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Plans for Geoffrey Chaucer statue in city centre

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Ray Evison
Ray Evison

by Gerry Warren

He is said to be one of the founding fathers of English literature but remarkably no statue of Geoffrey Chaucer exists.

Now plans are being drawn up by the Canterbury Commemorative Society to erect a figure of the 14th century writer and poet in the city centre.

The society, which commissioned and funded the statues of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha in Lady Wootton’s Green, is launching an appeal to raise £100,000 for the project.

It will also be approaching five or six eminent sculptors with the idea and draw up a short list from their proposals for the figure.

It could take up to three years for the statue to be erected but it will form the centrepiece and culmination of improvements to the Best Lane entrance to the Beaney Art Museum and Library.

The city council executive is expected to approve £150,000 worth of improvements around the entrance and junction with the High Street.

They include replacing the block paving with natural stone flags and setts as well as removing unwanted signs and other street furniture.

Council officers say the aim is to create an 'uncluttered space’ so that people can move around easily and businesses can serve food and drink.

It wants the work finished in time for the Beaney opening next spring.

The Canterbury Commemorative Society has offered to provide the statue of Chaucer, who wrote his most famous work, The Canterbury Tales about a group of pilgrims’ journey to the shrine of St Thomas.

Subject to survey, a base will be installed on the corner of Best Lane and the High Street to accommodate the figure when it is ready.

Ray Evison, who is leading the project for the Society, said: “The recently commissioned statues of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha on the eastern side of the city are emblematic of Canterbury’s association with Europe.

“As it was King Ethelbert who ordered (Kentish) English to be written down and thereby ensured that it survived the imposition of Norman French, it will be most fitting for the society’s next subject to be the author whose colossal genius and popularity fixed the form of our language.

“A sculpture of Chaucer in the city would nicely represent the relationship of the city with the country, through pilgrimage and more recently, tourism.

Mr Evison said that from the initial approaches, it was hoped that around three sculptors would produce drawings of their ideas and eventually one ot two chosen to produce a model of their final concept.

He added: “It is quite a tricky brief because they will need to satisfy historians like ourselves as well as perhaps including a modern interpretation. We are really keeping an open mind.”

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