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The Sad Story of Ethel Preston’s Lonely Statue Is Enough to Make You Root for the Ghost

We hope she haunted him in this life and the next.
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In 1911, Ethel Preston was the wife of a wealthy manufacturer in Leeds, England. When she died at fifty years old, her husband was apparently so distraught, he commissioned an impressive sculpture from his nephew, a famous artist, to mark her grave at Lawnswood Cemetery. The memorial was set in front of a recreation of their own front door and when it was first unveiled in 1913, it became something of a local legend, with tourists flocking to see the art and marvel at the extravagance of the memorial (which would have cost over one hundred fifty thousand dollars in today’s money).

Due to the fame of this memorial, several stories have arisen regarding the people who built it and who it depicts. But which is the true tale of the infamous, mournful “Ethel at the Gate?”

The story shared in this video is that the original sculpture was intended to be one of a pair, and that the grieving husband planned to have his own statue erected when he passed away. However, according to this version of events, he later married a housemaid and never complied the memorial.

Another local legend claims that her pose and the doorway behind her was meant to symbolize the way Ethel would wait for her husband at the end of his work days.

Still others say his womanizing ways led to her decline and early death, and the sculpture was meant as a reminder of his guilt, due to the way she would look at him after he returned home from his dalliances.

What is definitely known is that around the neighborhood, the term “standing there like Ethel at Lawnswood” has come to be shorthand for standing on the threshold, neither inside nor out.

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