Work starts on renovating memorial in Bury St Edmunds

George Monger who is restoring the Ouida Memorial in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: RUSSELL COOK

George Monger who is restoring the Ouida Memorial in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: RUSSELL COOK - Credit: Archant

Work has started on renovating a familiar monument in Bury St Edmunds.

The Ouida Memorial, which is situated in Vinery Road at the junction with Out Westgate, Horringer Road and Petticoat Lane, had fallen into disrepair and had been described as “tired looking”.

Now conservator George Monger has started work on bringing it back to its former glory.

He said it will take him up to two weeks to complete the work which is being funded by the Bury Society, Bury St Edmunds Town Council along with locality budget funding from councillors.

Mr Monger, who is based in Onehouse, has 40 years experience working in the heritage sector and specialises in social and industrial history.

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Some of his clients include the Cutty Sark Trust, English Heritage, National Trust, Imperial War Museum and he was responsible for renovating the horse statue in Newmarket.

He said: “I have taken off some of the green mould and dirt and cleaned up the bronze sections of the monument and have been using an agent which draws the salt out of the Portland stone which is very porous.

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“I’m hoping I can get the time to finish the project which is likely to take a couple of weeks.”

Once the work has been completed Bury in Bloom intend to plant flowers round the memorial and tidy up the footpath.

Melanie Lesser, its co-ordinator, said: “It’s become very tired looking and we want to use blue flowers to replicate the water trough at the bottom of the memorial which was once used as a place for dogs to drink.”

The history of the monument dates back to 1910 when it was unveiled by Lady Evelyn Guinness.

Ouida was the childhood pronunciation of part of Maria Louise de la Rame’s name and she was born

in 1839, in Union Terrace, in Hospital Road.

The few occasions she saw her father he filled her head with romantic notions and this was to set her on a career in writing at the age of 18. Arriving in London she adopted the pen-name of Ouida and would write over 40 novels and books.

Martyn Taylor, the chairman of the Bury Society, said: “Money came easy as her work akin to Mills & Boon and Barbara Cartland was lapped up by Victorian society. Her spendthrift lifestyle in a London Hotel had her spending enormous sums on flowers alone whilst she entertained literary figures and politicians. She eventually moved to Italy where she welcomed all the local stray dogs to her villa.

“When she heard from her friend that there was a proposal to erect a plaque to her she said ‘This tomfoolery in Suffolk annoys me very much’ but anyway in 1907 it was put up on the gable end of Union Terrace in 1907 and is still there.

“In January 1908, aged 69, she died in Viareggio in abject poverty from pneumonia.”

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