New Campaign for a Henry Tudor Statue and Visitor Centre in Pembroke

By Nathen Amin

A new campaign for a statue and visitor centre for Henry VII in Pembroke is underway, led by the town council in close conjunction with the Pembroke and Monckton Local History Society.

In November 2014 Pembroke Town Council agreed to commission a marquette and public consultation is now ongoing as to the details of the project. A site has been earmarked on the bridge which crosses the picturesque Mill Pond towards the rear of the castle. It is certain that should a statue be sited on this bridge, the backdrop of the castle would ensure this monument’s location would be one of the most spectacular in the country.

On 3 October 2015 the Pembroke and Monckton Local History Society hosted a coffee morning to invite discussion over the plans and to seek public opinion. A well-received talk on ‘Pembroke and the Tudors’ was given by prolific Welsh author Terry Breverton and also present was Tudor historical fiction author and Pembrokeshire native Tony Riches. A brief introduction was given by town Mayor Pauline Waters who stressed the importance of the statue to Pembroke and underlining the support of the town council for the project. A presentation was then given by Linda Asman of the local history society who has been responsible for the organisation of the campaign thus far.

It was announced that the town council had commissioned a small model of the proposed statue by local sculptor Harriet Addyman which was praised by those present. The model depicts Henry Tudor in his traditional full length robe and black cap whilst a greyhound stands loyally to his side, indicative of not only the earldom of Richmond but also the tradition of greyhounds in the local area. It was also further announced that Pembrokeshire County Council had agreed to match fund from their Town Centre Support Programme although the majority of the funds would still need to be raised.

In addition to the statue, those involved in the campaign also spoke passionately about their ultimate aim of opening a dedicated Henry Tudor Visitor Centre in Pembroke. A national appeal will be conducted to help fundraise and the hope is that the centre will serve as a must-visit location in the study of England’s Welsh king.

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Why Does Pembroke need a Henry Tudor statue?

The Tudor Dynasty is without doubt one of the Europe’s most infamous families; their story has been told and retold across the centuries and remains today a massive, multi-million pound industry centred around the key figures who once ruled England – Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to name but two. ‘Tudor England’ in itself has become a well-known phrase that covers many aspects of the era, particularly architecture, arts and the lifestyle. What is often overlooked however is that the Tudors, whilst coming to encompass all that is considered great about England, were a Welsh dynasty with their roots firmly entrenched in the hills across Offa’s Dyke.

A descendant of Welsh royalty through his paternal family, Henry Tudor was born in Pembroke Castle on the night of 28 January 1457. It was alleged by a later chronicler that Henry’s birth took place in one of the outer gatehouse towers, marked today by a wonderful exhibition featuring his young mother Margaret Beaufort. Henry it appears stayed at Pembroke until he was around four years old when he became the ward of William Herbert and relocated to Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire.

Nonetheless, this precocious young child was a son of Pembroke and a son of Pembroke he remained. With this in mind it is somewhat disappointing to note the lack of celebration towards the birth and subsequent life of Henry Tudor in West Wales. This isn’t merely a location with a tenuous link to the Tudors, it’s an integral part of the Tudor story as the birthplace of Henry VII, Father of the Tudor Dynasty. With the plethora of Tudor related places in the region it is very surprising and almost unacceptable to learn that this wonderful historical occurrence hasn’t been capitalised upon. There is a large and lucrative Tudor market in England which has proved to be provide a consistent income from tourism and it is galling that Pembrokeshire has yet to adopt such measures.

If people are willing to travel hundreds of miles, sometimes thousands, to visit Tudor locations throughout England then surely Pembroke and indeed Pembrokeshire should be marketing itself as the “Birthplace of the Tudor Dynasty”. It is difficult to overstate the financial benefits the Tudors bring to the UK touristy industry, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans alone regularly visiting the many palaces and castles in England to place themselves in the very spot history happened. Hampton Court. Windsor. Kenilworth Castle. Ludlow Castle. Even Stratford-Upon-Avon with its Shakespeare links. York has built an entire tourism industry by capitalising on its, admittedly unique, heritage. The list is endless.

I have previously campaigned for a statue to be erected of Henry Tudor in Pembroke, supported by the castle and the town council. It would give an overt and obvious indication of the importance of the castle to the Tudor story and could prove to be a lucrative marketing aspect for Tudor addicts. It is all very well having exhibitions inside, but the key is attracting people to the area in the first place, and a statue would certainly do that. As a comparison, the small North Welsh village of Corwen has a magnificent statue of Owain Glyndwr and as a result has been able to attract scores of Welshmen from all over to view it. Imagine tapping into only a mere percentage of the gigantic Tudor Tourism Industry and persuading them to come to Pembroke for a similar pilgrimage to the one they already make to many different locales throughout England.

The castle itself, under the managerialship of Jon Williams, has certainly done all it can financially do to increase tourism although their ambitions are drastically reduced by the economic issues of running such an enterprise without any outside funding. Jon once stated to me “we are gradually adding to and modernising our interpretation here and although we don’t lack ambition and ideas unfortunately it takes money to make things happen on a major scale“. Indeed Pembroke Castle itself is a small independent charitable trust “that needs to spend a lot of resources to simply maintain the castle as a visitor attraction“. Jon further stated “it would make perfect sense to have a statue although my opinion is that it would benefit Pembroke more if it were at the opposite end of the main street to the Castle. Firstly this would encourage Castle visitors to wander the town and secondly it would act as a good welcome to people arriving at East End Square“.

A statue or visitor centre of Henry Tudor would certainly benefit Pembroke and it would benefit Wales. Pembrokeshire’s most famous son deserves more than a couple of mere plaques and in an age of austerity any attempt to bring in tourism to boost the stuttering economy must be seriously looked at. Pembroke is the home of the world famous Tudor Dynasty and deserves recognition that would certainly place it on the global scale alongside other famous Tudor locations in England.

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Statues of Henry VII

By Nathen Amin

It is often stated that King Henry VII is regarded as the overlooked Tudor, a king who has long loitered in the shadows of his infamous progeny. When one considers the Tudor dynasty their collective 118 year reign the names that are often put forward are monarchs such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth, events such as the Reformation and the Spanish Armada, and an added dash of scandal and romance from the likes of Anne Boleyn and Robert Dudley. This is without considering the enduring presence of Shakespeare.

By comparison, the original Tudor king is often considered tame at best by the causal observer, a dull accountant-type miser who just happened to be the father of the larger-than-life egotist that was ‘Bluff King Hal’. The more seasoned academic of the Tudor family know this is not an accurate depiction of a man who won his crown on the battlefield, united the kingdom through marriage and spent untold fortunes on jewels for his wife and palaces for his dynasty.

It may be a possible that the popular stereotype of the first Henry Tudor is the reason why his depiction is often difficult to come by when one thinks of pub signs, street names or other modern forms of tribute to personalities of the past. This is not a man who is often openly commemorated throughout the nation he once ruled over, although the enduring usage of insignia and symbols connected to him such as the Beaufort Portcullis and the Tudor Rose is perhaps a more subtler legacy.

 I have previously campaigned for a statue of Henry Tudor to be erected in his birthplace of Pembroke and whilst such a venture has proven popular with local dignitaries, this request is as yet unfulfilled. Nonetheless it does lead to the question, just where exactly are there statues of King Henry VII in his erstwhile kingdom?

 Exeter

 The South West town of Exeter played a crucial role in the reign of Henry VII as it was the location of the capture of the pretender Perkin Warbeck. Warbeck had long been attempting to land in England with an army and usurp the crown for himself, claiming to be one of the princely sons of Edward IV. His capture was a momentous moment for the king and Henry visited Exeter in 1497 to thank the city for its support. He presented the city with a sword and a cap of maintenance which is still held in the Guildhall.

 The East Gate, a traditional entranceway to the city and through which Henry had passed in 1497, was rebuilt in 1511. A large stone statue of the recently deceased king was placed upon the gateway, depicting the king holding a sceptre and a globe. Accompanying the statue was the royal coat of arms, complete with dragon and greyhound supporters and a Beaufort portcullis.

 The gateway was pulled down in 1784 and the statue was replace on the front of a new building in the town. It remained in place until it was redestroyed by bombing raids in during the Second World War. The 431-year-old statue was ruined.

A new fibreglass statue was created in the 1950s to replace the traditional sculpture which had been lost and was placed on the exterior of the modern Eastgate House. This building was pulled down around a decade ago and the statue has yet to be resited.

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Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican communion and has been considered the premier holy seat of England for over a thousand years. It is fitting that the kings and queens of England are commemorated outside a cathedral most if not all would have visited during their reigns. Henry VII is no exception.

His statue is situated amongst other Tudor monarchs such as his son Henry VIII and granddaughter Elizabeth I and is placed about 10 feet from the ground. The statues are generally of Victorian origin.

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City Hall, Cardiff

Cardiff serves as the capital city of Wales and the city hall in particular is known as the seat of its local government. The building was erected in 1906 and is a grand masterpiece of Edwardian Baroque style. The first floor landing of the hall is designated the Marble Hall and features 11 marble statues depicting famous figures from Welsh history. As well as statues of Owain Glyndwr, St David and Hywel Dda amongst others, stands Henry Tudor.

The statues were chosen via a newspaper poll in the Western Mail and were unveiled by future Prime Minster David Lloyd George in 1916. The statue of Henry Tudor depicts the king on the battlefield in a suit of armour with his fist defiantly clenched. Evident is a banner bearing his red Welsh dragon symbol which was present at the Battle of Bosworth. The second figure in the statue is considered to be his Welsh ally, Rhys ap Thomas.

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Hay-on-Wye

Hay-on-Wye is renowned as the quaint ‘town of books’ and home to the Hay Book Festival, an annual soiree which draws visitors from around to globe to the small mid-Welsh border settlement. Due to its historically precarious position in the Welsh March, Hay-on-Wye both prospered and suffered during the medieval period as generation upon generation of Welsh and English battled for regional supremacy. That being said, the town played no major role during the Tudor period yet does possess one sixteenth century-related attraction of note.

In 1995 a large white statue of King Henry VII was unveiled on the end wall of the old market hall, affording this inanimate Tudor monarch commanding views across Castle Square in a place of utmost prominence. The six foot figure is looking to his left whilst adorned with a crown upon his head, an orb in his left hand and a sceptre in his right hand. It is a portrayal of Henry Tudor in all his majestic glory and currently the only of its kind in Wales. The plaque below the statue proudly boasts ‘Henry VII first Welsh king of the English’.

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City Hall, Bradford

Bradford City Hall has a wonderful collection of Victorian statues adorning the exterior of the building, each one depicting the kings and queens of England and then Britain since the Norman Conquest in 1066. The statues were erected in 1873 after construction of the hall was completed.

The statue of Henry Tudor depicts the king as a peaceful monarch, wearing a similar long tunic and robe as shown in various contemporary portraits of the king. He holds a sceptre and an orb and is wearing a cap rather than a crown.

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Bath Abbey

The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Bath is one of the most spectacular cathedrals standing in England and contains many features from the Tudor period.

On the magnificent west front stands a large statue of Henry VII in all his majestic glory, a crowned king holding his sceptre and orb. Beneath the king is the royal coat of arms of Henry, complete with dragon and greyhound supporters. On the same Western Front of the abbey is a ladder which reaches towards the top of the church, climbed by a collection of angels. The building of this front was overseen by Bishop Oliver King, appointed to the bishopric during the reign of King Henry VII in 1496. The statue is thought to be Victorian in origin.

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If you are interested in reading more about my previous efforts to have a statue of Henry VII erected in Pembroke, you can read about it here – Statue Campaign

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Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and has long had an interest in Welsh history, the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudor period. His first book Tudor Wales was released in 2014 and was well-received, followed by a second book called York Pubs in 2016. His third book, the first, full-length biography of the Beaufort family, the House of Beaufort,  is scheduled for release in the summer of 2017. He is the founder of the Henry Tudor Society and has featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer.