Donkey sculpture


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Pittman's Field, Harlow, Essex, CM20


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Statutory Address:
Pittman's Field, 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:


Donkey sculpture, of 1955 by Willi Soukop, situated on the green adjacent to 5 Pittman’s Field, Mark Hall South, Harlow.

Reasons for Designation

Donkey sculpture on concrete paving slabs, of 1955 by Willi Soukop, situated on the green adjacent to 5 Pittman’s Field, Mark Hall South, Harlow is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Artistic interest: an engaging C20 animal sculpture, of intrinsic artistic value and a rare example of a play sculpture in its original residential setting; * Historic interest: as an early commission of the Harlow Art Trust, unique among the New Towns for fostering a collection of first rate sculpture by leading artists to be placed in public locations.


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.

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.

Willi Soukop’s Donkey was originally cast in 1935 for the grounds of Dartington Hall, Devon (Grade II* on the Register of Parks and Gardens). Maurice Ash may have been responsible for commissioning a second cast for Harlow. It was cast in 1955 at the Fiorini Foundry in Fulham and sited on an elongated green in Pittman’s Field, a housing estate designed by H T (Jim) Cadbury-Brown in the Mark Hall South area to the east of Harlow town centre.

The sculptor Willi (Wilhelm Josef) Soukop (1907–95) was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary and studied at the Academy of Fine Art, Vienna. In 1934 he was invited to work at Dartington Hall, a progressive independent school. Soukop’s first solo exhibition was held at the Stafford Gallery in 1938 and after the Second World War he held teaching posts at Guildford School of Art, Bromley School of Art and Chelsea School of Art. His work was exhibited at the London County Council (LCC) open-air sculpture exhibition in Battersea Park in 1949 and 1950. Soukop’s public commissions were many and included Copper Horses for Sir James Altham Lower School, Oxhey, Hertfordshire (1951), Spirit of Adventure for Loughborough Training College (1958) and Pied Piper, a concrete mural for the LCC Elmington Estate, Camberwell (1959).


Donkey sculpture, of 1955 by Willi Soukop, situated on the green adjacent to 5 Pittman’s Field, Mark Hall South, Harlow.

Approximately 90cm in height, this semi-figurative bronze sculpture of a donkey stands four-square on a bronze platform and a base of concrete paving stones. The head is bowed, with big eyes, incised nostrils, erect ears and a pronounced, stylised mane. The sculpture has a green patina but the back and ears are worn to a polished finish.


Books and journals
Olsen, D., Sculpture in Harlow, (2005), p.88
Strachan, W G, Open Air Sculpture in Britain: a Comprehensive Guide, (1984), p.126
Michael Parkin, Willi Soukop, obituary in The Independent, 9 February 1995, accessed 5 November 2015 from
National Life Stories, Artists’ Lives, Willi Soukop interviewed by Andrew Lambirth, 1994, C466/29., accessed 5 November 2015 from
'Willi (Wilhelm Josef) Soukop', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011, accessed 5 November 2015 from
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 - a semi-figurative bronze sculpture of a donkey on a bronze platform and concrete paving stones) are not to be treated as part of the listed structure for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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