February 2023

It’s funny where a Facebook conversation can take you. Today it’s about Swindon’s gorilla sculpture. Now residing in Queen’s Park, it began its Swindon life under the gazebo/pavilion (whatever we’re calling it) by the Wyvern Theatre.

Responding to a post by someone asking ‘what’s your fave piece of Swindon art?’, Swindon stalwart Marilyn Beale posted a photograph of a carved wooden arch that used to be in Lydiard Park. Now, I’m not gonna lie, how we got from that to the gorilla I do not know. But here we are talking about Swindon’s very own King Kong!

Swindon's Gorilla Sculpture in Queen's Park
Swindon’s Gorilla Sculpture in Queen’s Park
Plaque on Swindon's gorilla sculpture on Duncan and Mandy's website
Plaque on Swindon’s gorilla sculpture on Duncan and Mandy’s website: http://www.oodwooc.co.uk/web_places/swindon/ph_sw_gorilla-1.htm

As the plaque tells us, Tom Gleeson made the gorilla from welded steel. Thamesdown Borough council bought the piece under the excellent Per Cent for Art scheme in 1985. Further that the worshipful mayor of Thamesdown Doreen Dart, unveiled the sculpture. Gorilla found himself re-sited to Queen’s Park in 1994.

A clothes prop to the rescue

We now return to Marilyn Beale for a lovely little gorilla rescue and repair story.

Having been moved from his original location to the park and after the passage of some time, gorilla was looking a little the worse for wear. His shabbiness brought about questions on his future. But gorilla’s luck was in – there was a fair amount of fondness for him in the parks department and the will to save him. So – they needed cash for his repair but there wasn’t much forthcoming – plus ça change huh? BUT! Gorilla’s luck was in yet again. The park’s department knew a couple of willing volunteers: Mr Beale a retired sheet metal worker and Merv Mapstone a retired blacksmith.

Someone had ripped gorilla’s hand off and tossed it into Queen’s Park lake. So to save yet more money, Marilyn B offered up her redundant clothes post and Mr B set to, to make a new hand for gorilla from it.

It seems that Merv was given the job of welding on the thumb but he made a mistake. The thumb stuck out of one of the other fingers, so it had to be sawn off and re-welded. Marilyn thinks Merv was Holder Upper that day!

I think this is a super story. I’m so glad the gorilla’s glory got restored to him.

Swindon's gorilla sculpture in Queen's park

Queen’s Park is home to another fab sculpture called Turtle Storm. Find out about that here:

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