EXACTLY 202 years after he was born, the country’s first statue of Charles Dickens has been unveiled in the city of his birth.
Hundreds of people packed into Guildhall Square in Portsmouth yesterday to get a first glimpse of the statue of one of the world’s most famous writers.
More than 100 guests were invited to the unveiling, including 40 members of the Dickens family. Charles Dickens was born in Old Commercial Road, Portsmouth on February 7, 1812.
Although there are Dickens statues overseas, including Philadelphia and Sydney, this will be the first full-sized statue of the author in Britain.
Oliver Dickens, nine, is the great-great-great-grandson of the famous author and unveiled the statue alongside Esha Abedin, a nine-year-old from Charles Dickens Primary School in Buckland.
Oliver said: ‘I feel very proud. It’s just amazing.
‘It’s really special to have my family here and for all the Dickens relations to be here at this great event.’
Stage and screen actor Edward Fox and his wife Joanna David gave a reading.
The statue cost £140,000 and money was raised by people across the community, including Charles’ great-great-grandson Ian.
He said: ‘I’m proud. For it to be here in quite a short space of time is a great tribute to everybody that has been involved in the process.
‘I actually saw the statue in the foundry last week and I was quite emotional when I saw it for the first time. To see it today is overwhelming, it’s a feeling of pride.
‘The statue is here today, it’s part of Portsmouth’s identity now and it’s something to be proud of.
‘We are incredibly proud of the legacy that Dickens left and that his popularity is still as rich as it is today as it was when he was writing.’
Mark Dickens is another of his great-great-grandsons.
He added: ‘We are so thrilled that we have finally achieved what we have been waiting for so many years for.
‘We hope that the statue will do everyone proud.’
Professor Tony Pointon is from the Charles Dickens Statue Fund. He said: ‘All our efforts have been vindicated more fully than I could ever have imagined. It’s been a big effort but it’s been absolutely worth it. The amount of messages we’ve had is incredible, from all over the world.’
Andrew Francis, who is on the governing body of Lincoln’s Inn society of lawyers, where some of Dickens’s works were based, travelled down especially to watch the ceremony.
He said: ‘I think it is great for Portsmouth to have this.
‘He said he did not want to have any statue but I think after 200 years, it is probably right that he is getting one now.’
The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Lynne Stagg, said: ‘I am so proud and privileged and pleased to accept on behalf of our city the first statue in the United Kingdom of the great man.
‘It is right that it should be erected here in the city of his birth.’
HAPPY WITH HIS WORK
HE SPENT hours perfecting the statue, and finally sculptor Martin Jennings has seen it in its new home.
Martin said he is thrilled to see it in place.
‘I’m really pleased that it’s now the property of the people of Portsmouth. For me it’s the end, but here it’s just the beginning.’
He added that he was delighted to see so many people turn out to see the statue being unveiled.
‘It’s been absolutely splendid,’ added Martin.
‘The sun has been shining. It’s been a real celebration.’
Martin, pictured right, said he enjoyed making the statue his own.
‘The extraordinary thing is everybody has a different variation of Charles Dickens,’ he said.
‘This is my interpretation. It’s the latent energy of him. If he sat down he was about to leap up again.’