HUGE NEW PUBLIC ARTWORK UNVEILED IN WATTON

A new piece of public artwork by one of the UK’s leading wildlife artists has been unveiled in Watton – a gift from a house builder which is based in the town. 

Abel Homes, which is based at the Neaton Business Park, commissioned Norfolk-based Harriet Mead to create a life-sized horse collage on a specially-constructed wall at its hus46+ site in the town, where it is building 101 highly-sustainable new homes. 

The new work consists of a life-sized shire horse collage made from found materials – in particular farming tools and implements.  The theme reflects the site’s former life as home to the famous Abels shire horses. 

The artwork was unveiled at a special ceremony on Thursday 23rd October, attended by residents of the new community. 

Abel Homes made a commitment four years ago to commission a piece of public art for each of its new sites, and this is the sixth such artwork to be unveiled since then.  All have been commissioned from Norfolk artists. 

Hilborough-based artist Harriet Mead, daughter of the late author and broadcaster Chris Mead, is President of the internationally-renowned Society of Wildlife artists, and is a former winner of the Capmark Europe Art Award, which is awarded to the ‘most outstanding work inspired by the natural world’. 

She has completed many high-profile commissions, including a life-sized shire horse, bull and ram sculpture at the entrance to the Suffolk Showground. 

“We are delighted to have been able to commission an artist of Harriet’s reputation and standing to make this fabulous piece,” said Tony Abel, managing director of Abel Homes.  “The work really evokes the tradition of this site as the stables of the famous Abels shire horses. 

“We decided some years ago to commission these artworks to act as a focal point for the new communities which we create in Norfolk, something which can give the community a sense of identity. 

“And by commissioning these works from Norfolk artists, we are also supporting our own local artistic community, and ensuring that their work will be on public display in perpetuity.” 

The Watton site was for many years home to the famous Abels shire horses, first introduced by Tony Abel’s late father Noel Abel in 1978.  Mr Abel senior had a life-long passion for shire horses, and decided to combine this passion with an opportunity to promote the family’s removals business. 

The horses soon became famous, appearing at many high-profile events, including the Horse of the Year Show, at Windsor Great Park and Sandringham, and at the Salon du Cheval in Paris.  Mr Abel was renowned for driving three shires abreast – something which was not done by anyone else at the time.  All of the horses were named after kings. 

The last horses and wagons were sold by auction in 2004 when poor health forced Mr Abel senior’s retirement. 

The artwork is the sixth unveiled by Abel Homes since it made its pledge to commission a piece of public artwork for each of its new sites.  Works are already installed at Old Catton in Norwich, Swaffham, Hingham, Shipdham and Drayton, on the outskirts of Norwich.

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