Marsh Award for Excellence in the Conservation of a Public Sculpture or Fountain

This Award is run in partnership with the Public Statues and Sculpture Association (PSSA) and recognises the conservation or repair of an existing work in a public place which has taken place within the last two years.

Nominations for the Award go through a number of stages of judging by a panel consisting of specialists in the field.

For more information on the Awards and how to nominate please see here

Pictured: Bramham Park Fountain, restored by J N Bentley

This Award was previously run in partnership with the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA)

Bargate Lions – Rupert Harris Conservators 2022

For 278 years, the Bargate Lions stood watch over the city of Southampton and have now been restored to how they looked in 1743. For many years, the lions have been dull black but detailed forensic work revealed the original colours, painted as if they were alive, should be re-adopted. The lions, made out of iron, were removed in November 2020 for repairs after damage and were re-installed in March 2021. Rupert Harris Conservators have built a reputation as the leading conservators of metalwork and sculpture in Europe. They used historical sources and public consultation to restore the lions to their former glory so that they can be enjoyed by the public in Southampton for many years to come.

Previous Winners

Silverdale Mining Memorial by Steven Whyte and Michael Talbot

This memorial, situated at the former site of the Plowden and Smith mine in Silverdale, Lancashire. On permanent display since 1996, by 2020 the memorial had suffered severe weather damage and had fallen into disrepair. The Conservators have restored it to its former glory, and protected it against any future weather damage, so that it can serve as a lasting reminder to the local community of the area’s important mining heritage. 

'Crystal Palace Park Sphinxes' by Skillington Workshop and Odgers Conservation Consultants

Crystal Palace Park was created in the early 1850s to form a setting for Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, which had housed the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park. The Crystal Palace was rebuilt in the new park between 1852 and 1855, but was gutted by a fire in 1936.

The Italian terraces and steps that formed the immediate setting for the Crystal Palace survive, as does a set of six sphinxes, set in pairs at the head of three great granite steps. The rather derelict south-west steps and all six sphinxes are the subjects of the conservation contract commissioned by Bromley Borough Council and won by Skillingtons.

The sphinxes, said to be copied from and original in the Louvre, are Grade II listed and modelled in concrete around a brick core. They were in varying states of repair with cracking, surface delamination and areas of complete loss were evident. As well as making good all these defects, the work included the recreation of the original painted schemes using silicate mineral paints. The steps required extensive dismantling and rebuilding together with the provision of new support walls, and some replacements, some of which were done by sub-contractors Universal Stone.

The project was funded by the London Borough of Bromley, together with Historic England and the Mayor of London. The work was undertaken between March and August 2016.

'Perseus and Andromeda' by Sally Strachey Historic Conservation Ltd

The fountain is the centrepiece of the landscape gardens designed by William Andrews Nesfield for the Earl of Dudley, during the renovation of Witley Court between 1854 and 1860. The monument features Perseus, Pegasus, Andromeda and the sea serpent Cetus and the original fountain had 130 jets of various sizes, with the tallest one reaching 36 metres. The original work is Grade I listed, but unfortunately suffered considerable neglect over the last century since the house was gutted by fire and abandoned.

The site has been taken over by English Heritage in recent years, with the installation of a working fountain mechanism in the late 1990s and repairs and cleaning done to the main sculpture in 2003. The recent work, carried out by Sally Strachey Conservation Ltd, is of an excellent standard especially in light of the complex challenges presented by the accessibility and physical damage to the surface of the sculpture. What is particularly impressive is that the stone has not been overcleaned, so the lower sections retain some discoloration, adding to the ‘grotesque’ effect of the piece. While the work was being carried out, the scaffolding included a platform for the public to view the conservation process and English Heritage have since provided an explanatory video on the project for its members.

Dudley Market Place Fountain by Frederick Gibson and Croft Building and Conservation Ltd.

The fountain was originally presented to the town by the Earl of Dudley, and draws on Classical, Renaissance and Baroque forms of ornament. There are many symbols of prosperity and wealth displayed across the fountain, including a cornucopia of fruit and figures indicating mining and agriculture which were important sources of wealth in 19th century Dudley.

Water originally ran from the mouths of two dolphins and two horses into low drinking troughs designed for use by cattle and horses, and from two lions’ heads into smaller drinking basins intended for human use. After a period of neglect during which the drinking troughs were filled with soil and flowers grown in them, the stonework was cleaned in 1965 and water laid on again. However, prior to the project by Croft Building Conservation Ltd and Purcell UK, the fountain had not worked for thirty years and was still deemed to be at risk.

The restoration of the fountain for unveiling in November 2015 was undertaken by Frederick Gibson (the architect) and Croft Building and Conservation Ltd (the main contractor). It was a multi-disciplinary project and there were several related items of work were sub-contracted, however the main body of work was undertaken and designed by the architect and contractor.

Grand Fountain by Lost Art Ltd and Industrial Heritage Consulting

A Grade 1 Listed Structure, the “Walrus Fountain” was produced by The Sun Foundry, and is located in Glasgow. The fountain dates from the earliest days of civic decorative cast iron installations. Besides the feature walruses, there are also crocodiles, cherubs, herons and dolphins. The fountain weighs 42 tons in total and its 8.5 metres high and the same across.

The fountain was donated to the town by the Coates Family and originally installed in 1867. The purchase of the gardens and installation of the decorative features, including the fountain, were intended as a philanthropic gesture that would provide the workers of the town with a breathing space during their leisure time and also gave the more prosperous inhabitants of Paisley a taste of the cosmopolitan gardens found on the continent. The idea of providing for all classes of society had a further intention behind it, in that it was hoped that it would also contribute to social harmony in the town.

James Mitchell and Lost Art Ltd undertook the ‘Interpretation and Restoration’ project, funded by Historic Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Renfrewshire Council. Progress on their work was published in Icon magazine and in issue 54, September 2014 (after the restored fountain was unveiled), James Mitchell said, “We learned a great deal from this project; much of which was by experimentation to overcome challenging problems”.

Prince Consort Statue by Rupert Harris Conservation

The equestrian statue of the Prince Consort was for many years blighted by its location at the centre of the Holborn Circus roundabout. It was in constant danger of damage from traffic accidents, suffered from poor maintenance, and was easily ignored by pedestrians as an important piece of public sculpture.

The Holborn Circus intersection has now been redesigned by the City of London Corporation, Camden Council and Transport for London. As a result the Prince Consort statue was moved to a more suitable location and significant conservation work went underway.

Rupert Harris Conservation provided expert advice and carried out conservation work on the statue and its plinth, which has revealed the beauty and fine detailing of Charles Bacon’s original work. The statue, which was covered in a thick layer of black paint, wax and dirt, is now glossy and sleek. The plinth has been cleaned and carefully reassembled.

The result is that a one of London’s civic sculptures, which has perhaps been taken for granted for many years, can now be enjoyed once again by the public. The work and commitment which has gone into the project is truly impressive.

Spiral Nebula by Jonathan Clarke

Standing in front of the Herschel Building, in Newcastle upon Tyne, is an important post-war 20th century sculpture. Spiral Nebula by Geoffrey Clarke of the Royal Academy is a monumental and striking example of the artist’s work and one of few examples from this period sited in a public location in this city. The sculpture has now been restored by the sculptor’s son, Jonathan Clarke.

Spiral Nebula was commissioned in 1962 by the architect, Sir Basil Spence, for the grounds of the Herschel building. It is a steel structure with painted cast aluminium panels and viewed in relation to the then new physics building’s use, can be taken as a symbol of scientific advances in the 1960s. Yet, the sculpture caused a dispute between Clarke and Spence. It is understood Spence thought that its waxed finish distracted attention from the building and a month after unveiling, the sculpture was flame blasted and painted grey.

Over the past 50 years, the sculpture’s surface and structural condition has inevitably degraded and so Jonathan, who recalled his father designing the sculpture, embarked on conservation work to ensure that it can be appreciated for many years to come. The sculpture has been relocated to an improved position within the premises and audiences can now appreciate the original condition and concept of Clarke’s Spiral Nebula. Missing aluminium panels have been re-cast and cleaning has removed the grey paint from the surface, restoring the sculpture to its former glory.