Wild boar sculpture


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
The Water Gardens, Harlow, Essex, CM20


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1431373.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 08-Mar-2021 at 16:08:24.


Statutory Address:
The Water Gardens, Harlow, Essex, CM20

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Harlow (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Wild Boar sculpture, 1969 by Elisabeth Frink is situated in the Water Gardens of Harlow civic centre.

Reasons for Designation

The bronze sculpture ‘Wild Boar’, of 1969 by Elisabeth Frink, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Artistic interest: a sculpture of high artistic and aesthetic quality, well composed and subtly detailed, and representative of a recurrent theme in Frink’s oeuvre; * Historic interest: an important civic set piece for Harlow new town and a commission by the pioneering Harlow Art Trust; * Authorship: an early public work by this significant C20 sculptor.


The period after 1945 saw a shift from commemorative sculpture and architectural enrichment to the idea of public sculpture as a primarily aesthetic contribution to the public realm. Sculpture was commissioned for new housing, schools, universities and civic set pieces, with the counties of Hertfordshire, London and Leicestershire and the new towns leading the way in public patronage. Thus public sculpture could be an emblem of civic renewal and social progress. By the late C20 however, patronage was more diverse and included corporate commissions and Arts Council-funded community art. The ideology of enhancing the public realm through art continued, but with divergent means and motivation.

Visual languages ranged from the abstraction of Victor Pasmore and Phillip King to the figurative approach of Elisabeth Frink and Peter Laszlo Peri, via those such as Lynn Chadwick and Barbara Hepworth who bridged the abstract/representational divide. The post-war decades are characterised by the exploitation of new – often industrial – materials and techniques including new welding and casting techniques, plastics and concrete , while kinetic sculpture and ‘ready mades’ (using found objects) demonstrate an interest in composite forms.

Harlow was designated a new town on 25 March 1947, with Frederick Gibberd devising its master plan and remaining as consultant architect-planner until 1980. He was also one of the first trustees of the Harlow Art Trust, founded in 1953 at the suggestion of Maurice Ash, of the building firm Gilbert-Ash, who donated £250. He was later chairman of the Dartington Hall Trust, whose Elmgrant Trust was an early supporter. At Harlow Ash brought in his friend Sir Philip Hendy, director of the National Gallery, to chair the Trust, with Eric Adams, general manager of the Harlow Development Corporation (HDC), Gibberd, and Patricia Fox-Edwards to represent the local council. The HDC had already commissioned Mary Spencer Watson to make Chiron for the Stow shopping precinct and secured Barbara Hepworth's Contrapuntal Forms and three murals from the Arts Council's dispersal of artworks from the Festival of Britain. Subsequently, the Trust concentrated on sculpture for open-air sites, siting works in places where people meet. There is thus a concentration of works in the town centre and at the nodal points of the various neighbourhoods. In 1956 Henry Moore's Family Group was unveiled and by 1957 the Trust had sited ten sculptures. When Sir Philip Hendy retired from the Chairmanship through ill health in 1971 he was succeeded by Mrs Fox-Edwards, later Lady Gibberd.

As the least busy of the four original trustees, Fox-Edwards had toured the graduate shows and minor galleries in search of young sculptors. She encountered the work of the young sculptor Elisabeth Frink in a 1952 exhibition at the Chelsea School of Art and gave her her first commission, in 1957. Another connection was Frink’s friendship with Frederick Gibberd. Frink chose the subject and worked from photographs and her imagination. The original cast was in concrete and it was sited in a raised bed at Bush Fair, Harlow’s second neighbourhood centre, until it began to deteriorate. Its replacement, also entitled Wild Boar, was made in 1969, one of an edition of three. Photographs of the 1957 work suggest that the 1969 bronze is an entirely new work as opposed to a recasting. A drawing for Boar belonging to Frederick Gibberd is held in the adjoining Gibberd Gallery.

The bronze was relocated for its own protection in the Water Gardens (1960-63, listed at Grade II), initially placed on a plinth at the end of the upper terrace. It was moved to the lower canal, probably at the same time as Hebe Comerford’s Bird was installed there in 1985. It was reinstated after the reconstruction of the Water Gardens in 2004, and now sits outside the Gibberd Gallery, part of the new Civic Centre. Frink continued to make sculptures and prints of boars, commenting ‘they’re very fascinating, shy creatures. I was attracted more by their emblematic than their sculptural qualities’ (Ratuszniak 2013, p.129).

Frink (1930-93) was born in Suffolk and studied at the Guildford and Chelsea schools of art. The Harlow New Town Wild Boar and the Blind Beggar and Dog in Tower Hamlets were her first major public commissions. Best known for bronze outdoor sculpture, her preferred sculptural technique involved building up layers of wet plaster, textured and distressed with carving tools. Her work is distinguished by a commitment to semi-figurative forms, with animals, birds and men recurring. At the time of writing (2015) six of Frink’s sculptures are listed, including the Blind Beggar and Dog (1958, Grade II*), Horse and Rider (1975, Grade II), Desert Quartet at the Montague Shopping Centre, Worthing (1989, Grade II*) and the Crucifix for the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool, completed in the year of her death (the Cathedral is listed at Grade II*). She was elected a Royal Academician in 1977 and awarded a DBE (Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1982.


Wild Boar sculpture, 1969 by Elisabeth Frink is situated in the Water Gardens of Harlow civic centre.

The sculpture is of bronze, approximately 76cm in height, upon a bronze-faced plinth set just above water level. The semi-figurative figure is characterised by its poised, alert stance and the contrast between heavy torso and dainty, attenuated limbs. Whilst the body is exaggeratedly narrow and the hindquarters underdeveloped, the head is rendered as a large, sweeping snout and the eyes indicated only by slight marks. The surface of the piece is lightly textured, a finish created by manipulating the wet plaster with tools.


Books and journals
Olsen, D., Sculpture in Harlow, (2005), p.46
Ratuszniak, A, Elisabeth Frink Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture 1947-93, (2013)
Strachan, W G, Open Air Sculpture in Britain: a Comprehensive Guide, (1984), p.124
Rea, J., 'A major contribution to public sculpture in Britain: Patricia, Lady Gibberd (1926-2006), and the Harlow Sculpture Collection' in Sculpture Journal, , Vol. Vol. 16, (2007), pp.89-91
Wild Boar, accessed 5 November 2015 from http://elisabethfrink-estate.com/index.php?act=piece&artwork=13&cat=1
E. Harwood, 'Sculpture in Harlow', 2015 report in Historic England London Region Historians' Files, reference OUT104


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed structure is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed structure (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed structure for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].