The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Haile Selassie returns to Wimbledon

Author - Andrew Knight


When Haile Selassie was obliged to leave Ethiopia in 1936, one of the first places he stayed was at Lincoln House, on Parkside, Wimbledon Common. His hosts were Sir Richard Seligman, a leading metallurgist and entrepreneur, and his wife Hilda, a sculptor and active campaigner against British appeasement of the Italian invasion. During his stay, the Emperor sat for a bust done by Hilda, which stood for many years in Cannizaro Park, just across Wimbledon Common.

Photos: Andrew Knight

The statue deteriorated over the years, acquiring a blackened surface, some hairline cracks and other minor damage. Hilda’s daughter-in-law Nancy-Joan Seligman (widow of her eldest son, Adrian) approached the Friends of Cannizaro Park to see if it could be refurbished. Merton Borough Council generously donated the £1000 required; the work was carried out by Holden’s. On 22 October last year the newly restored statue was unveiled by the Mayor of Merton. Among those present were the Emperor’s great grand-daughter Tsige-Mariam Asrate, his great great grandson Alex Asrate-Denyer, members of the Seligman family, and representatives of the London Rastafarian community.

The statue stands in the Old Tennis Court Garden. To find it, enter Cannizaro Park via the main entrance on West Side (next to Cannizaro House, now a hotel). Walk past the Millennium Fountain towards the Aviary, where you turn right, passing rhododendrons and other woodland plants on both sides of the path. As the path opens out with the lawn ahead and a large fallen tree to your right, turn sharply left and start to move downhill towards the pond. Before you get to the pond you will see an open area on your left. The statue of Haile Selassie stands at the back of this picnic area.

For more details of the statue and the event, see the Rasta Ites and The Friends of Cannizaro Park websites.

First Published in News File Summer 2006

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