‘Real radical John Wilkes is worth a place in Aylesbury’

Pictured outside Prebendal House in Aylesbury where the radical MP lived from 1757-64 are Roger King, Bruce Lewington and Steven Mitchell
Pictured outside Prebendal House in Aylesbury where the radical MP lived from 1757-64 are Roger King, Bruce Lewington and Steven Mitchell
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An 18th century radical Aylesbury MP who championed freedom of speech could be immortalised in the town with a statue despite being labelled ‘the ugliest man in Britain’.

John Wilkes lived at Prebendal House, near St Mary’s Church in Aylesbury, for several years and was also Bucks’ High Sheriff.

During his often controversial and sordid life he secured greater freedoms for individuals and the press.

It is early days for any statue but the idea has already been backed by Aylesbury MP David Lidington.

He said: “I would love to see a statue of him.

“I think it would be good to mark the town with an important figure in British constitutional history.

“He had another side, too. The drink, the women, the language and so on.

“It will put people in touch with Aylesbury’s history.

“I would have thought there’s a case for having the statue close to Prebendal House.

“But the most important thing is that we get this going so we can get a statue.”

Wilkes’ opponents ridiculed his notoriously bad looks but such was his charm he famously boasted it ‘took him only half an hour to talk away his face’.

A statue could cost as much as £100,000 but £2,000 has already been pledged by individuals including Hulcott resident Bruce Lewington, 70, who said: “I looked into it and I found out what a remarkable man he was.

“He was a real radical and suffered imprisonment for his ways.

“I would like to see a statue up before I die.

“So far we have got £2,000. Me and one other man have already promised £1,000.”

Mr Lewington said Wilkes, who already has a statue in London, warranted a permanent legacy more than the existing John Hampden and Ronnie Barker statues because he actually lived in Aylesbury.

The campaign is also backed by the town council’s leader Mike Smith, Aylesbury Society honorary secretary Roger King and town council chairman of planning Steven Mitchell.

Mr Smith said he hoped county and district council would also support the idea.