Village signs of Fundenhall and Ashwellthorpe

ASHWELLTHORPE VILLAGE SIGN

Ashwellthorpe village sign commemorates the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign of 1977 and was designed by Mr Tony Cleary and sculpted from a piece of solid elm by Mr Barry Watkins – both residents of Ashwellthorpe. The shaft, with a double-sided name board at its top, is set in a stone plinth made by a local builder Mr Ivan King and surrounded by granite sets and cobble stones, the whole being originally encircled by an oak seat.

The shaft has twenty-four carved pictorial panels recording aspects of village life, both historical and contemporary.   The bottom tier of panels bears eight heraldic shields representing the de Thorp, Bourchier, Berners, Knyvett and Wilson families who held the manor and lived in Ashwellthorpe Hall over time. There is then a row of panels depicting a comedy/tragedy mask, plough, red squirrel, flowers and the ancient church door handle.  The next circular row of panels has Ashwellthorpe Hall, the famous alabaster tomb of Sir  Edmund de Thorp and his wife, a representation of The Knyvett Letters written by Sir Thomas Knyvett at the time of the English Civil War in the 17th Century, a tractor, and ears of corn.  The Legend of the Ashwellthorpe Oak, the Huggin family of clockmakers, the Church porch, Jubilee sign, musical instruments and sporting equipment are represented on the top row of panels.

A time capsule containing photos of the village, a copy of the parish magazine, a Jubilee Crown, present-day coins and the histories of the Church and Ashwellthorpe Hall was placed in the base of the plinth.

Ashwellthorpe’s village sign was erected on the Green in front of All Saints Church and unveiled by Mr Timothy Colman, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, on October 29, 1978. The sign won an Award from the Norfolk Society in 1982 – along with the Fundenhall Village sign – and was described as “combining imagination, style and function”.  The Norfolk Society Awards were presented at its annual meeting on 21 April 1982.

Sadly, the elm sign crashed to the ground in high winds during the night of March 28/29, 1997.  After much consideration it was decided the original sign should be replaced by one made of glass fibre.  The original sculptor Barry Watkins was able to intricately remodel the various damaged carvings of the elm shaft in modelling clay to enable the company Glass Fibre Engineers of Ashwellthorpe Industrial Estate to make a mould and replica sign which was unveiled on April 30, 1998.   The damaged pieces of the original elm carved shaft are stored in the room above the porch of All Saints Church, Ashwellthorpe. A photograph of the east-facing panel of the sign is shown below along with photographs of the 1998 unveiling.

Jennifer Robbie

East-facing panel of the replica glass-fibre Ashwellthorpe Village Sign – March 2006

Those present at the 1998 unveiling included Barry Watkins the sculptor; the Managing Director of Glass Fibre Engineers; Jennifer Robbie; Hedley Smith; Richard Tilbrook; Rosemary Tilbrook; David Turner and Clare Watkins

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