TAUNTON Deane’s MP Rebecca Pow has launched a petition as part of a campaign to try restore the iconic Wellington Monument.

The monument is in a state of disrepair, closed to the public and rarely lit up.

Here, Ms Pow outlines her campaign...

THERE can barely be anyone locally that is not aware of the iconic Wellington Monument standing tall on the Blackdown Hill escarpment and clearly visible from the M5 in Somerset.

It is not just an eye-catching and a loved symbol for Wellington and Taunton Deane, it is also a landmark for the 21 million vehicles passing it on the M5 every year, much like Stonehenge or the Angel of the North.

It is even more noteworthy, though, commemorating as it does the remarkable success achieved by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Somerset County Gazette:

CAMPAIGN: Helen Sharp, Wellington Monument project manager for the National Trust,with Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow, at the special illumination event last year

Wellington is considered one of our top three greatest war heroes and significantly for the area, he took his name, from the town of Wellington.

In recognition of his formidable success at Waterloo, local people determined to build a Monument although it took a further two years before the actual foundation stone was laid (1817) meaning that the 200th anniversary of the commencement of the building of the Monument is in fact next October 2017.

It is one of just a handful of structures built to commemorate Wellington and is unusual being in a rural as opposed to an urban setting.

Not only is the structure of historic importance, it is also considered of international architectural importance being the tallest three-sided obelisk in the world.

It is also the second-tallest obelisk in Europe and the fifth tallest in the world.

However, this renowned and much-re-vered structure, is in a desperate state of repair and in dire need of restoration.

It has been fenced off and closed to the public, (no longer can the 232 steps inside be climbed) since 2008 because of the dangers of falling masonry.

Somerset County Gazette:

Despite this, more than 40,000 people still visit the site each year, including a large number of people with physical and learning disabilities and their carers, partly owing to the ease of access and of course the location.

Traditionally, as many will re- call, the obelisk was also lit nightly, serving as a treasured beacon for miles around but sadly owing to its precarious predicament this no longer occurs regularly.

However, as a one-off event, together with the National Trust, which now owns the Monument, we instigated a special one-off light-up to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo last year.

This came hot on the heels of my referring to the structure in the Chamber of the House of Commons which attracted much press coverage.

To the amazement of both the National Trust and I, quite spontaneously, over a hundred people turned up in the dark to witness this event which is some indication of the esteem in which the Monument is held.

It was this that really galvanised me into action to make a case for he Monuments’ restoration.

To this end I have launched a petition to raise awareness and to demonstrate the strength of public support for a possible restoration project to potential funders.

Realistically, the National Trust has many demands on its resources and this would need to be a multi-pronged approach.

The trust has already made progress though in conducting comprehensive feasibility surveys to determine what work needs to be carried out to save the structure including a Ground Penetrating Radar Survey (GPR), wind and movement measurement, and an exterior visual survey and this is vital in terms of considering a way forward.

There is a long road to travel but demonstrating local support is a positive first step.

From this could stem a range of community involvement through schools, local organisations, the town council and so on.

Restoring this revered symbol would not only be wonderful for Wellington but could also make an important contribution to the ongoing devel-opment of the wider South West, located as it is in such a strategic location marking the gateway to the region.

  •  The National Trust is supporting Rebecca Pow's petition to raise awareness of Wellington Monument’s current need for repairs.Somerset County Gazette:

The Trust cares for Wellington Monument and said it has invested a lot of time and money in the last 12 months to do the detailed survey work vital to fully understanding what is causing the deterioration of the structure.

Helen Sharp, Wellington Monument project manager for the National Trust, said: “We’ve made real progress over the past year.

“Our design team have put together all the information from the surveys, which included measuring and modelling the impact of wind given the exposed location, and we’re now working through the feasibility of several repair options.

“It’s going to take us a little more time to assess these before we can share more detail but we are further forward than we’ve ever been and are feeling positive for the future of the monument.

“We are committed to looking after the monument but we are a charity with limited resources to care for the many special places that we look after and it will take time to be sure we make the right decisions.

“If people sign the petition they can be assured that their voice will be heard not just by the Trust but by those bodies who might help to fund repairs.”

  •  To sign Rebecca's petition, or for more information, email rebecca.pow.mp@parliament.uk