PLANNING permission has been granted for a life-size bronze statue of one of Newbury’s most famous former residents.
The likeness of John Winchcombe II, also known as Jack of Newbury, will stand 2.35m tall outside the building where he lived, 25 Northbrook Street.
West Berkshire Council planners gave the green light for the £36,000 project this week – and the statue will be erected next to the Marsh Lane/Northbrook Street junction.
The public art project has been in planning for the last two years and will be paid for through a range of funding streams, having already secured 10 per cent of the costs through Newbury Town Council and Greenham Trust’s The Good Exchange.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, sculptor Luke Webb said he was delighted that the project had been given planning permission and the focus was now on securing the remaining funds.
“It’s really quite a low cost for a statue like this,” he said.
“I think Basingstoke recently unveiled a similar one, which cost around £100,000.
“Newbury BID (Business Improvement District) were very keen to show support early on and I’m very grateful for the support of the town council.”
One of Newbury’s most famous sons, John Winchcombe II, lived from 1489 to 1557.
A renowned clothier, he is credited with creating the first factory in England, bringing work to hundreds of local people.
Council planners said the statue would add interest to the street scene and help to promote Newbury’s heritage.
Despite two letters of objection (from the same person), it was decided there would be no adverse impact on the town centre conservation area.
A metal cycle rack will be moved 10 metres further along Northbrook Street to make way for the statue.
Questions had been asked of Newbury Town Council over its decision to supply £1,800 of funding to the project at a time when local authorities are having to cut public services.
However, Mr Webb explained: “The town council’s funding came from a community improvement fund and so has to be used on projects such as this.
“It isn’t as if the money could have been spent on other services.”
And Mr Webb said the statue would provide a lasting link to Newbury’s past.
“I think it’s important because he’s such a big part of Newbury’s history,” he said.
“The idea came about when I realised this story has gone under the radar a little bit and there was very little representation of him around Newbury.”
The sculpture will depict Jack standing holding a yard of cloth on his right arm while raising his left hand as if to “dramatically capture the moment he conceived the idea to scale up the process of dyed-cloth production”.
Once the finances are in order the Newbury-based artist will first create the life-size sculpture in clay using likenesses from a painting in the town hall and, hopefully, a life model with a resemblance to Jack of Newbury.
Local historian David Peacock will also provide advice on clothing and appearance of the piece.
A mould of the clay model will then be created to be taken to the foundry where the statue will be cast in bronze.