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The Manor House Mural

Can you do a 3.5m mural telling the history of The Manor House in the style of the Royston Cave Carvings in 5 weeks? Sure! (Note to self: Google don’t fail me now!)


Turns out Google did fail me a little. It was great for giving me info on how to structure my commission plan with the client and ensure I had approval at every stage so we had a smooth client-artist relationship, but beyond that? Bah. It was like The Manor House in Royston didn’t exist!

It was the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Library and the Cambridge Archives that pulled me out of the information desert that was The Manor House‘s history. The Old School Studio and Valerie Pettifer, my mentor and friend, guided me safely away from any potential creative pot holes. It was wild ride from start to finish but oh what a journey!

It all began in late August 2013 when a J D Wetherspoon representative saw my Free Flight doodle on the Royston Arts Society’s website. Continuing the pub chain’s policy of approaching local talent to provide the artwork for new pubs, a Wetherspoon representative approached the Royston Arts Society with three commissions and five Society members in mind. Based on that Free Flight doodle, which still sits in one of my earlier sketch books, she specifically requested that I be the local artist to do the mural her client had in mind.

The mural was commissioned for JDW’s newest pubwhich sits in a Grade II Listed building in the heart of the Royston. The brief for this mural was to portray the history of The Manor House from as early as possible to present time across multiple canvases in the style of the Royston Cave carvings.

All the commissions were to be completed and delivered by October 5th 2013. Wetherspoon didn’t have much of The Manor House’s story and neither did the Royston and District Local History Society. So I spent a few days digging through the archives and local libraries in Hertfordshire and Cambridge. Royston Crow, the local paper, even carried an article about the Mural and its artist asking the public to get in touch if they knew anything about the history of the Manor House. For a little while I was famous… or is that infamous?

It took 5 weeks of working nights, weekends and any spare second I could get childcare for the kids. Val was a Godsend, putting up my 10 month old daughter in her spare studio space, which we turned into a giant playpen with a child safety gate on the door. Not to mention all the times she played with, fed or shushed a crying baby so I could finish something before for my moulding paste dried!

Finally, 5 weeks later, it was done. Local historian F. John Smith even read over my notes and gave his stamp of approval that nothing I’d included was erroneous. Thank God! I don’t know how I’d have removed anything at that point!

The Mural told the history of the building from 1610 to 2013 over 5 canvases and 3.5 metres. This is the largest, most difficult Life Story art I’ve done to date, but learning the history and translating that visually was a fabulous creative experience and I loved every single crazy minute of it! Bring on another one!

Visit The Manor House pub in Royston to see the Mural, Sunset on Melbourn St, and all the other brilliant work done by talented local Royston artists.

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