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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Birmingham (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 05585 86031



II This list entry has been amended as part of the Bicentenary commemorations of the 1807 Abolition Act.

DESCRIPTION: The statue of Joseph Sturge stands in front of the Marriott Hotel, on the north side of Harborne Road, at the Five Ways junction. 1862; the sculptor was John Thomas. Statue, additional figures, and pedestal, of Portland stone. The statue originally incorporated drinking fountains, but these no longer work. Pedestal composed of a wide plinth supporting an octagonal moulded base, on which stands the figure of Sturge, his right hand resting on the Bible, his left hand outstretched. Sturge wears a Quaker lapel-less coat. Below him, on the lower plinth, two kneeling female figures: to left, Peace, holding an olive branch, with a lamb at her feet; to right, Charity, comforting a negro child. Projecting from back and front of the lower plinth, a semi-circular gadrooned basin. Beneath the statue, on four sides, are inscribed the words 'Joseph Sturge 1859', 'Peace', 'Charity', and 'Temperance'. On the front of the upper plinth, a bronze plaque, added in 1925; this reads: 'He laboured / to bring freedom / to the negro slave / the vote to British / workmen and the / promise of peace to / a war-worn world'. At this date the statue was moved 100 yards from its original position to a less conspicuous site. The statue was restored in 2006-7, and the left hand of the figure, which had broken off in 1875, was replaced with a new one.

HISTORY: Joseph Sturge (1793-1859) was born in Elberton, Gloucestershire, the son of a farmer. Sturge began farming when he was 14. The family were Quakers and pacifists, and at the age of 19, when Joseph refused to serve in the militia, his flock of sheep was sold to cover the delinquency. In 1814 he began working as a corn factor at Bewdley; the business was not successful, and in 1822 he moved to Birmingham, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. In 1834 he married Eliza Cropper, daughter of the philanthropist James Cropper, and after her death, Hannah Dickinson. Together with his brother Charles, Sturge created one of the largest grain-importing businesses in Britain, in spite of refusing to deal in grain used for the manufacture of spirits; the family also invested in railways and docks. From 1831 onwards, Sturge was able leave the management of the business to Charles, and devote himself to philanthropy and public life.

From the 1820s Sturge was active in the anti-slavery campaign, together with his sister Sophia, co-founder of the Birmingham Ladies Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves. In 1826 Sturge was made secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, but he quickly became dissatisfied with the policy of gradual emancipation advocated by Thomas Fowell Buxton and other established abolitionists, and in 1831 was involved in founding the Society's Agency Committee which lobbied instead for immediate and complete emancipation. The hopes of Sturge and his comrades were not fulfilled by the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, which decreed that slaves enter a system of apprenticeship for between six and twelve years, and granted compensation to slave owners. Sturge visited the West Indies in 1836-7, gathering evidence to prove that apprenticeship was little different from slavery. He made his findings known in 'The West Indies in 1837', published in 1838, and before a committee of the House of Commons. His efforts made a major contribution to the termination of apprenticeship on 1 August 1838, a day celebrated in Birmingham with the opening, by Sturge, of the Negro Emancipation School Rooms (since demolished). A memorial was erected to celebrate the victory in Falmouth, Jamaica, by Sturge's ally, the Baptist minister William Knibb; this places Sturge's portrait in the central position between those of Granville Sharp and William Wilberforce.

Sturge then devoted much money and energy to the welfare of former slaves, supporting schools and missionaries, and a scheme for settling former slaves in 'free townships'. One of these was Sturge Town in Jamaica, established in 1840. In 1839 Sturge combined with others in founding the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, which strove for worldwide emancipation and has survived into the C21 as the Anti-Slavery Society. In 1841 Sturge made a journey to the United States in order to observe and report on the condition of slaves there. Towards the end of his life he bought an estate on the island of Monserrat, where he demonstrated that free labour could be profitable if well managed; he was thus able to preface public statements on West Indian matters with the words, 'Speaking as a planter...'.

Sturge's uncompromising efforts were not confined to the anti-slavery movement. President of the Peace Society, in 1854 Sturge was part of a deputation from the Society of Friends which visited the Tsar of Russia in an attempt to avert the Crimean War. His support was instrumental in the founding of the Morning Star, a paper which advocated arbitration and non-intervention (the paper, which ran until 1869, had no connection with today's Morning Star, founded in 1930). Sturge's other philanthropic interests included education, teetotalism and public parks. He was one of Birmingham's street commissioners during the 1820s, and from 1838-40, an alderman of the town council. Sturge died in 1859, but two of his children, Joseph and Sophia, continued his reforming work.

The statue of Joseph Sturge at Five Ways combines references to his great philanthropic passions - the eradication of slavery and the fostering of peace - in a drinking fountain, traditionally erected to promote temperance, of which Sturge was a determined advocate. The memorial stands in a prominent position in Birmingham, Sturge's home for most of his adult life (he lived in Edgbaston). The statue was commissioned by a committee appointed to raise the necessary funds; the sculptor chosen, John Thomas, had worked for Sir Charles Barry as a carver on the Birmingham Grammar School, and had superintended the stone-carving for the Houses of Parliament. He had also sculpted the Birmingham reformer and Sturge's one-time associate, Thomas Attwood. John Thomas died before the statue was completed. A crowd of 12,000 gathered to see the statue unveiled on 4 June 1862. On 24 March 2007, the 200th anniversary of the day on which the Abolition of the Foreign Slave Trade Act received royal assent, the newly restored statue was rededicated.

Sources: S. Hartland, 'Joseph Sturge (1793-1859) - The 'Apostle of Peace' (Report for Birmingham Civic Society, 2006); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; A. Foster, Birmingham (Pevsner Architectural Guides, 2005); P. A. Pickering and A. Tyrrell, Contested Sites: Commemoration, Memorial and Popular Politics in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2004), 147-169; accessed on 25 December 2007; R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851 (1951), 388-90; accessed on 28 December 2007; Henry Richard, Memoirs of Joseph Sturge (1864)

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION The statue of Joseph Sturge is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * A handsome statue of 1862 by the versatile and prolific sculptor, John Thomas * The statue commemorates the notable Birmingham reformer Joseph Sturge at a prominent position in the city. It is of particular historical interest, Sturge having been influential in the campaign for the abolition of slavery. SP0558586031


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

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Date: 03 Jun 2001
Reference: IOE01/04518/08
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr J J Sheridan. Source Historic England Archive
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