Sculpture which "looks like a turtle's bottom" to be relocated in St Albans

PUBLISHED: 13:00 19 August 2016

The stone sculpture outside the old St Albans museum building on Hatfield Road.

The stone sculpture outside the old St Albans museum building on Hatfield Road.

Archant

A large limestone sculpture slated by one critic as looking "like a turtle's bottom" is to be shifted to make way for a housing development in the city centre.

The stone sculpture outside the old St Albans museum building on Hatfield Road.The stone sculpture outside the old St Albans museum building on Hatfield Road.

Ten homes will be constructed at the Hatfield Road site of St Albans’ former museum, while the existing building will be altered and extended to create six units.

But that scheme’s approval – in April this year – has prompted ex-district councillor, former Labour group leader Martin Leach, to ask about plans for the large limestone sculpture sitting close to the footpath, in front of the closed and boarded-up museum.

He said: “You can’t miss it, it’s been there for a while and looks wonky. It must weigh a tonne or more, and from one side it looks like the rear end of a turtle.”

Martin asked: “What is going to happen to it? A lot of money was spent on it in the ‘80s and it was placed outside the Alban Arena, then the Conservatives at district council decided to put it outside the museum, where it has been ever since.”

The stone sculpture outside the old St Albans museum building on Hatfield Road.The stone sculpture outside the old St Albans museum building on Hatfield Road.

Richard Shwe, head of community services at council, pointed out that although Martin believed it looked like a turtle’s rear end, the sculpture, known as Leaf Fields, was commissioned in 1985, and created by renowned artist and sculptor Paul Mason.

The late Mr Mason was known for his huge stone-carved sculptures of objects found in nature and was commissioned in 1985 by the Herts Association of Architects to create Leaf Fields for an area outside the Arena.

The association wanted to make a gift for the city, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Artists, and Leaf Fields was moved to its current position outside the former museum in 2010.

Richard confirmed it would be moved to make way for the housing development - back to its original site outside the theatre.

He said: “We have had discussions with community groups and other organisations about where best to put this important work of public art, and have decided on a more central location where it can be seen by many more people.

“It will return to its original home, outside the front of the Alban Arena, close to the Civic Centre.

“We will be having talks later this month with our contractor to finalise the details of the move.”

Money from the housing scheme will help fund the council’s conversion of the former Town Hall into a new £7.75 million museum and art gallery.

• The Arts Council has announced that St Albans Museums will receive £126,351 towards a “Transforming St Albans Museums” project. This will build upon workforce development and the visitor experience, for example having pop-up museums, and reaching out to areas of lower engagement within the district. St Albans Museums are among 94 museums and organisations across England to receive a grant.

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