Should we celebrate England’s 1066 defeat with 40-foot-high monument in middle of Berkhamsted Castle?

Monumental: William the Conqueror statue in Falaise, Normandy
Monumental: William the Conqueror statue in Falaise, Normandy

An anonymous businessman has offered £25,000 to fund a 40-foot-high memorial in Berkhamsted Castle to mark the 950th anniversary of William the Conqueror’s acceptance of the English crown.

A report suggests that the monument could ‘attract national, if not international, interest and generate substantial positive publicity for the town’.

But Berkhamsted town councillor David Collins asked colleagues at a meeting last night: “Do we really want to celebrate what some would call a surrender?”

He and other councillors questioned how it would be possible to fund a 40ft tall ‘significant statue or monument’ with just £25,000, and whether English Heritage, which manages the castle site, would allow it to be installed there.

Councillor Laurence Handy said the idea could fall foul of planning regulations.

But a report presented to the committee suggests if cannot be built in the castle itself, it could go nearby – close to Berkhamsted’s railway station, so that it would be visible to train passengers.

The report says: “The design of the statue or monument might be chosen through a competition of designers and sculptors.”

Further funding could be sought through grant application, subscriptions from townspeople, businesses and community groups, and council grants, the report suggests.

Despite some reservations, Councillor Fiona Macdonald said: “I think it is a great idea and very philanthropic. I think we should embrace our history – it does not matter that we lost.”

Berkhamsted Castle was where William the Conqueror accepted the nation’s crown in 1066 after the defeat of the King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

Mayor Ian Reay said: “It is something that Berkhamsted does not really get credit for.

“We have not been recognised significantly as the place where it all happened – it would be a boost for the town.”

The council agreed in principle to back the monument plan.

Nothing is known about the anonymous businessman, other than that he is a former student of Berkhamsted School who lives nearby and works in the area.