Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Unveiling of Wallace Sculpture

After months of hard work and planning, the sculpture commemorating Alfred Russel Wallace was finally unveiled on 18 October 2014 to a crowd of up to a hundred people outside Hertford Theatre. 

Dr George Beccaloni, curator of orthopteroidea and the Wallace Collection at the Museum of Natural History, welcomed this acknowledgement of Wallace, who was a world famous scientist at his death in 1913 but whose reputation had since been eclipsed by that of Darwin.

Local sculptor Rodney Munday told us that he had “welcomed the opportunity to give something back to Hertford”, and how he had been inspired to include a bird of paradise in his portrait sculpture of Wallace, which is now attached to the theatre wall.

The Society’s chairman Terry Betts thanked all those who had contributed to the project. These included Hertford Civic Society, East Herts Council and Hertford Town Council for the funding and our vice-chairman Malcolm Ramsay who organised the competition and public consultation which led to the selection of the design. Music was provided on the day by the Richard Hale School Band. 

Wallace (1823-1913), who 'discovered' evolution alongside Charles Darwin, was brought up and educated in Hertford.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Bircherley Green Re-development Proposals

At the end of August Wrenbridge held a public consultation on their proposals for a major re-development by erecting information boards in Bircherley Green and answering queries from passers by. Some of our members also made comments to our Chairman Terry Betts by email and these, anonymised, are available on our main website, along with the information supplied by Wrenbridge.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


The public unveiling of the sculpture of Alfred Russel Wallace, on an exterior wall of Hertford Theatre, will take place at 15.15 on Saturday 18 October. 

Dr George Beccaloni will make the main speech, while the sculptor Rodney Munday will also say a few words. 

Wallace (1823-1913), who 'discovered' evolution alongside Charles Darwin, was brought up and educated in Hertford.

Thursday, 10 April 2014


Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting of the Hertford Civic Society will be held on Wednesday, 30 April at 8.00 pm in the Hall of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St Joseph, St John’s Street, Hertford.


                                              1. Minutes of the AGM held on 17 April 2013
                                              2. Report of the Committee for 2013
                                              3. Hon Treasurer’s Report and Accounts
                                              4. Election of Officers
                                              5. Election of Members of the Committee
                                              6. Any Other Business

The current Officers and Committee are listed on p6-7 of the Spring 2014 Society Newsletter which is available for download from our website. All retire annually. The Constitution provides for up to 16 Committee members in addition to four Officers. Nominations for elections of Officers and Members of the Committee should be made in writing to the Chairman, Terry Betts, supported by a seconder and with the written consent of the nominee. Nominations for election as an Officer must be made at least seven days before the AGM, but nomination for election of Members of the Committee will be accepted at the meeting.

Refreshments will be served after the business has been concluded.


Hertford cherishes Alfred Russel Wallace. In the persistently wet winter of 2013-14, Hertford Theatre has twice been filled by capacity crowds intent on learning more about the man who, alongside Charles Darwin, ‘discovered’ evolution. Keith Marshall sponsored the staging of a one-man play about Wallace, and then a few weeks later Hertford Museum presented an evening of lectures about a great scientist who grew up and went to school here in Hertford. At the first of these events, in November, the news was broken, to enthusiastic cheers, that the sculpture competition to celebrate Wallace had been won by local artist Rodney Munday. Currently, the Civic Society has applied for planning permission, so that the design now shown here can be installed on the exterior wall of Hertford Theatre facing towards Old Cross.

Rodney Munday’s original proposal, developed last year, includes some interesting reflections: “Creating a visual image of a character from the past is, for me, akin to writing a biographical novel. Research is essential, for in order to produce something of enduring value, one needs to come to terms with personality as well as appearance.” This led him not simply to suggest a portrait bust, nor to portray him as yet another Victorian traveller – with such classic accoutrements as butterfly nets or collecting boxes. Inspired by his reading of both Wallace’s autobiography and his classic Malay Archipelago travel book, Rodney Munday came up with a more interesting and visually attractive idea. This featured Wallace holding a bird of paradise. “The bird is based on the image which forms the frontispiece of Malay Archipelago, and its form is reflected in the image of Wallace, giving those sorts of visual references which set up internal rhythms analogous to rhyme and rhythm in poetry, at the same time saying more about the man and his work than can be said in a simple portrait. Evolutionary theory had been in the air for some time before Darwin and Wallace, and it is more than coincidence that they had the same revolutionary idea at the same time. Philosophical and scientific ideas are frequently ‘in the air’ at certain periods, ready to be snatched from it by those extraordinarily perceptive people we sometimes refer to as geniuses. Wallace reaching out and grasping the bird of paradise which so enthralled him, can therefore be seen as symbolic of his greater achievement.”

In reality, the design (shown below) shows Wallace reaching out for the bird of paradise rather than physically grasping it. This is because Rodney Munday, continuing to reflect on his composition, and also prompted by sharing his initial design with others, decided that having the bird as a separate entity, as if just about to be grasped, was a more dramatic sculpture, involving two parts rather than just one. Indeed, it leaves open the question of whether the bird is necessarily going to be caught at all.

It is too soon to say for sure when the finished work will be unveiled, but one possible date currently under discussion is Saturday 31 May. Whether or not that is the actual date, it gives some sense of the possible timescale for the conclusion of a project conceived by the Civic Society and then supported by both the Town and District Councils – the latter being particularly crucial, as it not only contributed substantially towards the cost but also provided the wall space or setting for the sculpture, at Hertford Theatre.

And if meanwhile you want to learn more about Wallace, do try reading The Malay Archipelago, which has never gone out of print. His interests were exceptionally wide-ranging. The customs of the peoples who he depended on, and their languages, were just as interesting to him as the fauna and flora or the geography and the geology, all of which he studied so carefully. He even foresaw how global economic development would lead to precisely the environmental difficulties that we now struggle to address. Buy your own copy; request it from your local library; or try it electronically, for instance via online books