Restoring the Prince Albert Memorial in Swanage
Exciting plans, currently being made to reinstate an historic obelisk-shaped memorial to a new home in Prince Albert Gardens, are gathering momentum in Swanage. The current project is being funded solely by charitable donations, and the monument will stand on Swanage Town Council land as a local legacy. The Swanage Museum, in partnership with Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust, carried out initial assessments, landscape designs and are now applying for permission to erect this historically notable monument in Prince Albert Gardens. If you wish to support this local project, please see how you can donate below.
The original Victorian memorial was paid for by the contributions of Swanage residents to commemorate the death of Prince Albert, a much-loved social-reformer and beloved husband of Queen Victoria. The imposing obelisk was first erected at the junction of Court Hill & the High Street near the Royal British Legion in 1862, a welcoming entrance to Swanage Town. Queen Victoria stopped here to admire the views of Swanage Bay and Ballard Down.
The Prince Albert Memorial was removed from the High Street in 1971 by housing developers and has since languished in a local quarry, despite numerous attempts to find it a new home.
Why Restore the Prince Albert Memorial?
The Monument will be a tourist and heritage attraction, enhancing the visual aspects of the town and contain a small, quiet garden. Named as the “Garden of Reflection” with native planting, seating and views of Swanage Bay and Ballard Down, the garden will enhance a currently disused area of Prince Albert Gardens and provide a peaceful place for personal contemplation in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
The original Prince Albert Memorial, sited on Court Hill, had a far-reaching view of our picturesque Swanage Bay. The new site will mirror this beautiful view, but instead from the vantage point of Prince Albert Gardens – a place to stand and stare, whilst enjoying a panoramic view of the bay, pier and Ballard Down.
Appropriately, the selected site is already a part of our popular Victorian Swanage Trail. The walk takes you through Swanage town, the countryside and woodlands to discover Swanage and its historic Victorian heritage.
The Prince Albert Memorial is an important historic memorial for Swanage, originally built by George Burt shortly after Prince Albert’s death on 14 December 1861. The Victorian residents of Swanage felt an abiding affinity to Queen Victoria after she had visited Swanage in 1833. It was the first ever, national memorial to this popular Prince.
Its new position is close to where Prince Albert landed from The Royal Yacht at the base of the Zig-Zag in Durlston Bay, when he visited Peveril Point with Sir George Biddlecombe.
How You Can Help to Raise Additional Funds for this Project
This project is being funded by charitable donations not public money. Some of the stone will need to be repaired and/or replaced and there is obviously additional work to be done on the ‘Garden of Reflection’.
If you feel you wish to contribute to the project, please click on the link:
The History of the Swanage Memorial to Albert the Good
1861 – On 14th December Prince Albert dies.
1862 – George Burt writes to Rev. D. Travers suggesting the idea of a memorial to be erected in Swanage.
‘should erect an obelisk of native stone with a short but suitable inscription… and that the inhabitants generally should subscribe money to pay for its erection… My motive in writing you on this subject is merely to bring it fairly before the inhabitants, believing that it would not only be a guide to rising generations in the path to virtue, duty, and honour, but that it would be most pleasing to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, to hear of such an act by the inhabitants of Swanage, especially as they have both a kindly recollection of their visits to this place.’
A meeting chaired by John Mowlem held in the National School Room to discuss the letter and its proposal was held and a committee set up to get the memorial erected. By December the Swanage memorial was in place. It was the first memorial to Prince Albert to be erected in the country.
1881 17th January – The Great Blizzard twists the 2 upper courses out of alignment.
1901 19th January – Top section dislodged by a heavy gale.
1925-1931 – For reasons that are unclear the top 13 courses taken down by local builder and put in store. The memorial remained in this truncated state for the next forty years
1961 – Efforts made to get the memorial repaired for the centenary of its erection by local historian David Lewer.
1971 9th August – Planning Consent granted on 160 High Street with the condition that: The existing monument shall be retained or moved to a new site to be agreed to the satisfaction of the local planning authority.
1971 – Developers of 160 High Street (Prince Albert Cottages) take down the rest of the memorial illegally. The planning condition for retaining or re-siting the memorial was never enforced.
Many attempts were made to re-erect the monument over the years.
2019 – The Swanage Museum, along with the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust and an unnamed benefactor obtained permission from Swanage Town Council to place the memorial in Prince Albert Gardens.
2020 – Site investigation proved favourable and garden designers undertook a topographical survey. Planning permission is being sought.