Inspector Clouseau or Sherlock Holmes? My first case as an Urban Detective

Visits to libraries, thumbing through newspapers, using the internet, and walking into work with a pole - this guest blog post by Charlene Forbes covers her first adventures as an Urban Detective.

Submitted by CharlieFoxtrot on 17-08-2016 13:48:23

My first case as an Urban Detective

When I first heard about Urban Detectives I was intrigued.

It sounded mysterious, almost adventurous, and I wanted to get involved in some small way. There were plenty of things in Perth I could investigate.

My own personal interest is in historic graveyards, but it could take months, if not years to fully research one graveyard. I wanted something simpler, something smaller to investigate for my first attempt. Besides, no one I knew did this and I couldn't make any of the workshops, but how hard could it be do to some research on a little statue? It hit me; I often walk past a prime candidate. The Albert memorial on the North Inch stands looking towards the Concert Hall. I decided my first foray into Urban Detecting would be looking into how the memorial came to be.

Decided on my target, I had my first real look at the statue itself. I noticed details I'd never noticed before; the impressive dress, the scroll with a drawing on it. What was the drawing? Was there significance to the clothes? Was I correct in my assumption that "Albert" was Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria? A quick mention to a colleague about my intention answered two of those questions fairly quickly - yes, it was that Albert, and the drawing was of the Crystal Palace, the hall created for the Great Exhibition in 1851.

The first task I set myself was what I considered the easiest; taking photographs. If it could only have been a quick trip.

First, the weather conspired against me. Every day I wanted to take photos it rained. Every day it was clear, I didn't have my camera. I tried using my phone but they just weren't quite clear enough. Then the final joke.  it was a nice day, I had my camera, I approached the monument and no one was sitting on the steps that I'd have to work around. I looked up at the subject and frowned. There was a boot at his feet! Someone had apparently thrown a black leather boot up at the monument and it had landed neatly at Albert's feet. The pedestal was too high to reach and it taunted me. The weather was lovely for several weeks and still the boot remained. Right, I thought, that boot is being evicted! Armed with a telescopic handle I'd bought for decorating at home, I walked to work via the monument and finally extracted the boot. Then spent the rest of the day explaining why I had a pole propped up at the side of my desk. I didn't care, I could take my photos.

A photograph of a statue of a man, with a blue sky and green trees behind itThe Albert Monument, pre boot extraction

Photos taken, my next port of call was the archives section of AK Bell Library.

For all I knew what the statue was, I didn't know when it had been erected. After being pointed to some local history books I finally got a date - Queen Victoria had visited it in August 1864.

I searched the index cards but didn't get far searcing for Albert until a friendly archives staff member pointed out that there was a section for monuments. So started several lunchtimes asking for the newspapers and reading the surprising amount of column inches devoted to the planning, discussions and eventual erection of the monument. It hadn't occured to me that the plans had changed repeatedly. This simple monument standing in the North Inch was actually the product of many lengthy discussions over the course of two years, and reading about the changing plans was far more interesting than I expected it to be. Throw in a few giggles on the adverts for hair growth creams, the real Worchester sauce and cattle sales, and I learned far more about Perth than simply why we have a statue of Queen Victoria's husband.

For me, writing the comment on the monument was the end of an enjoyable journey, but hopefully the first of many. How many other little tales of Perth and beyond can I uncover? It's the small stories I enjoy about history, more than the famous battles and important people. The small things tell the real stories of places and people, and so begins my adventures as an Urban Detective.

A photograph of a statue of a man, with green trees behind it

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