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Published December 31st 2021
The blinkers come off 140 year old beast sculpture
A historical sculpture of a mythical beast is to make a long-awaited public appearance in Staffordshire. The griffin, or gryphon, sculpture was originally made by Tamworth company Gibbs and Canning Limited back in the 1880s. It was one of a number made to decorate the outside walls of the Natural History Museum in London, but this particular griffin never made it onto the building. The terracotta sculpture, which was originally moulded and fired in two halves, was stored in two separate pieces for many years. Gibbs and Canning, which once employed almost 300 people, was forced to close in the 1970s, since when the griffin has been housed in Tamworth Castle's off-site museum store. But, thanks to the government's Cultural Recovery Fund, plus a contribution from the Friends of Tamworth Castle, the sculpture was fully restored by a specialist company in Surrey and will now be displayed for visitors to see in the courtyard of the castle, which reopens on February 1st.
The griffin is manoeuvred up the ramp of Tamworth Castle
Richard Rogers, the director of the conservation company, said: "It has been a challenge conserving and joining the fractured sections back together. Each piece was carefully drilled and stainless steel dowels inserted into the breaks, ready for the piece to be reassembled and bonded into position. The repairs were carefully filled and toned to match the surrounding terracotta. We are delighted with how amazing the griffin looks." Councillor Robert Pritchard, deputy leader of Tamworth Borough Council, said: "We are delighted that we have been able to have this beast of a statue placed in the castle courtyard for visitors to see when they arrive to tour our ancient monument. The castle team have worked hard to ensure that the castle experience meets the expectations of modern audiences, and having the griffin on display is truly the icing on the cake to showcase the incredible work of such a successful international and locally-based manufacturer such as Gibbs and Canning."
The historic sculpture is placed in the castle courtyard
Samples of the terracotta used to make the 140-year-old griffin, which used local clay, were preserved by Tamworth Castle and will be held in its collections archives along with the business records of Gibbs and Canning.