FOR more than 100 years it stood proudly as the centrepiece of England’s oldest public park before being decapitated during a Second World War air raid.
Now a row has broken out after plans to replace Derby’s historic Florentine Boar statue were abandoned for fear of offending Muslims, whose religion considers pigs to be ‘unclean’.
A replica of the statue, a crouching wild boar, was intended as the jewel in the crown of a Pounds 5 million National Lottery- funded restoration of the city’s Arboretum Park.
But councillors have called for the proposal to be scrapped amid sinister warnings that the statue would be vandalised or stolen.
The Florentine Boar statue stood from 1840 until 1942 when it was beheaded by a German bomb. But it was last week branded ‘offensive’ during a meeting of Derby Council’s minority ethnic communities advisory committee.
Councillor Suman Gupta, a Labour representative for Derby’s Derwent ward, told the meeting: ‘If the statue is put back in the Arboretum, I have been told it will not be there the next day, or at least it won’t be in the same condition.
‘We should not have the boar because it is offensive to some of the groups in the area.’ The park is in an area known for its large Pakistani community.
Shokat Lal, a community leader, said at the meeting: ‘In Normanton the majority of residents are Pakistani Muslims.
‘I’m not saying we have to lose the boar, but we could put the boar in the city centre so it does not cause offence to people.’ Local historian Christopher Harris told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We are living in a multicultural society and I hope that would include English culture.
‘If the boar had never been destroyed in 1941, these people would have grown up with it and would not have noticed it.
‘Activists have jumped on the chance to make a statement. It is one that damns English culture-But the wild boar is part of Derby’s culture.’ He said a small minority of Muslims with extreme political views had issued veiled threats to the council over the statue.
The land for the park was donated to the council in September 1840 by Joseph Strutt, the first mayor of the Borough of Derby, a wealthy cotton mill owner who wanted to give the public a place to exercise.
He commissioned architect J.C. Loudon to landscape the area. The hollow ceramic boar was donated by Mr Strutt.
Sculpted on commission by W. J. Coffee – and based on drawings of a similar statue in the Market Nuovo in Florence – it was intended as a gift to the working classes of Derby.
Last week’s committee meeting proposed that a statue of Mr Loudon should be erected at the Arboretum with a new site for the boar in the city centre.
Last night, Councillor Gupta told The Mail on Sunday: ‘ Communities change.’
Tory leader Philip Hickson said: ‘The community is strong enough to stand a statue of a boar in a park. But we live in an age where sometimes things are a little more politically correct than they ought to be.’