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The future of a statue of Denbigh’s most famous son will be decided at a public consultation vote this Friday and Saturday.

The bronze statue of H.M Stanley was commissioned over a decade ago, but Stanley’s association with European imperialism led to protests sparked by Black Lives Matters.

Denbigh town council commissioned the piece on Hall Square, hiring North Wales artist Nick Elphick to create the sculpture.

But after protests, Denbigh Town Council held a meeting in June 2020 to discuss the statue’s future. Members voted to keep it until a public consultation to decide whether it should be moved from public view. But the consultation was delayed due to COVID restrictions.

The issue has since turned contentious with differing opinions on social media.

Denbigh town councillor Rhys Thomas said he wanted to keep out of the matter.

“I’m chair of the council, and I need to keep neutral on all of this. I think it’s been active on Facebook, but there we are. It is something a few people are quite interested in on either side,” he said.

Fellow councillor Glen Swingler added: “I think the feeling in town is very mixed. I’ve noticed on social media over the last couple of days that those coming out against it, they’ve got a bit more vociferous.

“It’s not getting nasty. Well, you always get one or two, but that’s social media for you, but there are different views on it, and I wouldn’t like to guess which way any sort of vote would go, but then again, I don’t know how many people are actually going to go out and vote.”

He added: “I will vote, yes. I’ve got my own opinions, but I will vote as it is my right.”

Henry Morton Stanley is immortalised for his famous words “Dr Livingstone, I presume” after finding the Scottish explorer on the shores of Lake Tanganyika where he had been lost in central Africa.

Stanley was born John Rowlands and started life fatherless in Denbigh in 1841. He was put into the Asaph workhouse in nearby St Asaph before emigrating to the United States as a teenager.

He then fought in the American Civil War before becoming a journalist and explorer, finding the source of the Nile, mapping central Africa’s Great Lakes and the borders of the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo.

But Stanley is a controversial figure to some because of his links with Belgian King Leopold II, for whom he worked for a time.

The monarch committed acts of appalling inhumanity against the population of the Congo Free State – now the Democratic Republic of Congo; however, his supporters say Stanley was not working for the Belgian despot when the atrocities occurred and he has been unfairly tainted.

The vote is being taken by Denbigh Town Council on Friday 15 October between 10 am and 7 pm and Saturday 16 October between 10 am and 1 pm at the Town Hall.

The vote is open to all Denbigh residents aged 16 and over. Voters will have to bring two forms of ID with them, one photo ID and one with an address on. Anyone unable to attend can contact or text 07554 679169 or email hmstanleystatue@mail.com by October 14.

Image: National Library of Wales, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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