An Interview with Essex Sculptor John Doubleday
By Paul Butterworth
As I walked through the town recently, I was struck by the impressive 400th Anniversary Sculpture of the Mayflower Ship of 1620 depicting its Pilgrims. The Sculpture stands at an impressive 2 metres in height, cast in bronze and set on a concrete plinth, situated at the Station end of Billericay High Street in the Jim Shields Garden for all to see.
Back in June 2019 Billericay Town Council decided to mark the anniversary by commissioning a sculpture by John Doubleday. It would be a permanent reminder of the town’s four Pilgrim Fathers, who sailed to America in the autumn of 1620.
John Doubleday is an internationally acclaimed painter and figurative sculptor from the village of Langford near Maldon, having previously created ‘The Child in the Park’ sculpture in nearby Lake Meadows.
John’s career spans almost five decades, having been trained at London’s Goldsmiths College. His first exhibit was shown way back in 1968 at the Waterhouse Gallery London. He has since enjoyed 30 exhibitions throughout Britain, Europe and America, including a seated Sherlock Holmes in Switzerland, Charlie Chaplin in Leicester Square, and the 9 feet high Battle of Maldon Monument.
I recently asked John where he got his inspiration and idea for the Mayflower design from, and whether the figures in the Sculpture were based on the four Billericay Pilgrims?
John Replied: “You will have gathered that it was a commission which I particularly enjoyed, having discovered such a close personal connection through my mother’s American ancestors. The figures represented are all descendants of those who sailed on the Mayflower, a neat trick to be able to play!”
“My personal connection with the subject made it a fascinating project to work on. Particularly because the figures represented are based on people with whom I have a strong personal connection, so my working on the original was filled with recollections and stories.”
“With regard to sources for the idea history is only important in that we should learn from it and not be trapped by it. I wanted the work to have a clear historical context which Is why the figures are represented in period garb though they are representing contemporary figures. The idea of the disparity in scale between the ship and the figures refers back to the historical freedoms taken with regard to comparative scale as is often seen in illustrated manuscripts and medieval carving. Representation of the ship becomes the metaphor for the journey.”
I finished by asking John if he had an overall favourite sculpture from his career
John replied: “As for having a favourite work, it is always the current one! though occasionally I come across things that I did a very long time ago and they resonate in quite a different way because they have become independent. However, I can say that I was delighted to have the opportunity to have a significant commission late in my career, which gave me so much pleasure to work on.”
To view the installation of the Billericay Mayflower, visit YouTube: BILLERICAY MAYFLOWER SCULPTURE