Donor’s daughter says disputed Drummer Boy statue should stay put in Woodbridge

The Woodbridge Heritage Group are campaigning against the proposed relocation of "The Drums of the F

The Woodbridge Heritage Group are campaigning against the proposed relocation of "The Drums of the Fore and Aft" statue on Melton Hill. - Credit: Su Anderson

Campaigners fighting for a statue to remain in the town where it has stood for 35 years have received backing from a relative of its original benefactor.

Readers of this paper also voted in favour of Woodbridge’s ‘Drummer Boy’ staying put – with only 12% agreeing with a council plan for its relocation a mile out of town.

Suffolk Coastal wants to move the bronze figure to its new Riduna Park headquarters in Melton next year.

But a group of campaigners believe the Drummer Boy was given to the people of Woodbridge by Diana Keppel – the dowager countess of the Ninth Earl of Albemarle.

Now, the noble couple’s only daughter, Lady Anne-Louise Keppel, has shown support for the group’s plan to find funding for it to be moved outside the Shire Hall when Suffolk Coastal leaves Melton Hill.

A letter penned by her husband, Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, said: “The idea of moving him on Market Hill sounds admirable.

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“It was a gift from my mother-in-law in memory of Lord Albemarle and we feel it should definitely remain in Woodbridge and not depart to Melton.”

Suffolk Coastal says the statue has been in its care since the 1980s and is part of the council’s heritage.

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Bosses want it moved to the former Girdlestones site in Melton – with the cost incorporated in the contract for the new building.

Of 316 readers to respond to our recent online poll, 88% said the statue should stay in Woodbridge.

Meanwhile, Margaret Potter, former physiotherapist to the countess and her sister-in-law, Lady Elizabeth Matheson, also believes the donation was intended for the town. Mrs Potter, 88, of Woodbridge, said: “I used to spend an hour-and-a-half at a time with each of them. It was clear to me that she wanted to give the statue to Woodbridge.”

The earl and countess moved to Martlesham during the 1960s from Quidenham Hall, Norfolk, bringing with them the statue.

Campaigners say the earl donated it after his father (the statue’s sculptor) died in 1979, and that the countess thought it a suitable tribute to be on public display in Woodbridge after she moved to Leeks Hill, in Melton, following her husband’s death.

But Suffolk Coastal said it is yet to a viable alternative for where the statue should stand.

Geoff Holdcroft, chairman of the accommodation project board, said: “Suffolk Coastal’s priority remains to ensure the long-term care of this statue on behalf of all the people of the district.

“At this stage, we have not received any fully funded, resilient proposals for its future, so our intention remains to give it pride of place in front of our new headquarters, opposite the railway station in Melton.”

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