Brilliant sculptures by the late Histon artist Tony Hillier join village art trail
Striking artwork by the late Histon resident Tony Hillier has found a new home as part of Histon's public art trail.
Tony Hillier, a University of Cambridge fellow who died in 2014, created hundreds of steel figures and animals, and had several of them displayed out the front of his home in what became known as the Histon Sculpture Garden.
Now Histon and Impington Parish Council has added some to its public art trail, which followed a decision by Joan Hillier to rehouse most of her late husband’s sculptures, made between 2002 and 2014.
The plan was to locate them around the villages to enable everyone to continue to enjoy the pieces – some of which had already gone to schools and charitable organisations in Cambridgeshire.
After a year’s work, the new additions to the art trail were put in place at the end of January but, understandably, there was no launch.
Cllr Chris Jones, of Histon and Impington Parish Council, says: “We couldn’t really do that with Covid... and it was a bit of an exercise with just moving them. We had to do a bit of preparation work with the sculptures and then we had contractors doing the installations."
They are now dotted around the village for people to go and admire. “I think people have already started to enjoy them," says Chris, "and they’re improving their daily walk in some ways. Some of the comments I’ve seen on Facebook are really nice.”
Look out for Sewing – an Andy Capp sculpture – at Clay Close Lane Pocket Park and a spider climbing a tree in the village green. You’ll find Dog and Horse in Tony’s original Sculpture Garden on Cottenham Road, Man & Dog at Homefield Park, Grandfather, Grandson & Dog on the junction of Cottenham Road and the B1049, and Truffle the Pig in the community orchard – and you can’t miss his camel (Dromedary) sculpture at the entrance to the villages off the A14 roundabout.
“It’s such a large sculpture that, for me, it was the right one to put there because it created a sort of presence,” says Chris, “and we’ve angled it nicely so it’s sort of looking at people coming down the junction.”
Their installation bolsters what was already an impressive public art trail. “They will help people discover the other sculptures the village has,” says Chris. “We’ve now got 20 different forms of public art available.”
These include Charlotte Howarth’s Theories of Home, a collection of sculptures celebrating the history of jelly making in Histon and Impington and previously featured in the Cambridge Independent.
All of the works can also be located using the app What3Words, which divides the globe into 3m x 3m squares and gives each one a unique three-word address.
Chris describes Tony’s sculptures as “very inspirational” and recalls: “He even once showed me in his garden how he made them.”
Birmingham-born Tony, a lecturer in physiology, lived in Histon for more than 40 years. “Tony took up art as one of his hobbies in retirement,” says Chris, “although I think he was doing art beforehand, and over a number of years he made various sculptures out of bamboo and papier mache, and some ceramics.”
Chris notes that Tony had a very cartoon-ish style and used that for the large metal sculptures for which he became known. “He did them off his own back and never accepted money for them – he would often give them away to local schools and colleges,” he notes.
A popular sight in the village, the Histon Sculpture Garden is even featured on Tripadvisor.
Joan wanted his work to continue to be enjoyed. “As a consequence, Histon and Impington Parish Council felt that we needed to ensure that there was a legacy in the village because people loved them,” says Chris.
A map of Histon’s public art trail, and the What3Words references, can be viewed at hisimp.net/wp/draftvillages-public-art-trail/.