A Controversial Sculpture: Archive item of the week

Welcome to Archive item of the week:  where we delve into Guildford Cathedral Archives to highlight some of the unique items within the collection.

This week:  Sculpture.  Our People’s Cathedral Archivist takes a look into a controversial sculpture proposal.

Within the Cathedral there many examples of brilliant pieces of artwork and sculpture that visitors and members of the congregation can marvel at while on the Cathedral grounds.  The focus of our item of the week looks into a proposal for a new piece of sculpture that turned out to be rather controversial.




In 1999 a proposal was made to erect an ‘Angel of the South’ in front of the West Front.  The proposer was a Dr John Webb who had taken inspiration from the Angel of the North and felt that a sister sculpture in the south was needed, he was particularly taken with the way that the Angel of the North had a major impact on investment and regeneration of Gateshead.

angel of the south

The proposal was to be a 30 metre high version of John Webb’s sculpture ‘the angel’ and was to be a 3D open framework structure constructed of carbon fibre.

angel of the south (2)

The plan was to draw on partnerships with the science and technology community and talks were held with the University of Surrey’s Department of Composite Materials to collaborate on the project.

I have read with dismay about a plan to set up a huge wire angel…

Unfortunately this proposal was somewhat controversial throughout Guildford and many letters were written within the local press expressing dismay at the proposal.

I read with horror the news…

Ultimately the decision was made by the Fabric Advisory Committee not to go ahead with the project, although they appreciated the artistic merit of the idea they felt that it was not right for the grounds of the cathedral, but did hope the scheme could go ahead somewhere else in Guildford or the south of England.