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Surprise £240,000 Government grant saves Mary Seacole statue

GOVERNMENT GRANT: The statue of Mary Seacole is the first of a named black woman in Britain

AFTER AN "uphill struggle", campaigners can finally celebrate their efforts to commemorate the life and work of historical figure Mary Seacole.

Though plagued with financial battles, The Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal will receive £240,000 from banking fines to help “commemorate a nurse and heroine of the Crimean War”.

The announcement came as part of Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement and spending review.

Responding to the announcement, Lord Soley, Chair of the Appeal, said: “I am absolutely delighted with this news. It means that we can now complete the installation next spring.

“It was an uphill struggle to raise funds for the statue itself, but that was achieved through the generosity of individual nurses, soldiers and others. Supporters of the appeal, including trustees and ambassadors, are to be congratulated for the hard work they put in to make sure the statue was completed.”

The effigy will be the first statue of a named black woman in Britain.

The 15-foot plus bronze statue of Mary Seacole, who was voted Greatest Black Briton in 2004, will sit in the grounds of the renowned St Thomas’ hospital, opposite the Houses of Parliament, and is set to become a major London landmark.

Campaigners were met with financial difficulty earlier this year, which halted the original unveiling, scheduled for autumn this year.

The Chancellor’s announcement has meant that the Jamaican-Scottish Crimean War heroine will be immortalised and ‘given the recognition she deserves’ as campaigners have said.

The bronze statue has been designed by sculptor Martin Jennings’ whose previous works include Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras station in London and a bust of the Queen Mother in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Part of the charity funding will be spent on a memorial garden to commemorate health workers, both civilian and military, who have put themselves in harm’s way in conflict zones or in combating disease, such as the recent Ebola crisis.

No decision has yet been taken about the site of the memorial garden but discussions will be taking place with a number of hospitals, including St Thomas’.

Lord Soley added: “The Army are on board with this and we will be working together to ensure that it is a fitting memorial to military nurses and other healthcare staff.”

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