Statue of Margaret Thatcher in Grantham continues to divide opinion as name of man who threw eggs at the memorial revealed
The newly installed statue of Margaret Thatcher continued to divide opinion on Monday with many saying Grantham’s daughter “deserves recognition” while others don’t expect the memorial to last long.
The £300,000 bronze memorial to the Iron Lady was installed at 7am on Sunday morning.
However, within hours the Thatcher statue had been egged by a man later revealed to be Jeremy Webster, 59, of Grantham, who is deputy director at the University of Leicester's Attenborough Arts Centre.
Kerry Law, chief marketing and engagement officer at the university, said: "The University of Leicester has a long-standing history of supporting art, fostering creativity and protecting creative freedom.
"It does not condone any form of defacement and takes any act of defacement extremely seriously.
"This matter will be addressed in line with the university's own procedures."
Police have confirmed they are investigating reports of criminal damage.
Local Conservative leaders have hailed the statue as a “fitting tribute” to the first female Prime Minister who grew up in the town.
They said the hope was to “inspire, educate and inform” people and said the town should “never hide from our history”.
However, opponents say the statue will only serve to cause harm to the town in its current prominent location.
Many believe the statue should not have been installed, or if it must, then it should be within the town’s museum. Readers have been voting in a Journal poll which asks if the statue should stay put.
National press were still gathering around the statue measuring the temperature of the town on Monday morning. Since Sunday’s egging, no further incidents had been reported at the time of reporting.
Residents and visitors stopped occasionally to take photos or to examine the statue with interest but no-one seemed particularly aggressive towards the feature.
Feelings, however, were still mixed with several people saying it was the right thing for the town to honour their daughter, while others saying it “shouldn’t be here”.
Keith Harvey Hutchison, who was born in Grantham but now lives in New Zealand, said he understood the disputes that had gone on in the past but believed the statue was appropriate.
He said: “She was the first woman Prime Minister of this country and she should get recognition for that.”
Another man, who wanted to be known only as Dave, said: “She deserves it, she was born here she deserves recognition for it.”
“To start off she had some bold and good ideas,” he said.
However, he acknowledged she may have “got a bit carried away towards the end”.
And he said the location of the memorial did not bother him.
“She was a prominent PM, she’s from this area and she had a lot of influence on politics.
“If you don’t like it, just walk past it, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
“History is important and if mistakes were made we have to remember them so we don’t go on and make the same mistakes.”
Nick Hodges said: “I owe the old girl.
“I’m ex forces so she gave me a good damn good pay rise. For the lads in the forces, that’s what I’m proud of.
“I think it should have been in Parliament somewhere in Whitehall probably.
“She did a lot of good and she had loads of bad you know, the milk she took from the kids, the poll tax, but all in all, she did a great job, I think, better than any man politician we’ve ever had apart from Winston.”
Another woman said she had been “embarrassed” by the town’s previous efforts to honour the Iron Lady and that it was “time overdue”.
“Grantham should be a boon town, we should be using her as something to celebrate,” she said.
“I just think people in Grantham don’t like success, that’s all I can think,” she added.
One man, who didn’t wish to be named, told Local Democracy Reporters “I didn’t expect it to be here as long as it has been”.
Another anonymous woman warned: “I can see it’s going to get damaged because people didn’t like Margaret Thatcher.
“But, like all politicians, she did a lot of good and some not so good – not a lot different from today”.
Julie Wreathall, who was sadly visiting the town for a friend’s funeral, said that for the people of Grantham it could be important.
“But there are a lot of people that were affected by some of her policies and some of those negative events when she was in power are still affecting people now so I don’t think she’s a very popular person with the majority.”
She said statues were a nice way to remember people and keep history, however, she said she had lived through the era and was “still very angry about it now”.
“The statue was a lot of unnecessary money spent, especially if any money came from the tax payer, no-one’s going to be very happy about that.”
Councillors opposed to the statue also continue to speak out.
Independent Councillor Charmaine Morgan said: “The timing could not be more insensitive.
“As the architect of the cost of living crisis, housing crisis and NHS crisis, her policies led to the sale of our national utilities, the sale of council homes without replacing them and the introduction of the internal market – fragmenting and paving the way for the privatisation and demise of our NHS.
“Her policies were controversial. As such she belongs in a museum in an appropriate context where her achievement in becoming Britain’s first female prime minister can be weighed against the impact of her policies.”
Margaret Thatcher (nee Roberts) was born and raised in Grantham and attended Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, before gaining a scholarship to study at Oxford University.
Her father Alfred, a grocer, was town mayor from 1945 to 1946.
The bronze memorial to the Iron Lady was originally passed in February 2019 despite reports acknowledging it “would be a likely target for politically motivated vandals”.
It is 10ft tall and sits on an equally high 10ft plinth – towering over St Peter’s Hill Green at 20ft tall overall.
It was brought to the town by Grantham Museum, SKDC and a Public Memorials Appeal.
Plans to erect the statue in Parliament Square had previously been rejected by Westminster Council.
The build was delayed following the installation of the plinth in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A planned unveiling event itself became a source of controversy after it emerged the council was proposing to underwrite the estimated £100,000 the ceremony would cost with taxpayer money, taken from the authority’s reserves.
That decision, which drew anger from local residents and saw opposition councillors describe it as ‘nothing more than a party,’ was reversed at a council meeting in March 2021.