Anger at plans for ‘Drummer Boy’ statue to beat a retreat
- Credit: Su Anderson
For 35 years it has been rooted to the same spot in a Suffolk town – representing a defiant stand against an unyielding adversary.
But the statue known in Woodbridge as the ‘Drummer Boy’ has now become the subject of a present-day conflict.
When Suffolk Coastal moves a mile out of town next year, to a new home in neighbouring Melton, the council will insist on taking with it the bronze cast figure.
So determined are council bosses, they have already publicised its new location at the yet-to-be constructed Riduna Park headquarters.
However, a growing group of local campaigners claim the statue was given to the people of Woodbridge by Diana Keppel – the dowager countess of the Ninth Earl of Albemarle – and should remain in the town where it has stood since 1980.
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The campaigners, who say they are “representing the heritage of Woodbridge”, promise not to let the statue go without a fight.
Local historian and Woodbridge Museum custodian Bob Merrett wants it moved outside the Shire Hall after Suffolk Coastal vacates the property on Melton Hill.
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“We would like to see some public debate – not just a fait accompli,” he added.
“We want it moved to a central place. The obvious location would be in front of the Shire Hall – and we will find the money to do it.”
Linda Seagers first discovered plans to move the statue in a town council ward newsletter. She and her husband, Roger, believe the countess would not want it to leave the town.
Mrs Seagers said: “The countess said it was the earl’s wish for it to be given to the town of Woodbridge. We feel quite strongly that it should stay here.”
Mr Seagers, who discussed the donation with the late countess, said the statue represented Woodbridge’s rich military history.
Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal’s deputy leader and accommodation project board chairman, said: “This statue has been in the care of Suffolk Coastal District Council since the 1980s and is part of the council’s heritage.
“As the current custodians of the statue, on behalf of the people of this district, we intend to ensure it is preserved for prosperity by moving it from its current position to be displayed in a prominent position in front of our new headquarters in Melton. The cost of this move is incorporated within the contract for the new building.”
Nigel Barratt , a former mayor of Woodbridge, knew the earl and countess from the 1960s, when they moved to Martlesham from Quidenham Hall, in Norfolk, bringing with them the statue.
Mr Barratt thinks Suffolk Coastal has wrongly laid claim to being its custodians by declaring it an asset “presented to the council” in a recent statement of accounts.
“They have added a line about it belonging to them,” he said. “I knew Diana [the countess] for 40-odd years. To me, she was always convinced the statue was for Woodbridge.
“The earl donated it after his father died in 1979 and, with Diana becoming the dowager duchess and moving to Leeks Hill [Melton], she thought it a suitable tribute to be on public display in Woodbridge.”