Soccer star, suffragette and a horse named as heroes

Football legend Ledley King and women’s suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst are among three ‘symbolic figures’ of London’s East End chosen for an artwork planned for a bench by the Regent’s Canal—the third is a towpath horse.

The bench is being unveiled in the summer at Mile End Park alongside the canal.

King grew up in Mile End and joined Spurs’ youth academy before going on to lift the League Cup and being selected for England at the World Cup.

“I have fond memories of playing football as a youngster in East London,” he said. “Being recognised is especially welcome when it’s by the people of the area where you were born.”

His image was voted by pedestrians and cyclists using the new Meath footbridge at Bethnal Green as one of their favourite ‘local figures.’

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Another was Sylvia Pankhurst, champion of the early 20th century Suffragette movement who came to the East End before the First World War and was shocked at the poverty among families in Bow and Mile End. She set up a cheap restaurant and milk centre to help feed them and a toy factory and nursery school to give women a means to earn a living.

Susan Homewood, from the Sylvia Pankhurst Trust, said: “Her work will never be forgotten in the East End, one of many achievements in a life devoted to making a better society.”

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The bench and artwork have been commissioned by Sustrans, the charity promoting journeys by foot, bike and public transport, which campaigned for the footbridge that opened in 2009.

The third image chosen is a towpath horse used to pull canal boats, representing the East End’s history since the Regent’s Canal first opened 200 years ago.

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