Special Projects

Obelisk, Private Estate, Oxfordshire

This 27m Obelisk erected to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is now guarded by four huge Massangis Limestone lions, two constantly vigilant whilst the other two sleep. The sculptures are the result of the fusion of the finest craft skills and the most advanced technology the industry can offer.

Carved from the same carefully selected Massangis Limestone as the earlier Obelisk, each lion sits on a slab of Stanton Moor sandstone above a pedestal of Syreford ashlar, the uniform Stanton Moor providing a barrier between the lions and the livelier stone below.

The lions are copies of the Canova Lions at Chatsworth House and their creation employed a mix of the most cutting edge technology in the capture of the digital images and the CNC work to the very best traditional craft skills in the hand finishing and installation. Each lion took twenty weeks from the arrival of the blocks from Burgundy to installation on site.

The lions, based on copies of those carved by Canova for the tomb of Pope Clement Xlll in St Peter’s Church in the Vatican City of Rome, and now in the sculpture gallery at Chatsworth House, are 60% larger than the originals, each lion having been created from five carefully selected blocks of Massangis Limestone.

Adam Stone, Managing Director of Chichester Stoneworks and a convert to the power of technology, saw at concept stage with the Architect Andrew Lockwood that the only way to make the project viable was to embrace the most advanced techniques available to capture and create the digital images by computer and machine and then to marry these to the best traditional quarrying and hand skills of Chichester Stoneworks.

Chichester Stoneworks, principal contractor for the project, brought together a team that fitted this bill, the digital files were captured with the kind collaboration of Chatsworth House, and because the originals were part of a tomb with unworked and missing sections, they went on to remodel and to sculpt in the computer space the missing sections to create full lions in the round, Adam said “what people don’t appreciate is that 40% of the lions we see today did not exist at all on the originals, this was all sculpted in cyberspace by an incredibly talented individual”.

The data was converted into machine files and from blocks of Massangis Limestone the waste was removed by a CNC robot before being brought to life in the Chichester Stoneworks’ carving studio.

The sculptors and carvers at Chichester Stoneworks spent 10 weeks hand finishing each full lion, removing contours, undercutting and detailing the mane, the haunches and the tail, the mouth and the claws where the machine could not reach, and finally adding the finishing touches, detailing the eyes and nostrils, the different textures and directions of the fur.

The carving team dismantled the lions and they were transported to be re-assembled on site and again incredible skill and planning was required to ensure each block was safely fitted into place and bedded in a sympathetic lime mortar with the joints finished to disappear into the lions pelt.

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