Sculpting the Mighty Oaks of Ickworth

John Williams Sculpture project

From 2016 to 2019, volunteer wood carver John Williams created artistic masterpieces with old trees within the grounds of Ickworth. In his own words, John explains all, including how his love of Ickworth inspires his work.

Those of you who walk regularly in the Park may have seen or heard the “tap-tapping” of a distant wood carver over the past few years, especially if you walk near the North garden of the Rotunda by the Geraldine and Erskine walks. That tapping was our volunteer wood carver, John Williams.  He carved the 'Josselyn and his Horse' on Eastgate Street in Bury St Edmunds. However that stump was pretty small compared with the 4 mighty oaks here at Ickworth!

Conventionally trees which need to be felled would have been cut to the ground and left but thinking is changing and John was asked to carve Ickworth's stories into the huge stumps.

" My love of Ickworth began more than 60 years ago - I first visited Ickworth in the summer of 1948 as a wide eyed 7 year old."
- John Williams

John explains his process:

"By May 2016 I had an idea of what I wanted to do - The Rotunda itself is full of grand portraits all waiting, as I saw it, to be reworked and combined within in the natural wooded outdoors areas of the North Garden. Along with the more formal portraits, I personified the Deities such as Fauna and Flora. These are based on Greek, Roman and local Medieval iconography."

"Each of the 4 trees show the progress of the Hervey family with their retainers and staff spanning 400 or so years.

The Green Man representating Ickworth's bountiful estate
John second totem ickworth
The Green Man representating Ickworth's bountiful estate

I used inspiration from two real life dogs that regularly walk past the tree, called Finty and Nosey Rosie. They were very excited about being made famous by the carvings at Ickworth!

With the second Totem I included the figures of the 1st Earl of Bristol, Lord John Hervey and Molly Lepel. Three influential figures who, each in their own way, helped shape Ickworth as we see it today. 

The Totem also features the walled garden, creating a secure and supportive environment for growing both food and flowers.  The green man shown in the first totem morphed into the Greek deity Zephyr and paired up with Flora. Between the two they represent the enduring fecundity of Ickworth. Below them are the estate manages and gardeners tending their new productive patch."

A mighty oak carving sitting in the woodland of Ickworth
Word Carving at Ickworth
A mighty oak carving sitting in the woodland of Ickworth