Statues and Monuments: Sir Wilfred Lawson

Posted: October 27, 2015 in History, London, UK



Wilfred Lawson was born in September 1829, the son of a baronet. Educated at home, he became. like his father a radical Liberal opposing many of the policies of the government of the day. After a couple of failed attempts to win a seat in parliament he was eventually elected as the second MP for Carlisle in Cumbria. Later he represented Cockermouth in Cumbria and Camborne in Cornwall. His political career was interrupted by losing his seat due to the radical nature of his politics. He was a renowned temperance campaigner and once tried to introduce a bill allowing local areas to vote for the cessation of alcohol sales in their area.  It was so unpopular that he found it difficult to find someone to second the bill and although it eventually did get to a vote it was roundly defeated. In 1879 he became president of the UK alliance, one of the largest temperance movements. He was also a strong opponent of the opium trade and a prominent member of the peace society. His views were seen by many as being overly restrictive and against the freedom of the individual. Despite his politics it was written that Lawson was one of the most celebrated and popular person in politics of his day. He died in July 1906, his last act  having been to vote in the house of commons. after which returning home he took to his bed and died the following day,


This statue was erected in Victoria Embankment Gardens in 1909 by the temperance movements of the UK. It was unveiled by Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister who commented that Lawson was ‘one of the most remarkable and certainly one of the most attractive political characters of the times. He was an apostle not of lost but of gaining causes, content for most of his life to be in the minority, but watching year by year the minority slowly developing into the majority of the future.’ The inscription on the side of the pedestal reads ‘”A true patriot, a wise and witty orator, a valiant and farseeing reformer, he spent a long life as the courageous champion of righteousness, peace, freedom and temperance”. The statue itself is of Lawson would have been seen debating in the chamber of parliament.

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