MARY SEACOLE

Location: St Thomas’ Hospital, London
Artist: Martin Jennings

What is believed to be the first statue in the UK to a named black woman stands in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital overlooking the Houses of Parliament. Mary Seacole (1805-1881) was a British-Jamaican business woman and nurse who set up the “British Hotel” behind the lines during the Crimean War. Coming from a traditional Jamaican and West African background, Seacole used herbal remedies to nurse soldiers back to health.

The sculpture itself is by Martin Jennings, and was formally unveiled in June 2014. The statue stands in front of a 4.5 metre-high disc, cast from shell-blasted Crimean rock. Sculptor Martin Jennings wanted to acknowledge the historical gap by locating her in her time and place. He sees her as a figure against a battlefield, but also of gender and race. The statue is lit from the front, casting her shadow on to the disc, signifying fallibility, humanity and mortality.