William won’t be the last person to get legless in The Square given it’s within staggering distance of three pubs.

But he was forced off his high horse last Friday – with some calling on the controversial watchman not to make a return.

King William III left Petersfield for the first time in two centuries last week when his statue was partly dismantled for some much-needed repairs.

There was little fanfare for “King Billy’s” departure with his body and limbs being removed in drizzly conditions.

The removal was overseen by experts from East London firm Rupert Harris Conservation and Mtec movers with Hampshire County Council paying the £24,000 repair bill. It will be his eighth repair since 1790 but even though he’s been a looming figure in Petersfield for more than 200 years, his presence hasn’t been fully accepted because of his anti-Catholic connections.

Jackie Rumsey and her RHC colleagues were aware of the controversy and admit the repairs won’t be appreciated by everyone.

She said: “We know the statue is a bit controversial – one chap this morning told us to keep him.

“This isn’t one of the biggest projects we’ll get involved in but it’s not been an easy one. 

“It’s a bit of an unknown because you don’t know how much needs moving so we were here yesterday doing some prep work.”

William’s leg was the last section of the statue to be removed on Friday morning with RHC also uncovering a plaque from the 1960s and a time capsule during the work.

King William III is something of a posterboy for the Orange Order as this Ulster loyalist organisation have long celebrated his victory over catholic King James II.

The statue’s prominence was heightened early this month as the Order’s first parade through Petersfield since Covid was marred by pro-IRA songs and heckling, proving that divisions still run deep.

County councillors Russell Oppenheimer and Robert Mocatta appreciate the statue has its detractors but insist it’s something for the town to be proud of. 

They are hopeful that an explanation board can be erected somewhere in The Square but it’s not a simple process.

“He was very much associated with anti-Catholic protests so we know it’s a little controversial,” said Cllr Oppenheimer, who played a major part in getting the statue repaired.

“The good news is that HCC are covering the costs of work. A hundred years ago the town had jumble sales to raise money to repair the statue but thankfully we don’t have to do it this time.”

Mr Mocatta said: “The statue is listed and you have very strict requirements about what you can do. There will be restrictions on how tall the plaque can be, what sort of material can be used, how close it can be, things like that.”

He added: “There’s only about four or five statues of King William III in England and this is one of them. Yes, he’s an immensely emotive figure but this statue is nearly unique.”