23 September 2020

The Watchers are restored.

Among the doom and gloom of Covid and Brexit and town centre shop closures there’s some good local news in the restoration of The Watchers.

The Watchers form part of the West Swindon sculpture walk. These sculptures are a culturally significant part of the West Swindon landscape, installed in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Roger Ogle has done much to champion them – then much later than him – so have I. I’ve featured The Watchers and the rest of the trail on this blog and in my new guide book.

Despite the fact that they’ve been shamefully neglected by our town’s leaders for decades now, they remain things of enjoyment and an untapped resource I’m sure. If the powers that be did but know it.

Anyhoo! Last year the chap on this sculpture sadly suffered decapitation. But rejoice! For, thanks to Swindon stonemason Toby Robson,The Watchers are Restored. But more on that in a bit!

The Watchers at Toothill
The Watchers at Toothill – prior to restoration

‘Artist: Carleton Attwood. Material: Cement Fondue. Project details: Funded by R.S. McColl and E.H.Bradley Building Projects Ltd. The sculpture represents guardian figures looking over the community.’ 

‘The Watchers, 1982, by Carleton Attwood (1908 to 1985) at Toothill Village Centre. The first sculpture in West Swindon, cast in ferro-concrete at Swindon’s town hall studios, is one of Carleton’s last works. Sculptor Pat Elmore had to complete the piece as Carleton suffered ill-health. Thanks to Carleton’s ill-health.

The work represents the guardians of the new community.’

The Watchers Are Restored - posters by Swindon artist Ken White
Posters made by Swindon artist Ken White back when he had a studio in the town hall

The story behind the sculpture

The story goes that Carleton got the idea for this piece of public art from a family he observed at a Swindon town football match.

The day was a rainy one and the father was holding his raincoat around his wife. She in turn shielded their child with their raincoat and the child the dog.

The restoration of The Watchers

Now back to the resoration. There’s a nice piece here in The Swindon Advertiser about the restoration. Said Toby: ‘… it’s a big challenge because the sculpture is more than 40 years old. And nobody knows what materials went into it originally in terms of sand and the cement mix used. Nobody remembers.

I chatted to Toby just yesterday and he told me that the community had been so supportive and interested in what he was doing and how heart-warming he’d found that.

The Watchers Are Restored - the watchers surrounded by scaffolding ready for Toby to work on them.
Photo from Toby Robson.

Some photos from Toby of the work in progress:

And now the finished product. Ta da! The Watchers are Restored!

The Watchers Are Restored