More than 200 delicately crafted animal sculptures in one of Britain's most unusual gardens are set to go to auction.
Samantha Brattisani is hoping there is an interest from someone, somewhere who can offer a new home for a colourful and quirky concrete menagerie, which feature everything from a rhino and a unicorn, to former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The zoological garden, which was created in the 1930s and 40s by her great uncle John Fairnington, was designed for his disabled son, Edwin.
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You can check out a video tour of the garden by clicking here, or you can view the items in the auction catalogue here.
Samantha, 47 from Branxton, Northumberland, where the garden is located, said: “My great uncle made the animals to get Edwin to go into the garden – and it worked. He loved it. I remember seeing it for the first time when I was three and being enthralled by it.
“Over the years, thousands of people have visited the garden. It became a popular tourist attraction. We’ve had busloads of school children, people who returned year after year, even Alan Titchmarsh.
“But, due to ill health and the loss of my parents, I can no longer maintain the garden or welcome visitors. I’m disabled due to back problems and can only stand for a few minutes.
"My walker is too wide for the paths in the garden. I need to alter it and that means parting with the animals.
“It will hurt to see them go. I hope a safari park, leisure attraction or stately home might give them a new home. I’d like to visit them, wherever they land. If I can’t find a buyer, sadly, the land will still have to be cleared to make the garden suit my limited mobility.”
Samantha has tasked Hansons Auctioneers with finding a buyer. The unique collection will be offered as one lot at a special auction on October 26. The seller is open to reasonable offers.
Rik Alexander, sale manager, said: “We’re on a mission to save a concrete menagerie that reminds us of Noah’s Ark. Surely someone can breathe new life into this display. It’s quirky, unique and a labour of love.
“In 1935 John Fairnington, a master joiner then aged 53 and his wife Mary, had their only child, Edwin. When John retired at the age 80, he decided to do something to entice Edwin into the garden as he wouldn’t go outside.
“John started building concrete animals and dotting them around the quarter-acre plot behind his semi-detached home in Branxton. The project launched with a life-size panda. Edwin loved it and, spurred on, John made more concrete friends.
“Soon the garden brimmed with every type of animal imaginable – rabbits, cows, a giraffe, goats, donkeys, camels, cart horses, even a unicorn. And John didn’t just confine himself to animals. Sir Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia were added to the scene.
“Eventually there were 75 large statues, each fashioned out of concrete on a base of rubbish-filled wire netting, and nearly 150 smaller sculptures.
“Edwin explored his strangely fascinating garden until he died at the age of 36. His father’s efforts had paid off. It brought his son a great deal of pleasure. John died in 1981 at the age of 98 content in the knowledge he’d done his best for Edwin.
"Being a religious and charitable man, John left his house and garden to Oxfam. However, Samantha’s grandad bought it back because it was so important to the family.”
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Samantha, who is retired due to ill health, said: “I hope someone will get as much joy out of the animals as I have. My favourites are the panda bear, the first animal made for the garden in 1935, the big and baby rhinos and the white horses.”
The concrete animal menagerie will be offered for sale on October 26 by Hansons Auctioneers.
To enquire about the collection, contact Rik Alexander: [email protected]
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