Bishop highlights heritage connections of St Albans

Bishop St Albans June 2015On 9th February 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Oates “To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will publish guidance to encourage the protection of existing historical statues and memorials and promote the establishment of new memorials that reflect the broader history of the United Kingdom.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for this debate, and in particular for the work he is doing on the memorial to those who have been enslaved. We look forward to hearing more about it as it develops. I am pleased that he has focused our minds not just on existing memorials, but on what we ought to be doing as we look to the future, especially for the urgent need to celebrate the wide diversity of people and events that have contributed to our national life, many of which are underrepresented in our public spaces.

As levels of social capital and civic engagement continue to decline across communities in western Europe, there is an urgent need to think about how we can retell, reboot and celebrate our common stories and our public spaces through memorialising and celebrating people and events. For example, St Albans, where I live, is where the first meeting of the bishops and barons took place in 1213, which was to lead two years later to the sealing of Magna Carta. Yet this seminal event is not celebrated in any public space in the city. I have been encouraging people to think about how we might do that. I hope we may be able to. This is a great lost opportunity to educate and talk about the roots of our human rights, which started in very early stages there.

A second example in the city is Samuel Ryder, the mayor of St Albans, businessman and lifelong Methodist who set up the Ryder Cup, which was invented in nearby Hertfordshire. In 2011 our local district council agreed planning permission for a statue to commemorate him, but five years on, as is so often with these projects, funding is difficult to secure. Our experience is that a lot of these project take a long time to get going. You have to build groups of people to get support, planning and so on. While I commend the existing memorials grant scheme, would the Minister encourage Her Majesty’s Government not only to extend it beyond 31 March 2020, when I think it will come to an end, but see whether we can extend its remit to help local community groups as we think about how we develop this area further?

Baroness Buscombe (Minister, Con)…My noble friend Lord Cope talked about the different ways in which events that have taken place in our lives are remembered, such as by the creation of amenities and museums. That museum has a focus, as referenced by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, on human rights and the Magna Carta.