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Historic statue for nurse Mary Seacole

A statue honouring Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole will be unveiled at St Thomas' Hospital today. It will be the first of its kind in the UK dedicated to a named black woman and will stand in the hospital's garden, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

The Jamaican-born nurse cared for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War in the 19th century.

A portrait of Mary Seacole by London artist Albert Challen dating from 1869 Credit: Johnny Green/PA

The bronze, created by Martin Jennings, has finally come to fruition following a 12 year campaign by the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal which has raised over £500,000 for the project. Last November, Chancellor George Osborne announced that £240,000 of Libor banking fines would be donated to the appeal.

We are very grateful to everyone who has supported the statue. We look forward to finally granting Mary Seacole the acknowledgement she deserves for her selfless support of British soldiers. The statue will be a fantastic new landmark on the South Bank providing much needed recognition of the contribution black and ethnic minorities have made throughout British history and a celebration of the UK's diversity.

– Lord Clive Soley, Chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal
Credit: Winchester College

Mary Seacole was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805. Her father was a Scottish soldier and her mother a Jamaican woman who she learnt her nursing skills from when she kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers. She married Edwin Seacole in 1836, who died 8 years later.

She travelled widely and, when in England, asked the War Office to be sent to Crimea as an army nurse. She was refused but went anyway and set up a "British Hotel" to help sick and convalescent officers. She also nursed the wounded on the battlefield, sometimes under the hail of gunfire.

Mary Seacole briefly lived at 14 Soho Square, London in the 1850s Credit: Anthony Upton/PA

Mother Seacole, as she became known, had a reputation that rivalled that of Florence Nightingale. After returning to England destitute and in ill health, a benefit festival was organised for her in 1857, and later that year she published her memoirs.

She died in May 1881.