorry-looking statue of George Canning, the British Prime Minister who from 1825 to 1827 saved Greece from conquest by the Turks, stands in the George Canning Square in Athens.

But what is its connection to Sheffield?

George Canning, who was Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister, gave diplomatic support to the Greeks in the struggle against the Turks for freedom and ensured the eventual creation of an independent Greek state. In 1827, he signed the Treaty of London with Russia and France, with the object of securing Greek independence.

Canning’s successor as Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, tried to undo his work by making a truce with Turkey, but the Treaty of London had secured Greek independence.

The statue of George Canning from 1834 has a simple inscription: ‘George Canning 1770-1827’.

It was unveiled, wrapped in British and Greek flags, by the Greek Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, on 6 April 1931, at a ceremony attended by Sir Patrick Ramsay, the British ambassador, and the English builder and developer Charles Boot (1874-1945), who donated the statue to the Greek nation.

And here are the Sheffield connections.

Charles Boot was the Sheffield-born son of Henry Boot, the builder, and became a successful businessman and creator of Pinewood Studios.

He acquired the 10ft-high statue when he bought Thornbridge Hall, Great Longstone, near Bakewell, in 1929.

The statue, the work of famous Jordanthorpe-born sculptor, Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841), had originally been at Trentham Hall, Staffordshire, the last work commissioned by the Duke of Sutherland.

It was transferred to Thornbridge Hall, and after the death of the Liberal statesman, Chantrey made a replica which was erected at Westminster Abbey.

As a result of big business dealings between his firm, Henry Boot and Sons, with the Greek Government, it occurred to Charles Boot to present the statue to the Greek nation, and has remained here ever since.

Sadly, if you think that Sheffield has a graffiti problem, then I suggest you look at Athens.