The monument to Antonín Švehla (1873–1933), Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia in 1922–1926 and 1926–1929, was created on the initiative of Jaroslav Srdínko, delegate of the Agricultural Council and a large landowner in Hradec Králové, during the jubilee celebrations in 1934, when the Kukleny School of Agriculture celebrated 50 years since its foundation (on 30 November 1884 the first year of the Winter School of Agriculture in Kukleny was opened, with Tomáš Švehla as the headmaster).
On June 29, 1934, a festive meeting of the Association of Graduates of these schools was held and Srdínko from Svobodné Dvory delivered a speech in which he also said, “It is unfortunate that this year, when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our school, we must also mourn the unexpected passing away of our great leader, builder of the state, protector of democracy, Dr. Antonín Švehla. I have not been asked to list all the merits of the greatest man and builder of our agrarian party. However, I have a modest question as to how to honor the memory of our leader of the agricultural people, on the occasion of today’s celebration, how our region of Hradec Kralove will permanently honor a man who devoted his life’s work to the agricultural people and our dear country. Just as the school spreads the light of agricultural culture and progress, so too did the President, Dr Antonín Švehla, illuminate the Czechoslovak countryside with his statesmanlike spirit and subdue the enemies of our state. In answer to the question posed, I call on you: Let us erect a massive bronze monument to our leader in the park frontage of our school, which will forever, to all future generations, proclaim the devotion and love of the rural people for the great work of our unforgettable fighter for the rights of the Czech peasant – for the rights of all rural people. I invite you to unite; let us unite all the parts of our political and economic – cooperative organization and let us erect a worthy monument in front of the building of our school!”
Srdínko’s proposal to build a monument to Švehla was gladly accepted and unanimously approved. Immediately, a committee was elected to erect the monument and it began the preparatory work, primarily concerned with raising sufficient money, a difficult task due to the world economic crisis. Many unemployed people lived in the town and there was a general lack of money. The design and development of the monument model was commissioned to the academic sculptor Josef Bílek from Hořice. He also designed the allegorical sculptures of the Woman Harvester on the Agrarian Credit Union in Hradec Králové and the figures of Law and Justice on the local Regional Court building. The sculptor came from a family of twelve children in Podhorní Újezd. He was born in 1896 and died in 1978. Thanks to the financial help of his later wife, he studied at the Academy of Art, Architecture and Design in Prague under Bohumil Kafka and Ladislav Kofranek. Bílek submitted several designs of the monument, but a similar one to the one that stands today in front of the Veterinary Secondary School (formerly the School of Agriculture) was chosen. However, Švehla’s semi-figure looked a little different in the design than the one today. Originally, it was to be placed on a high pedestal of polished dark Silesian granite.
In front part of the monument there was an inscription made of metal letters: “Statesman and leader of farmers and peasants Antonín Švehla.” The text on the back of the monument said: “Erected by the Association of Graduates of the Schools of Agriculture in Kukleny to commemorate fifty years of the school’s existence with the contribution of the agricultural corporations of the Hradec Králové district. The monument was unveiled on 29 June 1936.”
The monument was erected on the stated date at 9 AM. The unveiling ceremony began at the Sokol training ground, where a procession lined up, accompanied by music and consisting of 100 horsemen; students of the schools of agriculture in Kukleny; a costumed team, including the students of the housekeeping secondary school in Stěžery, and the local members of the Sokol organization in costumes with a banner. The parade paraded along Masaryk Avenue to the monument, where the Minister of Agriculture, Josef Zadina gave the opening speech, with the presence of the Minister of the Interior, Josef Černý; the President of the Province, Josef Sobotka; members of the National Assembly, Jindřich Žilka, Václav Pozdílek, Václav Sehnal, Rudolf Chalupa, the former senator Anna Chlebounová, members of the provincial council Josef Hakl and Josef Voženílek, Ministerial Councillor Dr. Pomp; regional council president Jindřich Wolf; Commander of the Second Army Corps, Josef Váňa; General of the Fourth Division, Karel Kutlvašr; the General Director of Škoda Works, Mr. Löwenstein; representatives of the towns and villages of Hradec Králové, Prague Suburbs, Kukleny and Třebechovice pod Orebem, and numerous officials of the district and regional organization of the Agrarian Party, headed by its chairman František Šaroun.
In his speech, Zadin presented Antonín Švehla as an outstanding statesman and leader of the agricultural state and a man of good morals. His speech ended with the unveiling of the monument, after which the “Vlastimil” Singing Society sang Smetana’s chorus “Sláva Tobě“ (Glory to You). President Jaroslav Srdínko then thanked Minister Zadin for his warm words. Mayor Tomáš Tomášek spoke on behalf of the town of Kukleny and recalled the following: “We are happy to build a monument to a farmer leader in our industrial town. We pay tribute to the memory of a great man. By taking custody of the monument, we promise that the citizens will always hold it in high esteem. We must all follow the legacy of Antonín Švehla, work in his spirit and ensure the satisfaction of the entire Republic and all the Czechoslovak people.”
Václav Charbuský from Bříza spoke on behalf of the Association of Graduates of the Schools of Economy and Vojtěch Skvrna from Čistěves on behalf of the Republican youth. The last speaker was Provincial Inspector Michálek. The ceremony ended with the national anthems. In the afternoon after the ceremony, there was a tour of the school building and at 8 PM there was a wreath-laying ceremony in the hall of the Na Rychtě Hotel.
The monument survived the Nazi occupation, but the communist regime had a strong influence on its fate. On 6 December 1948 it was torn down as a “symbol of the slavery of the Czech people” and deposited in the Hradec Králové Museum for several decades. It was only on 26 October 1991 that the monument was restored and unveiled again.
The monument is located in the park in front of the Veterinary Secondary School (formerly the School of Agriculture). The statue is placed on a stone pedestal in the shape of a block, which bears the inscription “Antonín Švehla 1873–1933”. The President of the Czechoslovak government of the 1920s is depicted looking upwards, presumably towards the future and agrarian ideals.
No means of protection have been registered.