Lalla – the girl with the stolen rose
The little flower girl
In the conservatory stands a statue of a child hiding a rose behind her back, finger on her lips. Many legends exist about this statue, but I am the youngest child of the girl depicted and I can tell you the truth.
The little girl, Alice Evelyn Sybil Lee, later nicknamed Lalla by her brother Laurie during the First World War, was very fond of roses and one day was unable to resist picking a bloom from her father’s favourite bush. At that moment, she heard a footstep and, guiltily hiding the rose behind her back, finger to her lips, she turned to see her father approaching. He, Herbert Lee, master builder, stonemason, accomplished carver and sculptor of note, told her stay just like that and immediately began carving into the nearest lump of stone, the gate post of their garden in Dark Lane, now Peveril Street! Three-year-old Lalla’s punishment for her theft was to take up and hold that pose many times over the coming days until the statue was complete. I have been told by my Aunt Ivy that her little sister, the youngest of the family, was often bribed by being given peas to shell, many of which she ate as she worked, between poses.
For some time, the statue stood in the family garden, attracting much interest and favourable comment from passers by. Then Herbert, well known for his habit of giving away his carvings, was approached by two friends, fellow Masons, who coveted the lovely artwork.
Herbert’s way out of this dilemma was to gift the statue to Chesterfield Council, stipulating that it was to stand in Queen’s Park in perpetuity.
Years went by and the statue disappeared, to be eventually found abandoned in a corner of the park’s conservatory. Replaced, it later vanished again. This time it was found, by Herbert’s eldest child, Nellie, in the garden of one of the Councillors! Returned, it was sited overlooking the cricket pitch, much to Lalla’s amusement as cricket was a game she disliked. At some point, the plaque giving the name of the sculptor and date of the work was removed from the statue, leaving a blank on the base.
In 2005, as part of the refurbishment of the park and at the request of Lalla’s four children, the statue was cleaned and re-mounted as you see it now, with a fresh inscription giving a brief history of the work and placed again in the conservatory but this time upright and respected.
Footnote: One of the stories told has the little girl chased by an irate park-keeper into the road outside the park, where she was trampled by a horse and died, the statue supposedly being erected in her memory. By a sad quirk of fate, my mother was in fact killed when, hurrying to buy fruit for one of her brothers who was a patient in the Walton Hospital, she ran in front of a bus into the road and was knocked down by an overtaking car. After lying in a coma for some weeks, she died of her injuries in the Chesterfield Royal Hospital. No blame attaches to the driver of the car who could by no means have avoided hitting her.
Dianna M Bell nee Weller, daughter of Lalla Lee.