WGC Centenary for Ebenezer Howard

Plinth for statue to Ebenezer Howard

In 2019, I was commissioned by the Welwyn Garden City Centenary Foundation to carve three rings of lettering on a Welsh slate plinth. Standing on the plinth, is a 2.2 metre tall bronze statue of Ebenezer Howard, made by the Hertfordshire based sculptor Ben Twiston Davies. Commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town, Ben's concept was to emphasise Howard's commitment to peaceful progress. Ben chose words from William Blake's Jerusalem as they spoke to the energy and drive of Howard.

I began design work on the plinth in mid-2019 and carving was due to start in the spring of 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project and carving eventually took place between October 2020 and February 2021 at both Parndon Mill and Ben's studio.

My inspiration for the lettering came from a shared influence with Howard of the Arts and craft Movement. The modern work shop practice of letter carving derives directly from this movement as it places it emphasis, in its original conception, of looking to pre-industrial lettering for its inspiration. The Roman capital lettering I drew for the inscription is heavily influenced by ancient Roman inscriptions in its proportions and many of the characteristics of the letters. My only nod to type-faces was the inclusion of the 'bracketed serifs' at the top and bottom of many of the letters. These were chosen to make the letters bolder and more legible, particularly as the inscription is flat and therefore is subject to the full force of the weather and is likely at times, to be partly obscured by leaves and grass etc. For a similiar reason, the letters were also painted afyter carving, again to aid their long-term legibility. The use of italic lettering for the Blake quote was chosen to give a visual contrast to the Roman capitals and to inject a sense of energy and movement in to the words.  

The laying out and carving of the inscription was a major undertaking. Much time and care had to be taken to ensure that the lettering was laid out in exactly the right position before craving could begin. This involved long periods of standing back from the inscription, checking and double checking, sometimes re-drawing and re-positioning letters to ensure everything looked right. It was only when the pices of the plinth where re-assembled in Ben's studio that I could be sure that it had worked.

It is clear from the many comments that I have received from members of the public that this project has made a welcome contribution to the town and has given a greater public awarness of Ebenezer Howard's achievement.

The statue and plinth were installed over 3 days from 14th - 16th April 2021. Below are some photos of the work in progress and the completed statue and plinth.