The Civic Statues Of Watford

On Saturday I had to nip up to Watford to pop a damaged camera lens into a local camera store for repair – no doubt it will cost me an arm and a leg but hopefully they can fix it!

While I was wandering around the area I came across some of Watford’s civic sculptures, which have to be some of the most unusual in the country. As you’ll know there has always been a great deal of pride associated with the sacrifices made by the country’s young men in the world wars, and this is no more evident than in Watford, where a  triumvirate of young men sculpted in bronze make up the ‘Peace Memorial’.:

The figures can be found just outside the entrance to the town hall, and they’re due a makeover later this year following the award of a grant from English Heritage – you’ll note the extensive discolouration caused by copper sulphate leaching into the stone at the base of each of the statues. These naked figures are the work of Watford sculptress Mary Pownall Bromet, and up until 1971 they were sited outside the Peace Memorial Hospital (now the Peace Hospice).

Under each figure, from left to right, are the words ‘To The Fallen’, ‘Victory’ and ‘To The Wounded’, and just to the side is another unadorned memorial which recalls the sacrifice of local people in wars following 1945.

Of much more recent vintage are the four tall totem poles which sit about halfway along the high street,  on St Mary’s Square. Dubbed ‘Festival Friendships’, this piece of public art was unveiled in 1999 to coincide with the annual Rainbow Festival – unfortunately the festival itself was a casualty of council cuts a few years ago, but at least the sculptures remain. Festival Friendships consists of four sets of stainless steel tubes, with each one carrying two one metre high masks – between them they show the coats of arms of the towns with which Watford is twinned, and the annual festivals associated with each of the locations. The work of Diane Gorvin and Philip Bews, I don’t know what you think but I find them a little disturbing and somehow otherworldly…