A memorial sculpture planned for North Creake’s former airfield had an unusual inspiration...
A new sculpture for an old airfield
If all goes to plan, a new sculpture will be unveiled at the former North Creake airfield next year to commemorate the brave airmen who flew from the base in the Second World War.
The sculpture will be a Short Stirling bomber, 22ft wide, but the inspiration for the style of the sculpture came from... a racing car exhaust pipe. Sculptor Andy Knighton was an avid race car engineer. When a friend declared that the construction of an exhaust he had made was ‘a work of art’, Andy began to wonder if he might be able to use his engineering skills to create ‘real works of art’.
It was this thought that made him decide to design and create a steel sculpture of a sailing dinghy that he would be able to present to his local sailing club to mark its 50th anniversary. It went down a storm
His second effort was to make a representation of a Spitfire, chosen because he had always admired the distinctive shape of the legendary aircraft. “The most important decision I made was to mount my sculpture of the fighter plane on a tall pole, allowing it to be seen from below against the background of the sky, as if it were actually in flight,” says Andy.
More sculptures followed, including two Spitfires flying in formation, as well as several other constructions designed to mimic winged creatures in flight, with owls and dragonflies being
favourite subjects. Andy quickly realised that he was obtaining more pleasure from creating these sculptures than he had ever done from constructing racing cars.
“I have just finished building an AC Cobra. While this is a beautiful and powerful car, I found the process of making it rather like constructing Meccano, so I decided that it would be the last car I would make. As well as giving up my former hobby, I have also stopped working in the family business, enabling me to devote all my time to making sculptures,” he says.
The Derbyshire-based artist has now extended his repertoire by constructing some large-scale sculptures. These include a model of a Lancaster Bomber with a 22 ft wingspan, which Andy has donated to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre. The curators are so pleased with this gift that they refer to it fondly as ‘The Gate Guardian’, having positioned it at the entrance to the former Second World War airfield at East Kirkby.
The sculpture Andy is working on currently is a response to a commission from Claire Nugent and Nigel Morter, the proprietors of a vegetarian bed and breakfast housed in the control tower of a former bomber base at North Creake near the north Norfolk coast. This new sculpture, which also has a 22ft wing span, will be an accurate representation of a Short Stirling, which was the first four-engine bomber to be used by the RAF and flew from the county on secret missions in support of D-Day.
Nigel and Claire, who bought the control tower in 2011 and have furnished their novel B&B with suitable period features, aim to create a fitting memorial on the former airfield to the airmen who were based at North Creake.
Nigel says: “At the present time, we are fundraising for the project and our aim is to have the memorial in place by August 2020, which is the 75th anniversary of the disbandment of RAF North Creake. Having seen examples of Andy’s sculptures on Facebook and having gone to see his installation at East Kirkby, we think that his art is amazing. We have been delighted to commission him to produce a sculpture of the Stirling to be used as the centrepiece of our memorial.”
TOP RIGHT: Andy Knighton at work on the sculpture of a Short Stirling he is making for a memorial at the former North Creake Bomber Base
RIGHT: Claire Nugent and Nigel Morter outside their Control Tower Bed and Breakfast at Bunkers Hill
OPPOSITE: A double sculpture of Spitfires in flight