A bust of the remarkable Charles Bradlaugh - Victorian MP, atheist, republican, radical, advocate of birth control, champion of Indian and Irish nationalisms and much more besides - is back at his burial place.
The initial bronze has been missing for decades, either stolen or vandalised. But yesterday I was among sixty or so well-wishers who made the journey to Brookwood Cemetery near Woking to celebrate the restoration of Bradlaugh's memorial.
I am proud to say I had a role in this marvellous piece of historical restitution. Thirty years or more ago, I bought at auction a bronze bust of Bradlaugh. It's among my most prized possessions.
No, it's not the one stolen from the grave. It's a much smaller piece - either the sculptor's maquette, or perhaps one of a number of small busts sold to raise money for the larger work.
Some months ago, as recorded in these annals, I lent my bust to a specialist enterprise Ryman & Leader who mapped it in 3-D, scaled it up, and made the splendid bust in bronze resin which is now back on display in Brookwood.
Yesterday's ceremony was organised by the National Secular Society, the freethought organisation that Bradlaugh founded in 1866, and the Brookwood Cemetery Society who have done a brilliant job in caring for this capacious burial ground.
The attendance was higher than had been expected, and the mood distinctly upbeat. There's so much about Charles Bradlaugh to celebrate!
As well as the short speeches and the laying of wreaths, Bob Forder, a stalwart of the National Secular Society, read an account from Bryan Niblett's biography of Bradlaugh's funeral 130 years ago. Here it is:
And if you need a bit of a primer about who Charles Bradlaugh was and why he is worth remembering, well, you could give this a listen -
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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