Swanage’s Albert Memorial to be re-erected

After decades of neglect, the impressive obelisk that was erected in Swanage to commemorate the life of Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria, is set to be restored to its full glory.

The ambitious plan is to rebuild the monument in Prince Albert Gardens in Swanage, close to Peveril Point where Prince Albert is said to have disembarked from the royal yacht around the 1850’s.

Prince Albert
SWanage Museum

Prince Albert, the husband to Queen Victoria

Hoping the scheme will come to full fruition

However many attempts to restore the Purbeck stone obelisk have amounted to nothing, so the team from Swanage Museum are hoping that this time the scheme will come to full fruition.

Originally the Albert Memorial, believed to be the first in the country to be built after his untimely death at the age of 42 in 1861, stood in the High Street at the top of the Court Hill in a position which is now next to the British Legion and opposite the Black Swan pub.

Albert Memorial
Swanage Museum

Albert Memorial when it was first erected

Albert Memorial c1910
Swanage Museum

Albert Memorial can just be seen in the background of this photo taken around 1910

The idea of George Burt

Unsurprisingly, it was the idea of George Burt, the Victorian benefactor who was also responsible for building Durlston Castle and the Town Hall. Four weeks after Prince Albert’s death, George Burt wrote to the rector of Swanage, Reverend Duncan Travers, and proposed that the town should:

“Erect an obelisk of native stone with a short but suitable inscription…and that the inhabitants generally should subscribe money to pay for its erection”

The monument survived until at least 1925, when it was photographed at its full height but by 1932 it had lost its top tiers and had been truncated. Various attempts to restore it came to nothing and by 1971, with planning permission granted to build a row of houses on the site, the matter came to a head.

Opening of Swanage British Legion 1931
Richards Collection

The truncated Albert Memorial can be seen in the background at the opening of the Swanage British Legion in 1931

Albert Memorial winter 1943-44
Swanage Museum

The Albert Memorial in winter 1943-44

Susan Haysom sat on top of the remains of the obelisk for 45 minutes

In a last ditch attempt to prevent its complete destruction, Susan Haysom, whose husband, Trev, was the great-grandson of the John Haysom that had carved the inscription, sat on top of the remains of the obelisk for 45 minutes until the police talked her down.

The builder agreed he’d move it to a new site and it was sent first to a council yard. Unfortunately the restoration never happened and over the years it has been stored in various places.

There were further efforts to resurrect the memorial in 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, in 1996 when Prince Albert Gardens was built and for the Millennium in 2000, but they all failed.

Albert Monument about to be taken down
David Haysom

Albert Monument just before it was removed in 1971

Plans to be submitted for planning permission

Remarkably, the plinth and bottom part of the monument have survived and it is now in safe keeping at Haysom’s St Aldhelm’s quarry.

So this time, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the Swanage Museum team behind this effort are forging ahead to get plans drawn up, so they can be submitted for planning permission.

Map of proposed location for the Albert Memorial
The proposed Albert Memorial location

The new proposed location for the Albert Memorial

It’s hoped they will get the go ahead to erect the obelisk in the far left hand corner of Prince Albert Gardens, if you’re standing by the pier, looking up the hill. The spot was the 4th hole of the old pitch and putt golf course back in the 1980’s.

After fifty years of disappointment, there’s now a real chance that the Albert Memorial, once a symbol of great civic pride, will be given a commanding position overlooking Swanage Bay for everyone to enjoy.

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