Expert craftsmanship replicates the missing martial statues at Stowe

4th December 2017

Our Norfolk Workshop, which specialises in statuary and casting, has successfully reproduced two of National Trust Stowe’s missing martial statues. The Gladiator and the Wrestlers statues have now been reinstated as part of Stowe’s ongoing programme to restore the landscape garden back to its former glory.

With the original statues of Stowe now scattered around the world due to the great auction of Stowe House in 1921 and 1922, the National Trust has been seeking the return of originals or permission to have faithful replicas cast. Cliveden Conservation has been working with National Trust Stowe to replicate the final two martial statues which completes an important phase in the landscape programme.

A mould of the Gladiator statue was able to be produced at the workshop thanks to St Paul’s Walden Bury who loaned their Borghese Gladiator statue. Using silicone rubber and plaster the conservation team was able to capture every tiny detail. An existing mould of an original bronze Wrestlers statue at Blenheim Palace meant both statues could be cast at the workshop.

Using a reconstituted stone mix blended with a unique formula, the conservation team cast both statues and reinforced them with a stainless steel armature which acts as a skeleton. The original Borghese Gladiator was missing a sword, this was carefully recreated using expert craftsmanship.

One hundred years on both statues are now back in the landscape along with Hercules, Antaeus, Samson and the Philistine which have already been reinstated. The Wrestlers, which is thought to have been introduced to Stowe in the 1730s along with the other martial statues, is back in its rightful position within the Labyrinth looking out over Warden Hill Walk. The Gladiator is positioned in Grecian Valley.

Now the statues are in situ the conservation team can limewash them to match the other statuary in the gardens. Alex Ricketts, Senior Conservator from Cliveden Conservation’s Houghton Workshop in Norfolk talks about the project:

“It is really satisfying to create an exact replica statue and reinstate it back in its original environment. The Gladiator and Wrestlers sculptures are stunning pieces of work and it has been a privilege to recreate them.”

Cliveden Conservation have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Stowe in their quest to reinstate the lost temples and monuments. Other achievements include the re-build of the iconic three-tiered monument, the ‘Gothic Cross’ which the conservation team successfully recreated using the original material of Coade Stone.

Anna Tolfree, Gardener for National Trust Stowe explains: “The setting for the Wrestlers Statue is based around a labyrinth of evergreen shrubberies creating an area of garden designed to mimic the different routes one can take through life but eventually ending up with a magnificent view of all creation. The planting hides winding paths with play features of a skittle alley and swing to distract en route through the Labyrinth dating from the mid-18th century. We have sourced plantings which were native to England to faithfully recreate the spirit of place.”