An iconic statue erected in Llantrisant to commemorate pioneer Dr William Price is being listed by Cadw for its historic and architectural interest.
Situated on the Bull Ring in the centre of town in 1982, the statue celebrates an important historical figure who was central to the legalisation of the practice of cremation in Britain.
It is also recognised for its special architectural interest as a good example of the work of Peter Nicholas, one of the more prominent creators of public sculpture in Wales in the late 20th century.
Historian Dean Powell submitted the case to Cadw, the Welsh Government's historic environment service after spending almost 20 years researching Dr Price’s life which culminated in the most authoritative biography of the subject.
Dean was one of the schoolchildren who performed in a massed choir in the shadow of the statue on the day it was unveiled in May 1982.
He explained, “That moment had a profound effect upon me and cemented my passion for local history and an obsession with this remarkable man.
“I am delighted by Cadw’s decision to list the statue which will help ensure its protection for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.
“I give countless amount of public lectures throughout Wales every year on Dr Price’s life and I know how admired the man and his legacy is to the people of the country and the pride many Llantrisant people take in the statue being in the heart of the community.
“Alongside the Castle, Church, Guildhall and Billy Wynt folly, the statue has become an iconic symbol of Llantrisant and has helped raise the profile of its colourful history which continues to draw visitors from far and wide.”
As Manager of the Llantrisant Guildhall, Dean is currently completing the first full-scale exhibition of his life which will be placed on permanent display in the new heritage centre.
Dean added: “Unfortunately many people fail to understand the contribution Dr Price made to the lives of the working classes.
“Instead they regard him as some eccentric character which is totally unfair. This man was way ahead of his time in both his medical practices and his ideas of social welfare and health provision.
“His achievements have been overshadowed by his radical attitudes to cremation but the spectacular event that occurred in Llantrisant took place when he was 84 years of age. What is more significant is what happened before that event.
“The time is long since overdue for Dr William Price to be regarded as the exemplary Welshman which he undoubtedly was.”
Dr William Price was born on 4 March 1800 in Rudry. Following a five-year medical apprenticeship with Dr Evan Edwards of Caerphilly, his studies continued at the London Hospital in Whitechapel and St Bartholomew’s where he became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in October 1821.
Later a surgeon of the Treforest Tinplate Works and Brown & Lenox Chainworks, William developed a pioneering social healthcare system and fought for better workers’ rights and conditions. A favourite of the Crawshay iron kings, he performed a caesarean section on Francis Crawshay’s wife Laura and miraculously saved both her life and the child’s.
Price was dedicated to promoting Welsh culture, helped re-establish the eisteddfod movement and planned a Museum of Welsh Life and University. Proclaiming himself Archdruid of Wales, he prophesised that his firstborn son would be a new leader of the neo-druidic cult.
A militant leader of the Chartist cause he fled to France following the failed Newport Rising of 1839. On his return he created the Ponty-ty-pridd Provision Company – the first cooperative in Wales for those Chartist sympathisers who were being barred from local shops.
He fathered a daughter named Gwenhiolen Hiarhles Morganwg Price in 1841, befriended Karl Marx and became obsessed by litigation. In 1871 he settled in Ty’r Clettwr, Llantrisant, and on his 83rd birthday held a druidic marriage ceremony with his housekeeper Gwenllian Llewellyn, aged 24, who gave him a son. Naming him Iesu Grist Price, the baby died five months later, and on 13 January 1884 he cremated the child on the summit of East Caerlan.
The landmark court case that followed under the expert hand of Justice James Fitzjames Stephen drew hundreds to the Cardiff court. The trial provided the weighty support the Cremation Society needed to see the passing of the Cremation Act in 1902.
Price fathered two more children – Iesu Grist II in 1884 and Penelopen Elizabeth in 1886. On 23 January 1893 Dr Price lay on his couch, took a glass of champagne and gently passed away. He was cremated on 31 January 1893 before 20,000 people.
The statue was created by Peter Nicholas (1934-2015) and erected in 1982. Peter Nicholas studied at Cardiff Art School and the Royal College of Art. He was also responsible for the statue of Ivor Novello in Cardiff and that of Eddie Thomas in Merthyr Tydfil. The Price statue was commissioned by Taff Ely Borough Council in
1980 with advice from the Arts Council of Wales.