Horsham sculptor’s lasting memorial to pioneering woman footballer

Sculptor Hannah Stewart with her bronze of pioneering footballer Lily Parr SUS-191005-151816001
Sculptor Hannah Stewart with her bronze of pioneering footballer Lily Parr SUS-191005-151816001

A legendary woman footballer - England’s first ‘lioness’ - is to be immortalised in bronze by a renowned Horsham sculptor.

Trailblazer Lily Parr started her footballing career 100 years ago at the age of 14 and went on to score 980 goals in a career spanning 32 years.

Now Horsham sculptor Hannah Stewart has created a lasting memorial to her - the first ever statue of a female footballer.

Hannah - who lives in Horsham with her husband and two children - was commissioned to create the statue by Mars to inspire the England Lionesses ahead of their bid for glory in this summer’s tournament.

The finished artwork of Lily will be unveiled next month at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

Lily Parr, an outside left winger, was reputed to possess one of the most powerful shots in football, and had the ability to score goals from extraordinary angles with immense skill and power.

She started her career at Dick, Kerr Ladies FC in Preston as a full-back. Her determination to be the best footballer worldwide saw her spend hours on her own perfecting her technique.

Hannah has spent six months creating her life-size statue of Lily. “I was very keen to try and communicate her strong and powerful character in the piece and it can be tricky deciding how to communicate these sorts of qualities,” she said.

“I wanted her to have a look about her that showed she was in control and knows exactly what she is going to do with the ball.

“Hopefully each element of the pose contributes to this. Her gaze is fixed and purposeful, while her arms clearly protect her space creating a sense of physical dominance and control.”

Gemma Buggins, Mars brand director, said: “Lily Parr was the heroine of her time in the sporting world. It’s an honour to be able to recognise her and commemorate the inspirational woman that she was.

“With England’s Lionesses preparing for this summer’s tournament, we hope the unveiling of the first ever female footballer statue spurs them on and gives them the motivation to go all the way!”

And Marzena Bogdanowicz, head of commercial and marketing for Women’s Football at The FA, said: “Women’s football is in a very strong place today with the England team helping us to drive participation and interest at every level. We have come a long way since Lily Parr’s days and she deserves recognition as a true pioneer of the sport.

“Lily Parr was the first woman to enter the Football Hall of Fame, an iconic achievement in itself, so it’s only fitting that she takes her place alongside other football legends and becomes the first woman to be celebrated with a statue in her honour.”

The bronze statue of Lily is the latest in a line of famed works by Hannah. Last November she completed a bronze of a World War One hero - Captain Wilfred ‘Billie’ Nevill who earned a place in history after devising a unique way to inspire his men during an attack at the Battle of the Somme.

She also has two major permanent public works on show in the Horsham area - a St Leonard’s Forest dragon in Horsham Park and a huge bronze and brick iguanodon in Southwater village centre.

Hannah says she ‘has always loved sculpture.’ She studied at the City & Guilds of London Art School and has since been commissioned to create many major artworks for parish and district councils, along with major retailers such as Tesco, Christ’s Hospital and Queen Mary College, University of London - among others.

She is currently working on multiple bronze commissions including life-size sculptures of two children, a sculpture of a puppy and another of a retriever dog.