Ex-Barclay student recalls Henry Moore sculpture memories

PUBLISHED: 17:00 23 March 2019

Former Barclay students with teacher Miss Phillips (centre) next to the Henry Moore sculpture. From left to right, Nigel Billingham, Walter Sokal, Keith Thrussell, Chris Hucker and Gerald Jenkins. Picture: Nigel Billingham

Former Barclay students with teacher Miss Phillips (centre) next to the Henry Moore sculpture. From left to right, Nigel Billingham, Walter Sokal, Keith Thrussell, Chris Hucker and Gerald Jenkins. Picture: Nigel Billingham

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A former Barclay student has been reminiscing about his memories of the Henry Moore sculpture, after its future at the Stevenage school was confirmed following academisation.

Former Barclay students with teacher Miss Camfield (centre) next to the Henry Moore sculpture. From left to right, Walter Sokal, Nigel Billingham, Keith Thrussell, Gerald Jenkins and Chris Hucker. Picture: Nigel BillinghamFormer Barclay students with teacher Miss Camfield (centre) next to the Henry Moore sculpture. From left to right, Walter Sokal, Nigel Billingham, Keith Thrussell, Gerald Jenkins and Chris Hucker. Picture: Nigel Billingham

Nigel Billingham attended Barclay School between 1959 and 1965 and is delighted the sculpture – one of four in Moore’s Family Group collection – will remain there following the takeover by the Future Academies Trust.

Nigel has come across two photos of him and fellow students pictured with the statue, which has brought memories flooding back.

“The two photos were taken in June or July, 1965, of myself and my school mates by the statue,” he told the Comet.

“We had stayed on an extra year to try and get more O-levels, not very successfully in my case. I was too busy listening to pop music in the common room.

“We did not think anything about the statue at the time. It was just there at the front of the school and, to my recollection, no teacher at the school ever explained to the pupils anything about the statue or Henry Moore. What a lost opportunity!

“My interest was heightened last year when I went to visit Henry Moore’s house while visiting friends.”

The story behind how the statue came to stand at Barclay is told in a post on the Tate Gallery website.

“An opportunity to complete the sculpture arose in 1947 when Moore was approached by John Newsom, the director of education in Hertfordshire, who enquired whether he would be interested in producing a new piece of sculpture for Barclay Secondary School, a new school in Stevenage,” it reads.

Moore agreed and even visited the school to help him make a decision about the size of the statue.

The post continues: “Although it was not easy convincing the county education committee that the sculpture would be suitable, the commission was ultimately approved in 1949.

“The finished work was Moore’s first major bronze sculpture and his first large-scale sculpture to be editioned in multiple casts.

“According to Moore’s biographer Roger Berthoud, ‘Henry’s fee had struck the education committee as excessive. So he reduced it to what he reckoned was cast price, about £750.”

Although the sculpture – insured for more than £20 million – remains at Barclay, it stands in a different location from the one in Nigel’s school days, having been moved inside in 2011 following an attempted theft.

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