There used to be a statue for many years on Edmund Street close to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, but it went into storage. What happened to it? Well it was of George Dawson and it's now at the Birmingham Museum Collections Centre. A non-conformist preacher who called for civic reform. Born in 1821 and died in 1876. There is also several busts of this Victorian gentleman!

Related View community

George Dawson a non-conformist preacher who called for Civic Reform





There used to be a statue for many years on Edmund Street close to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, but it went into storage. What happened to it? Well it was of George Dawson and it's now at the Birmingham Museum Collections Centre. A non-conformist preacher who called for civic reform. Born in 1821 and died in 1876. There is also several busts of this Victorian gentleman!


George Dawson

Born in London in 1821, he moved to Birmingham in 1844 to become minister of the Mount Zion Baptist Chapel. He left the Baptist Church in 1845 and he become minister of the theologically liberal Church of the Saviour. While there he developed the concept of the Civic Gospel.

He gave sermons to the likes of Joseph Chamberlain and other local politicians of the day. He lectured for the city to be transformed and Joseph Chamberlain answered him as a visionary social reforming Mayor in the 1870s.

The statue of George Dawson has moved about a quite a bit since it was made by Thomas Woolner in 1880. It's moved from Victoria Square to Chamberlain Square to eventually a spot on Edmund Street. I think under the link bridge of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. It was eventually moved to storage and is now at the Birmingham Museum Collections Centre. In the area full of classic cars, fire engines etc!

You can see a photo of the statues last location here George Dawson, Chamberlain Square on the Wikimedia Commons (from Geograph). As you can see it used to have railings around it.

The statue depicts Dawson in a full-length frock coat with his hands clapsed together. In the Francis Frith photo archive, they have a photo dated 1896 with the statue close to the Chamberlain Memorial. At the time it was under a canopy that resembled the Chamberlain Memorial. It featured the heads of Bunyan, Carlyle, Cromwell and Shakespeare, symoblising Religion, Letters, Governments and Poetry. The Thomas Woolner statue of 1880 was disliked so it kept getting moved around. Another statue was commissioned in 1881 from F J Williamson.

This photo shows the unusual view of the George Dawson statue amongst all the machines that are surrounding it at the Birmingham Museum Collections Centre. Hopefully one day it will come out of storage and be put in a prominent location for all to see!

Also in the Birmingham Museum Collections Centre was this bronze bust of George Dawson. The note next to it just says that he was A campaigner for civic reform. It was located in the warehouse. You can see the bust and the statue on the free open days that they have at the centre. Any other times you have to book.

Next we head up to the Library of Birmingham and go up to Level 9. Just outside of the Shakespeare Memorial Room was this large marble bust on George Dawson. The area is the Skyline Viewpoint. Not far from this bust is a foundation stone from the old Victorian Birmingham Library. He gave an address at the first Birmingham Central Library in 1866. That library was partly damaged by a fire in 1879 was was rebuilt and enlarged by 1882. That time the second library was opened by John Bright MP. The library would survive until 1974 when it was demolished after the last Central Library opened (that to would close in 2013 and be demolished in 2016).

In 2016 there was an exhibition on at the Library of Birmingham in the Gallery on Level 3 called Our Shakespeare. They had a terracotta model of George Dawson in one of the glass cases. It was probably a study for the statue by the sculptor Thomas Wollner, which was completed in 1880. George Dawson died suddenly aged 55 at Kings Norton on the 30th November 1876.

The same terracotta model / bust of George Dawson was later seen in the Shakespeare Memorial Room at the Library of Birmingham on Level 9 of the library. Apparently Dawson was the first President of the Birmingham Shakespeare Club, he was also a noted Birmingham philanthropist and politician. The sign next to it says the statue it was a study of was later on Great Charles Street.

Photos by Elliott Brown