Winning design chosen for Didsbury statue of Lancaster-born founder of the RSPB, Emily Williamson

Eve Shepherd will create the statue of Emily Williamson

Eve Shepherd will create the statue of Emily Williamson - Credit: The Emily Williamson Statue Campaign

Eve Shepherd has been selected as the winner of a contest to design a statue of RSPB founder Emily Williamson. 

The statue will stand in the grounds of Williamson’s former home in Didsbury where she began the fight against the fashion for using exotic feathers in women’s hats. 

Emily Williamson was born in Lancaster and she achieved her initial aim with the passing of The Plumage Act in 1921 banning the importation of exotic feathers. 

She remained largely forgotten until efforts by author Tessa Boase to commemorate her life with a statue gathered pace. 

Four designs for the statue were shortlisted and Eve’s was chosen after thousands of public votes. 

Eve Shepherd's design will be unveiled in Fletcher Moss Park in April 2023

Eve Shepherd's design will be unveiled in Fletcher Moss Park in April 2023 - Credit: Emily Williamson Statue Campaign

‘I’m deeply honoured to be chosen to create the Emily Williamson statue for Fletcher Moss Park, Manchester and the bird loving community,’ the sculptor said. ‘I feel very humbled and privileged to sculpt such an important pioneer and eco-activist. She was an incredible visionary, a quiet, yet stoic woman, who stood against the norms of her day. She co-created a legacy, the RSPB, a charity that has saved countless bird lives and protected precious natural habitats for future generations to enjoy.  In my eyes Emily is a shining beacon of how we can save our fragile ecosystem in these unprecedented times. 

‘Emily Williamson was one of those amazing women who has been forgotten because of her gender. This statue will be a triumph, a milestone, for how far we have come to balance the scales of equality for women within public sculpture, though we still have some distance to go. I am so very delighted and excited to have been selected to be part of this.’ 

The only known photograph of campaigner and RSPB founder Emily Williamson. Photo: Bateson family archive

The only known photograph of campaigner and RSPB founder Emily Williamson - Credit: Bateson family archive

Most Read

Eve’s design reflects Williamson’s story and her legacy in the ruffles of her crinoline skirt.  A look with a closer eye reveals Emily’s skirts are actually a cliff-face punctuated with images of the birds once used in Victorian millinery that she campaigned to save. 

The statue will be unveiled on April 17, 2023 – Williamson’s birthday – and Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB, added: ‘Eve’s glorious, beautifully detailed vision of Emily serves as a reflection to the past, our heritage and the unbreakable bond between nature and people. But crucially, this statue can inspire the next generation, who understand the power and fragility of nature, and will be reminded by Emily’s legacy, that there is always hope, and the fight must continue.’ 

And Tessa Boase, who was instrumental in the project said: ‘Eve Shepherd’s statue of Emily Williamson will be an inspiring monument not just to a woman, but to the beauty and vulnerability of birdlife.’ 

Eve Shepherd with the winning maquette of Emily Williamson

Eve Shepherd with the winning maquette of Emily Williamson - Credit: Mark Waugh Manchester Press Phot