NEWBURY town councillors this week gave their backing for plans to bring Jack of Newbury – who was highly influential in the expansion of the cloth industry in the town – “back to life”.
Greenham-based artist and designer Luke Webb wants to create a lifesize, bronze statue of the great man and install it outside his former residence in Northbrook Street.
‘Good ol’ Jack’, who lived from 1489 to 1557, was an apprentice clothier.
Legend has it that he created the first factory in England and brought employment to hun-dreds of local people.
One of Jack’s greatest achievements was leading the negotiations for the reintroduction of better trading arrangements for cloth producers and he organised a petition to be given to Henry VIII.
Jack of Newbury is such an important part of Newbury’s heritage that Mr Webb is now hoping to create the 2.8m high sculpture of the man.
Mr Webb was also responsible for designing the new US Second World War memorial at the former Greenham Common airbase, and the ‘supporter’s staircase’ at the Corn Exchange, Newbury.
For the past six months, Mr Webb has worked closely with local historian David Peacock to come up with a model of what the statue would look like and it was presented to councillors at a Newbury Town Council civic, arts, pride and leisure meeting on Monday evening where it was given widespread support.
In his presentation, Mr Webb said: “It is a traditional bronze figure but with a modernist twist.
“He has his left arm raised aloft. By doing that I am attempting to recreate the moment he may have had the inspiration to do what he did. As you can see he also has cloth draped over his right arm.
“It is a pose which I feel will look interesting from just about every angle and encourage people to walk around the statue.”
It will cost in the region of £35,000 and funding options are currently being explored.
It is hoped that around £3,500 to £5,000 of that will be funded privately, with the remainder coming from grants.
Speaking about why he wanted to create the sculpture, Mr Webb said: “John Winchcombe is very much an unsung hero.
“More than a rich 16th-century clothier, he was an entrepreneur, creative, a campaigner and stout patriot.
“Commemorating him with a beautiful bronze statue would be a wonderful focal point for our dynamic and thriving market town.
“This will bring a legend back to life for locals and visitors alike.”
Following the presentation, the chairwoman of the civic, arts, pride and leisure committee, Margo Payne, said: “I think it is an absolutely superb statue that Newbury in particular will benefit from.”
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of supporting the plans and agreed to put it forward to the arts steering group to come up with a formal proposal.
Meanwhile, Mr Webb said he was on the lookout for someone bearing a “slight resemblance” to Jack of Newbury to pose as a model when creating the final piece.