William Ewart Gladstone (29 December 1809 – 19 May 1898) or the ‘Grand Old Man’ as he came to be known, was a great statesman of his time. He was the Prime Minister of Great Britain four times and used his position in parliament to bring about socio-economic reform and set standards of morality in politics.
His political career spanned over sixty years and in that time he supported both the conservative and liberal movements prevalent at the time. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, resigning for the final time, when he was 84 years old.
In 1853, Governor Fitzroy announced that a town by the name of ‘Gladstone’ was to be established at Port Curtis, Australia. The colony was named after William Ewart Gladstone, whose idealism had sent Colonel Barney to the shores of Port Curtis initially.
William Ewart Gladstone died of cancer in 1898 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, having never visited Queensland.
The 19th century marble statue of the region's namesake, William Ewart Gladstone rests in the glass walkway of the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum's O'Connell wing. Goondoon Street passers-by have the opportunity to view the monument 24 hours a day.
The marble statue of Gladstone was first recorded in Centennial Park, Sydney, in 1895. The reserve was created by Governor Macquarie in 1887 and featured more than thirty-two statues.
In 1946 the statue of Gladstone was recorded as having been damaged suffering a broken nose, shoe and chips in several places. It was removed from the park during the 1970s and placed in store for restoration.
In 1986 a Gladstone music teacher, Mr Gary Matherson, discovered the statue during a visit to Sydney and reported the find to the then Gladstone Mayor, Col Brown. After lengthy negotiations, the statue was transferred to Gladstone and erected at the Gladstone Tondoon Botanic Gardens and unveiled 27 February 1992, by Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Kent.
After more than a century exposed to the elements of an urban environment, it became necessary to move the statue into the climate controlled conditions of the Gallery & Museum. The 1.5 tonne statue was relocated from the Tondoon Botanic Gardens in 2003 to its current location at the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum and installed in the purpose built glass bridge.
Mr Gladstone’s statue now enjoys views out to Goondoon Street and is an integral part of the City Heart streetscape. State of the art lighting makes it possible for the statue to be viewed by passers-by at any time of the day and night.
The origins of the statue prior to its arrival in Centennial Park is unknown, as is the name of the sculptor, however it is thought that it may have been commissioned in the 1890’s, making the statue over 125 years old. It is believed that the block of marble used for the sculpture, originated from a quarry in Carrara, Tuscany. Carrara is famous for its marble quarries and is the same area that the marble was taken for Michelangelo's statue of David.