The grounds of the Stormont Estate contain a number of statues, memorials and other interesting features that have been added over the years. These include:
‘Reconciliation’ is a sculpture by the artist Josefina de Vasconcellos.
Originally created in 1977 and entitled ‘ Reunion’, the sculpture depicts a man and woman embracing each other across barbed wire. Describing the inspiration for the piece, de Vasconcellos said "The sculpture was originally conceived in the aftermath of the War. Europe was in shock, people were stunned. I read in a newspaper about a woman who crossed Europe on foot to find her husband, and I was so moved that I made the sculpture. Then I thought that it wasn't only about the reunion of two people but hopefully a reunion of nations which had been fighting."
In 1994 the sculpture was restored, renamed and unveiled for a second time on de Vasconcellos 90th birthday.
In 1995 (to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War) bronze casts of this sculpture (as Reconciliation) were placed in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral and in the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan. To mark the opening of the rebuilt German Reichstag (parliament building) in 1999, another cast was placed as part of the Berlin Wall memorial.
The Belfast version of the sculpture was presented by the Dean of Coventry Cathedral and Sir Richard Branson and was officially unveiled in the grounds of Stormont Estate by First and Deputy Ministers David Trimble and Seamus Mallon in November 2000.
During the ceremony, representatives from Belfast, Coventry, Hiroshima and Berlin threw pebbles from their respective countries into the statue's surrounding water garden, where stone boulders bear the names of those cities.
Walkers often stop at this spot to rest and contemplate.
The inscription on the sculpture reads:
“These sculptures remind us that human dignity and love will triumph over disaster and bring us together in respect and peace.”
The Lord Carson Statue
At the roundabout at the top of the Prince of Wales Avenue, is the statue of Lord (Edward) Carson. The 12ft figure stands on a granite plinth to which is attached four bronze plates depicting significant events from Lord Carson's political life.
The bronze statue by L.S. Merrifield, was financed by public subscription and was unveiled in June 1933. In a break from the norm, the statue was erected whilst the subject was still alive.
Lord Carson was a barrister, judge and politician. He was leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance and Ulster Unionist Party between 1910 and 1921, held numerous positions in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom and served as a Lord of Appeal in the Ordinary.
Carson is best known locally for his oratory skills and political stance in opposition to Home Rule for Ireland at the beginning of the twentieth century, but he also came to prominence due to his involvement in many high profile legal cases, most famously in the trial of Oscar Wilde.
Upon his death, in 1935, Carson was one of the few non-monarchs to receive a United Kingdom state funeral.
‘The Gleaner’ sculpture by John Knox was originally exhibited as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain. The sculpture shows a woman on a bended knee gathering, with the inscription ‘Thrift is the gleaner behind all human effort’. The sculpture hints at the quiet, female strength of a woman going about her business, which contrasts with the more high profile, masculine and extraverted image of the nearby statue of Carson.
The Somme Memorial
The Battle of the Somme took place in the area of the Somme River, northern France, during the First World War between 1 July and 18 November 1916. The battle consisted of an offensive by the British and French armies against the German Army, which since invading France in August 1914 had occupied large areas of that country.
One of the largest battles of the First World War, by the time fighting had petered out in late autumn 1916 more than 1.5 million casualties had been suffered by the forces involved.
The Battle of the Somme is particularly remembered in the province of Ulster due to the very high numbers of Ulstermen that were lost in the first two days of fighting. In the Ulster Division alone, over 5,500 officers and men were killed, wounded or missing.
The granite stone is placed in the centre of a group of now mature Cedar trees, which where planted in memory of the fallen. The stone has the following inscription (as can be viewed in the image above):
"This group of cedars presented in memory of the 36th Ulster Division by Major General Sir C. Herbert Powell K.C.B. who raised it in 1914"