Page updated 6 June 2009
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland (1787-1871), of Killerton, was a Tory MP for Devon over a period of 45 years. Elected to Parliament on 15 October 1812, he adopted a more liberal line than his compatriots. He retired from the house in 1831, only to be elected again in 1837, and finally retire in 1857. Acland became a generous benefactor and supported many charities.
In May 1844, Acland announced, to an interested House of Commons, that he had left Exeter at 5pm that afternoon and was speaking to the House at 10pm the same day, using the new railway from Exeter. Formerly, it had taken him sixteen to twenty hours by stage coach. Acland's are recorded in Devon as far back as the 12th century. The Acland family have been major Devon landowners for generations and resided at Killerton House, just outside Exeter. During the Civil War, the Acland's were noted Royalists. The statue had lost its head when I first went to photograph it. The parks department have since managed to fix the good gentleman's head back on.
The statue is the work of E B Stephens, the Exeter born sculptor, and was unveiled in October 1861, when the crowd gave a cheer at the mention of his name during one of the speeches at the ceremony. It had been eagerly anticipated by the great and the good, and on the same day, John Gendall placed an advert, in the Flying Post, offering engraved prints from a photograph, suitable for framing, for 7s 6d.
On the front of the pedestal is inscribed: "Erected as a tribute of affectionate respect for private worth and public integrity and in testimony of admiration for the generous heart and open hand, which have been ever ready to protect the weak, to relieve the needy, and to succour the oppressed of whatever party, race or creed. AD 1861."
The statue has had an unlucky life, suffering damage from time to time. Stephens was requested to replace a finger, that had broken off in May 1878. It was moved to its present position, under the city wall, after it sustained damage in a more exposed position, to a particularly vicious northerly gale, which hit Northernhay Gardens around about 1930. In the ensuing years, the eminent gentleman's head was lost to vandalism, along with yet more parts of his anatomy.
Sources: Flying Post and Western Morning News
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