The story of the Granite Horse on Wetherby Roundabout
Excepts from East Leeds Weekly News June 26, 2014
Four years ago, Natural Stone Leeds Ltd’s Dane Bennett and the now sadly deceased Jimmy Heselden were sat in the midst of a golden glow on a boat on the River Thames. As part of the team celebrating winning a prestigious gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, they turned their thoughts to a couple of new projects. The first was a second crack at the Chelsea Flower Show, which ultimately proved successful with another gold, although tragically Jimmy wasn’t around to see it. The second a little closer to home when Dane came up with an idea to create a feature on a busy roundabout in Leeds.
“The horse is six feet by 8 feet and weighs over five tons. I searched high and low for a stone mason in this country who could handcraft it, we’d used an overseas company before and eventually we went with them, we knew how good they were and we trusted them. The horse was hand chiseled from a three-metre by three metre block of solid granite. I have to salute the genius of the craftsmen who worked on this, it’s flawless and the detail is out of this world. The mane and tail are almost feather like, the realism of the eyes and ears and the tension where the knees are bent as it jumps is just something I never expected. Most of the horse was carved with quite small five inch chisels, it was painstaking work and it took them months.”
Dane roped in Chris Heaton of Christopher Paul Heaton Design Studios and together with Leeds City Council, they have come up with something truly special and as it’s sadly turned out, a fitting memory to his close friend Jimmy. After months of planning, hard work and a stone trough load of stress, Dane fulfilled his dream on Sunday 8th of June when the spectacular granite horse was finally placed jumping over a beautiful serpentine limestone wall on the Wetherby roundabout on the A58.
Designer Chris Heaton was equally amazed at the finished project. “Wetherby is built on a ridge of Magnesium Limestone and the design of the roundabout reflects the topography of the surrounding countryside. The serpentine wall twists and turns across the roundabout and the sharp angles depict the sharp spine of a backbone giving the wall a surreal animate feature. The horse gives a flow and animation to the design and help show the strong race horse connections the town has.”
Leeds City Council have supplied a stunning array of colourful plants and architectural grasses which intersect with animate shapes of cobbles. The various changes in contours allow visual vantage points that create a miniature landscape in itself. The end of the project sees Dane concentrating on Natural Stone Leeds Ltd. Although, with a twinkle in his eye, he does admit he has another madcap scheme in its infancy that he is keeping under wraps for now.
“The whole project became a full time job in itself and there were a few times, in weaker moments when I thought about walking away from it. I’d like to thank Leeds City Council who have worked with us over the planning and other obstacles all the way. I’d also like to thank Wetherby in Bloom. We worked with them before on the three-tier limestone planter outside Wetherby Town Hall. But most of all I’d like to thank the staff at Natural Stone who went beyond the call of duty on this.”
And before anyone starts complaining about ‘tax payers expense,’ Natural Stone Leeds Ltd funded the majority of the project.
“I didn’t just want to create a project, I wanted to create a land mark, something else to help put West Yorkshire on the map and to remember Jimmy Heselden by. Despite all the trials, tribulation and stress of it all, I look at the roundabout now and I’m glad I was able to do something for Jimmy’s memory and the region as a whole.”