Street Art and Public Art in Colchester, Essex, England.
Where are we?
This page is intended to draw attention to art, in its various forms, that is to be seen on or near the streets of Colchester.
The following page will look at what could be achieved if we wanted it, by increasing the instances of street and/or public art in Colchester. How do we achieve it?
This page will come up with suggestions as to how we can make art more visible and relevant on our streets, if that is what is wanted.
With this page, we want to stimulate thinking about, 'What is Art', how it affects our everyday lives and how such art can enhance our town's image - or, conversely, to harm it.
First, let us give some definitions.
Wikipedia says that, 'Street Art is art, specifically visual art, developed in public spaces that is, "in the streets" though the term usually refers to unsanctioned art, as opposed to government sponsored initiatives. The term can include traditional graffiti artwork, sculpture, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting and street poster art, video projection, art intervention, guerrilla art, and street installations. Typically, the term street art or the more specific post-graffiti is used to distinguish contemporary public-space artwork from territorial graffiti, vandalism, and corporate art.
Wikipedia says that, 'Public Art refers to works of art in any media that have been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. The term is especially significant within the art world, amongst curators, commissioning bodies and practitioners of public art, to whom it signifies a particular working practice, often with implications of site specificity, community involvement and collaboration. The term is sometimes also applied to include any art which is exhibited in a public space including publicly accessible buildings.
Wikipedia says that, 'Graffiti is writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place. It ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, and has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. In modern times, paint, particularly spray paint, and marker pens have become the most commonly used graffiti materials. In most countries, marking or painting property without the property owner's consent is considered defacement and vandalism, which is a punishable crime. Graffiti may also express underlying social and political messages and a whole genre of artistic expression is based upon spray paint graffiti styles. Gangs use their own form of graffiti to mark territory or to serve as an indicator of gang-related activities. Controversies that surround graffiti continue to create disagreement amongst city officials/law enforcement and writers who wish to display and appreciate work in public locations. There are many different types and styles of graffiti and it is a rapidly developing art form whose value is highly contested, reviled by many authorities while also subject to protection, sometimes within the same jurisdiction.
A. So, let us start with a range of 'street art', some officially sanctioned, some not.
Graffiti by another word?
below Recreation Ground, Old Heath Road. Believed to have been sponsored by CBC (Colchester Borough Council).
below The back of Jimmo's house in Maidenburgh Street. Presumably tolerated by CBC.
below The north facing wall of what is now 'Tin Pan Alley', Queen Street, but previously 'The What Bar'. CBC forced the owners of the building to paint over this piece of art.
below A building on the north side of Barrack Street (2013), view looking west. Presumably not approved by CBC.
below 'Hilda Ogden's Ducks' believed to have been approved by CBC as suitable for the area in Rowhedge, opposite the Anchor pub.
below A piece of art in Church Lane, off Head Street.
below Another piece of art nearby,
below Another example of art, followed by....
below .....a message from the people to those that rule our lives. On private property so of no concern to CBC.
Photographed by Adrian Rushton at Leisureworld, with its cancer message.
B. This panel is dedicated to an amazing series of graffiti art that has, presumably, been tolerated by those that rule our lives and is to be seen (in 2013) from top to bottom of the stairwell at the NCP car park in Osborne Street. It is truly remarkable and tells the story of Colchester from earliest times. It was done around 2011 by those fantastic people at:
below Starting with a Roman legionary soldier of the 1st century AD, when Rome invaded Britain and attempted to conquer us. They failed, thankfully but they gave Colchester a very special place in the history books.
below A cavalier of the 17th century, alluding to the Siege of Colchester of 1648.
below Jumbo. The Victorian water tower completed in 1883. Buildt to bring clean water to the people of Colchester - provided they could aford it. The others contracted cholera and died.
below Boadicea - or Boudicca, widow of the Iceni chief Prasutagus, who raised an army against the Romans and destroyed Colchester in AD 60/61. This appears to have been taken from the stained glass image of the lady at our Town Hall.
below The Romans battling with the Trinovantes.
below The ancient Brits who ruled Camulodunum until the Romans arrived.
below Romans vs Brits.
below Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, a nursery rhyme associated with Colchester, possibly written here.
below A tiger for Colchester Zoo. Perhaps Colchester's biggest tourist attraction.
below A fantasy warrior of Roman persuasion?
below A giraffe.
below A parrot.
below Toucan and Parrot.
below The King and Queen take a bath together.
below Humpty Dumpty, another nursery rhyme associated with Colchester.
below Peace and the military.
below Old King Coel. Yet another nursery rhyme of Colchester.
below More fantasy.
below Pure fantasy.
Wot? No Oysters?
Visit it and appreciate it before it is consigned to oblivion.
This is followed by another amazing series of graffiti art that is to be seen (in 2013) from top to bottom of the stairwell at the Williams and Griffin store leading to their NCP car park. Again. it is truly remarkable and tells the story of Colchester from earliest times.
C. Let us next take a look at our many murals, bas reliefs, etc.
below A pair of bas relief sculptures that were taken away from the old theatre, Albert Hall as was, in High Street, now (2013) the Co-op Bank. Artist unknown. These two sculptures are (we believe) depictions of the Greek goddess Demeter (known by the Romans as Ceres) and were intended to represent ancient and modern agriculture. They may have been made to designs by Raphael Brandon. Demeter was the sister of Zeus. Her name means "barley-mother" or "mother earth" and goddess of fertility. Sacred to her are livestock and agricultural products (with the emphasis on corn), poppy, narcissus and the crane. In the left hand sculpture she holds a spade. She is holding on to a tree of some sort. There is also a ring of various signs of the zodiac. In the right hand sculpture she holds a sickle and a sheaf of corn. An elaborate vine is also depicted.
below Something like 17 murals were created by artists Henry Collins and Joyce Pallot in the 1970s and located in various underpasses that were built during the development of Southway. This one to mark the nearby site of the Crouched Friars friary in what we now know as Crouch Street.
A grant was given to tidy up some of these murals and, in 2019, work by Colchester Civic Society and Colchester in Bloom (with huge help from Kath Wood), was complete. There are three photographs by Angela Burgoyne, shown below of the results, alongside the originals. What a splendid job they did. 2
below Marcus Favonius Facilis, a 1st century AD Roman centurion who tombstone was discovered by archaeologists and is now in the castle.
below Eudo Dapifer, steward to William the Conqueror and responsible for the building of Colchester Castle and other structures.
below Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus, also known as the Emperor Claudius who ordered the invasion of Britain in AD 43.
below A block of sculptures depicting one of the many gold coins minted by Cunobelin, king of the Trinovanties around AD 30, a medallion to the Emperor Claudius, a copy of a medieval seal showing a trading ship and an oyster. Note also the juxtaposition of the green tag placed there by some oik!
below A further display of these Colchester specific emblems, with the far left depicting our two twin towns (as was the case when it was placed there) of Wetzlar in Germany and Avignon in France. Note the highly polished mirror above to give warning of footpads around the corner, waiting to pounce on a weary pedestrian.
below 7a not the same but similar and restored
below A close up of our twinning seal.
below A few years later, further mural sculptures were installed on the wall of the Sainsbury's store in Priory Walk??? by Henry and Joyce Collins.
below Again, in 2012, these murals were added to the wall of 15 Queen Street with official backing. A firstsite article was produced as follows:
Three concrete panels, made by Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins were originally made for Colchesters BHS frontage in 1976. They were removed during redevelopment of the Lion Walk Shopping Centre in 2009 and firstsite took this opportunity to restore the panels and locate a new home for them, here, at 15 Queen Street.
Pallot and Collins met at Colchester Art School in 1932. They began working together on public art commissions in 1948, and completed over 60 in the UK. Their pioneering partnership lasted over 62 years. The technical drawing skills of Collins, and Pallots rigorous research into each site and commission, combined to form a unique talent.
In their hometown of Colchester, examples of their work can still be seen in the underpasses along Southway, and the 1969 work made for the central Sainsburys store frontage. This was the first in a long series of murals for the firm, and led the way for commissions by other companies including BHS. The Sainsburys mural is unique in its creation through collaboration because the artists worked with two Colchester companies, architectural practice Stanley Bragg and building firm Huttons.
For each new commission the couple would extensively research into the history of each place, incorporating events and figures of local significance into their designs; a sun symbol was designed and used exclusively in all the murals for Sainsburys and a basket of produce for BHS.
Skillington Workshop were commissioned by firstsite to restore the panels now on display. Wed like to thank Simon Nadin and Paul Wooles for the sterling job! They took about a week, cleaning and performing minor repairs to the concrete. We heard them tapping and drilling away to fix the angle iron frames to the outer wall.
This one of a farming and harvesting theme.
below Food and drink themed.
below Spinning and weaving themed.
below In 2012, a big drive to smarten up the Hythe resulted in several pieces of art added to the uninspiring architecture of the area. This one created by Firstsite.
D. Let us have a look at sculptures, as most people think of them.
below Probably the most impressive piece of public art in Colchester was created by Henry Fehr in the 1920s. For more details about this monument please visit here.
below The unwelcome visit by Queen Boadicea of the Iceni tribe, around the year AD 60 has led to her becoming a folk legend of particular relevance to Colchester. So much so that a modern sculpture of her was commissioned and now stands proudly at the centre of a roundabout near North Station. Like it or loathe it, it is a formidable image of this warrior queen who wreaked such devastation on this town all those years ago.
below A statue that stands near to where the maternity hospital used to be on Lexden Road.
below A piece of our industrial heritage presented as art? This is an old Colchester Mascot lathe, probably dating from the 1940s and now to be seen near to where the old Colchester Lathe Company factory stood at the Hythe. The road is now named Mascot Square.
below Another piece of our industrial heritage. This time it is a crankshaft out of an engine that was produced during the 2nd world war. But is it art. This is to be seen close to St Botolphs roundabout, near to where the Britannia factory used to stand. Now a car park?
(this piece of art was later moved to St Botolphs Railway Station)
below A beautiful sculpture by local sculptor Shirley Morrison entitled 'Mother and Child'. It was placed into a specially constructed 'grotto' shortly after the statue was created in the 1980's. Why this choice of subject was made, we do not know.
below A splendid statue to the greatest Colchester footballer, Peter Wright, erected on the hallowed ground of the football stadium at Layer Road.
6th February 2015 - Colchester Gazette.
A COLCHESTER United legend has been immortalised on his old stomping ground. A statue has been created of the flying winger Peter Wright, who was named the clubs player of the century in 2000. It has been appropriately installed at the centre of the site of the old Layer Road ground, which is now a housing estate. The bronze statue was unveiled in Turnstile Square by Mr Wrights widow, Lindsey, and Colchester MP and lifelong Us fan Sir Bob Russell. A host of former Us players, current captain Magnus Okuonghae and dozens of wellwishers attended the ceremony. Wright signed for Colchester aged 17 in 1951 and scored 96 goals in 13 years, while he was still working part-time at Paxman Diesel factory. He died, aged 78, in 2012 after a long illness. Mrs Wright said she hoped the statue would mean Colchester United retained strong links to the area. She said: Although we all know about the history of the area now, future generations may not, so hopefully the statue will be there forever and a day. I am proud and he would have been well chuffed. He was a lovely man and a gentleman, he had six children and looked after everyone so well. Peter was one of the old school, but also one of lads when he was with his friends. I did not see him play, so the statue is not the Peter who I knew, but he would love it.
The life-size figure was designed by artist Mandy Pratt and is a joint project between Abbey Developments, Colchester Council, the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group and other generous benefactors. Peters son Steve, who also played for the Us, said he was delighted with the statue, adding: He was Mr Colchester United and it used to take hours to walk through the High Street if you were with him because everyone wanted to stop. We even lived on Layer Road when we were growing up and he had the opportunity to play for some of the top level clubs, but turned it down. Lots of people pushed for this statue and, if he was still alive, I am sure he would have loved to come and visit. Former teammate Bobby Hunt paid tribute to his friend. He said: He would be proud and it is a wonderful compliment to him. To think that we had me and him playing parttime is incredible and would just not happen in this day and age. If he had been a full-time player, then he could have gone right to the very top."
E. Carvings in wood.
below The George and the Dragon carved over the entrance way into the Red Lion Hotel in the High Street.
below A carved tree stump on the recreation ground, Old Heath Road.
below This piece of Roman style work, created by Ann Schwegmann-Fielding, was unveiled by the Mayor of Colchester in June 2006. It is to be seen at Balkerne Heights near to St Mary's Car Park.
At Battalion Walk (not named as Wolfe Avenue) off Roberts Road on the Praecedo site (October 2016)
ARTWORK highlighting a housing estates historic links has been unveiled in Colchester (Colchester Gazette September 2016).
Praecedo, which is close to Abbey Field, has had five panels cast on the pavement in Wolfe Avenue, spelling out a Roman motto.
Within each panel is further text in different languages from nationalities which have had connections with the site and neighbourhood.
Each word chosen represents different food species introduced to Colchester from around the world.
The work, called Introduced Species, is by public artist Zoë Chamberlain.
She said: This is a well-used route, so Im hoping people will see the artwork in their daily lives on the school run, for example and will ask questions about why its there.
When communities evolve slowly, there tend to be layers of history still evident in the local area, but when places are changing rapidly, public art can play a really important role in connecting people with the place they live and helping areas identify with their past.
She added: We find the response to public art is generally really positive when it is installed people find it does create a sense of pride and a connection with the past.
Praecedo has strong links to Roman heritage, being near to Britains only Roman circus, which was found just off Circular Road North and having military links with the garrison.
Zoë said: In Roman times, the Praecedo site would have been used by families to grow food in small settlements outside the city walls and these communities were made up of different nationalities from all over the Roman Empire.
More recently, the modern military presence has meant that Colchester has been a base for a changing population with connections all around the world and with that migration and global experience comes the interchange of different foods and cultures which filter through to influence everyday life.
Residents and schoolchildren were invited to get involved with the project by growing their own seeds of carrots, lettuce, cabbages and radishes, which were sent to them.
The project was funded by Taylor Wimpey, the firm behind the redevelopment of the former garrison.
The main words that we picked out were:1. TEND GUARD RESPECT
At St Botolphs Railway Station we have another example of pavement art, inspired by local poet Martin Newell.
F. Censored Art in Colchester.
The Colchester Gazette (5th October 2016) investigated the decision to remove a piece of public art; the decision seemingly based on the piece by Connor Barrett, having been on display in the Colchester Library for some 40 years. Entitled 'The Crucixion of Mankind', a clear reason for this censorship of a piece of our public art was treated in the usual way of, 'a spokesman said'. Essex County Council explained that it was because of the 'graphic depiction of a baby impaled on a sword which has distressed parents and children.'.
Supporters of this act were (as printed on the Gazette's webpage) -
E. Heightman, Jason Caits-Cheverst, Behjamin Wenham, Matthew Norman, Penny Clayton, Tracy Luff-Johnson and many others too frightened to give their names.
Well done Sir Bob Russell, Glen Hook, Lisa Marie Robertson, Susan Hughes, Ruby Panton, Dominic Butler, Sarah Williams, Cherry Victoria Ciccone, Carol Gilbert, Claire Gevaux, Mark Goacher and many others who opposed this action.
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