Some sculptural curiosities in Milton-under-Wychwood

An unusual feature of Milton is the scattering of small pieces of sculpture which adorn a number of properties throughout the village. Milton is never going to rival Florence in its sculptural adornment, but these little carvings illustrate an interesting aspect of the history of the village.

Usually sculptures in small rural villages in the Cotswolds and elsewhere are to be found on and within the local parish church in the form of architectural ornament or funerary monuments. However, almost all the ones in Milton are scattered among the domestic buildings; that is unusual. Most of these survivors are a legacy of the presence of Alfred Groves and Sons in the village. Many are probably salvaged features from the demolition or restoration of other buildings in the region by Groves, or sample pieces undertaken by apprentices. There are other pieces of sculpture and ad hoc bits of carving inside a few properties within the village which are not on public view but are also a part of the legacy of Groves’ presence; these seem to be the doodles of masons living locally. Groves was once a huge enterprise in the centre of Milton. The company provided masonry, timber and building skills to many projects throughout the region including Oxford Colleges and St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Their heyday was in the second half of the 19th Century, and early 20th Century. Their presence was significant to the development of Milton as a village in its own right, and these little carvings are another reminder of that legacy.

These sculptures probably pass largely unnoticed by the casual visitor. Often of the same stone as the buildings they adorn they are not conspicuous, but anyone with a sharp eye could spend a rewarding hour wandering around the village spotting them. They were mostly made to be displayed in other locations, but the village masons re-homed these sculptures on their houses to perhaps make a small statement about their pride in their profession. There are a mix of subjects: a number of male and female heads, including one of a former Dr Who character, a medieval angel, a bull’s and a boar’s head, a hybrid man/animal figure and a mother and child. A photographic selection of the Milton carvings can be seen below.

John Bennett

This is a summary version of an article published on the Wychwoods Local History Society website: wychwooodshistory.uk. The research was originally part of the compilation of a Village Character Assessment that is included in the forthcoming Milton Neighbourhood Plan – see https://miltonunderwychwood-pc.gov.uk/neighbourhood-plan/  for the current status of this project.

December 2020 – January 2021

Lower Head on gable end of St Michael’s High Street
Patrick Troughton as Dr Who on Groves Hardware store
Bull’s Head Milton High Street
Angel Musician from former Wesleyan Mission Room (see article in Oct-Nov 2006 edition)
Mother and Child by Constantine Smith c. 1970 Green Lane
Hooded Man with claw feet, Forest Gate, Frog Lane
Sone head of young woman on Dashwood House, Shipton Road